Liebeck V. Mcdonalds Essay

1651 Words7 Pages
This paper will consider the facts associated with the case of Stella Liebeck versus McDonald’s, resulting from Ms. Liebeck’s efforts to collect for damages sustained when she spilled extremely hot coffee into her lap in 1992. The issues, applicable laws and the conclusion the jury reached will also be covered as well as the subsequent impacts on American tort law following this decision. The facts in the Liebeck case start with the incident description as recounted by Aric Press in the March 20, 1995 issue of Newsweek. Ms. Liebeck was a recently retired, 79 year old woman who ordered coffee at a McDonald’s drive through and received it in a lidded, styrofoam cup (Press, 1995, p. 32).
After the order was picked up, her grandson
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McDonald’s had as many as 700 reports of coffee that scalded customers, creating injuries (Gerlin, 1994, p.1). The jury decided that the plaintiff was entitled to both compensatory damages of $200,000, reduced by $40,000 for her own negligence, and punitive damages totaling $2.7 million (Gerlin, 1994, p.1). Gerlin (1994) goes on to state that “the jury found that McDonald’s had engaged in willful, reckless or malicious conduct” and subsequently used that for the basis of their punitive damages (p. 2). The number settled on was equivalent roughly to two days worth of coffee sales companywide (Gerlin, 1994, p.2). The jury concluded that McDonald’s behaved callously and punished them accordingly (Coffin, 2004, p.4). The jury decided the warning on the cup was insufficient for the hazard (Press, 1995, p.33). The jury applied the law correctly since it was determined that McDonald’s was acting outside the parameters of peers, had been previously warned of and settled cases associated with scald burns, and did not properly or clearly notify patrons of the level of severity of the inherent danger. The standard of proof for success exists such that “the plaintiff must prove that the defendant knew or should have known that, without a warning, the product would be dangerous in its ordinary use…” (Kubasek, et. al., in Hartigan, ed., 2004, p. 172). In this case, the temperature of the item and the inadequate marking of the container, in the
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