Answered Essay: Please respond to student's post! Torts by Majewski In 1994,Stella Liebeck purchased coffee from

Please respond to student’s post!


by Majewski

In 1994,Stella Liebeck purchased coffee from the McDonald’s drive-thru. She placed the cup between her knees, as her car was not equipped with cup holders and it had a slanted dashboard, to add sugar and cream. When she removed the lid, the cup tipped backwards causing the hot coffee to spill onto her legs and groin causing 3rd degree burns. She spent eight days in the hospital while she underwent skin grafts and had two years of follow-up medical care. Liebeck’s family requested $2800 to cover out-of-pocket expenses and lost wages. McDonald’s denied their request and was then sued by Stella Liebeck, who won the case and was awarded $2.7 million. The punitive damages were significantly decreased to $640,000 a month after the trial, reasoning that it was approximately three times the compensatory damages, it was not a run-away case, and the revised amount would be appropriate to punish and deter McDonald’s for the safety hazards posed by its hot coffee.

The tort in this case is product liability. McDonald’s is responsible for any injuries caused by a product they provide. Negligence may have also been a factor in this case. McDonald’s had over 700 complaints regarding the coffee temperature prior to the Liebeck lawsuit.

This lawsuit could have been avoided by reducing the temperature of the coffee or by warning the customers of a possible scalding danger.

Expert Answer


Did McDonald fail in its responsibility to protect the safety of the customer by providing very hot coffees?


Legal responsibility of any manufacturing company, the product shall be beneficial to the customers, not at the cost of Safety of the users or customers that shall be the primary business interest of the product based company as a Product liability. Product liability is the legal responsibility of the company for their products. If there is any quality issues, product liability is addressed in the warranty claim, and safety issues needs to be educated to the customers through warning symbols, message, and instructions as a legal procedure. Product specifications related to the temperature of the coffee shall be within the specific limits that shall not create or make any deep tissue burning issues to the customers.


The plaintiff had purchased the hot coffee from the company. She had 3rd degree burns due to the very hot coffee in her legs and in the private parts. She was in hospital for 8 days to do skin implants and to get a complete cure of the burns she had undergone medical treatments with a yearlong regular medical follow-up care. Lost job and the expenses incurred for curing the burns happened due to an accident from dropped hot coffee on her legs that had gone to the depth of the inner wears and made severe burns. So she claimed the excess medical expenses from the company. The company denied the claim as it was not their fault at all. The company had not informed about the safety hazards of their product in any form to the plaintiff. If the hot coffee served by the company were drunk by the customer in a single sip, It would have killed the customer. As the company owned the product and sold to the customer without warning about the safety issues due to the higher temperature of their product.


Temperature of the coffee is the cause for the severe injuries to Stella Liebeck. McDonald was irresponsible to deny their product’s obligations related to the safety of Stella Liebeck. Because there is no warning to Stella Liebeck about the hotness or high temperature of their coffee. So McDonald is liable for the professional negligence in denying the complaint. And Judgement is the correct decision as a warning to McDonald for its failure to take responsibility against its product liability related issues, especially safety to customers in this case.

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