Terre Pruitt's Blog

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Archive for January 9th, 2014

Details Lost – It Happens, Be Aware

Posted by terrepruitt on January 9, 2014

Do you remember the lawsuit in which McDonald’s was sued over hot coffee? The news media blasted all over that a woman driving with hot coffee in her lap was awarded $2.9 million for spilling the coffee on herself.  It was portrayed as a (stupid) woman, sued because the coffee was hot.  But the details were never given media time or airplay.  Almost 20 years later, a video was done giving more details about the case.  Years ago I heard about McDonald’s having been notified that they served their coffee too hot prior to that lawsuit, but I didn’t know that the woman was not driving.  You might have seen the video as it is making the rounds and has been out a for months.  But, I imagine a lot of you don’t know (unless you’ve already seen the video) the details.  I also imagine that, like me, you thought it was ridiculous that someone got millions of dollars for having a cup of coffee between her legs while driving and then spilling it on herself.  In this post I am going to state some of the information in the video, in case you don’t want to take the time to watch the video or you just don’t want to watch it.  If you DO watch it, BE WARNED: At 5:12-5:17 there are GRAPHIC pictures of the burns.  (Made me nauseated and brought tears to my eyes.  Please view with caution!)  I have written this post to share some of the facts, plus to point out how the news media does not always disclose all the details.  I feel it is important to take news with a grain of salt.

You might remember the basics:  Stella Liebeck, a 79 year old woman burned herself when she accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in her lap.  Headlines proclaimed she won $2.9 million in a lawsuit against McDonald’s.  The video states:

-16% of her body was burned
-6% of the burns were 3rd degree burns
-The woman was in the passenger seat of a parked car
-The woman went into shock
-She had to be in the hospital for a week
-She wrote to McDonald’s asking for money to pay the medical bills which totaled in the thousands
McDonald’s offered $800.00.  Then she contacted an attorney
-Her attorney tried to settle out of court, twice
-The temperature policy of McDonald’s at that time was 180° to 190°
-Experts testified that liquid at 180° to 190° could produce 3rd degree burns in 15 seconds
-Over 700 hundred people had complained to McDonald’s about the temperature of the coffee
-The jury awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages, however, because SHE spilled it on herself, they reduced it to $160,000
-The jury awarded her $2.9 million in punitive damages to send a message to McDonald’s to turn down the temperature of the coffee
-The $2.9 millions is based on of TWO DAYS of coffee sales
-The judge REDUCED the award to $600,000
-“Sources” say it ended up being around $500,000
-McDonald’s handbooks now show that coffee is to be served between 170°-180°, 10° lower

I’m just wanting to point out that the media does not always disclose ALL the facts and so things are not always as they may seem.  They disclose enough for us to form opinions.  But we are not accurately informed.  It is truly a challenge to know the truth.  Sometimes, I believe, we never will know the truth on a great many subjects/stories.  But sometimes we will get more details even if it takes 20 years.  In many cases it is left to us to find out the information and/or use our common sense in order to take action not based on the fear and/or anger generated by the media.

Do you remember this story?  Do you remember how you felt when you heard a woman driving with hot coffee between her legs got $2.9 million for spilling it?

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