Stella Liebeck vs. McDonald’s “The Coffee Case”

Stella Liebeck, The coffee case

How much do you really know?

Here’s the more surprising truth

McDonald’s received claims on similar cases for 10 years, and quietly settled them, spending more than $500,000 to keep them out of court and did not change its policies regarding the coffee temperature

  • Unreasonable counteroffer – Stella’s medical bills totaled more than $11,000,and McDonald’s responded to her $20,000 offer to settle with a counter offer of only $800
  • Unreasonable refusal – McDonald’s had several other chances to settle the case before trial: At one point, Stella’s attorney offered to settle for $300,000.  In addition, days before the trial, the judge ordered both sides into a mediated settlement conference where the mediator, a retired judge, recommended that McDonald’s settle for $225,000.  McDonald’s refused all attempts to settle the case
  • Paltry  penalty – The punitive damages against McDonald’s equaled only about 2 days of McDonald’s coffee sales; similar to the average person paying a parking ticket
  • McDonald’s gets off easy – After appeals, and after the court reduced the punitive award to only 3 times the damage award, or $480,000, for a total of $640,000, the claim was finally settled for a confidential sum believed to be a lesser amount
  • And, keeps it out of the news – As part of this settlement, McDonald’s demanded that no one could release the details of the case
  • What’s the good news? – Soon after the verdict, investigation revealed that the McDonald’s in the area where Stella was burned were serving coffee at an average temperature below 160 degrees !!!
  • The bad news – It’s just too bad Stella, and hundreds of other people had to be senselessly injured, courts and juries tied up for weeks, months, and years, and millions of dollars spent on litigation before a big corporation would recognize that personal safety is always more important than profits

The Conclusion

Yes, this “frivolous lawsuit” and many others just like it have made a very positive difference in making your lives, and those of your family more safe in the long run.

Content provided by David W. Ransin, Trial Attorney

Last modified on March 19, 2016. Published by Friedman, Domiano & Smith Co., L.P.A.


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