Taking a new look at an old product liability case

Personal injury lawsuits don't always get much respect, and a lot of those negative feelings can be traced to one particular lawsuit. Over 20 years ago, a media frenzy surrounded the lawsuit between McDonald's and a woman who claimed to be burned from a hot cup of coffee. The media mocked her and called it a frivolous product liability claim. However, the truth behind the lawsuit has made it possible for many in Ohio and across the country to boldly confront big corporations when their negligence causes harm.

Most people think that a woman was driving a car with a cup of McDonald's coffee between her legs when the coffee spilled. They believe the woman decided to take advantage of the situation to make some money for herself, so she sued the giant restaurant chain and won millions of dollars. The real story is that the woman was sitting in a parked car after her grandson drove her to McDonald's for coffee. She admits she spilled the coffee on her lap and that it was her own fault.

The lawsuit, however, centered on the fact that the policy at Mc Donald's was to serve coffee as hot as 190 degrees, and that 700 people had complained in vain to the corporation that the coffee had burned them. The woman's injuries were so severe that she went into shock. She spent a week in the hospital and underwent several operations. The only thing she asked from McDonald's was reimbursement for her $20,000 in medical bills, but the company only offered her $800.

After a jury heard the woman's story, they awarded her the equivalent of two days' worth of coffee sales at McDonald's: $2.9 million. However, the woman settled for $600,000. Her story should serve as inspiration for anyone in Ohio who is reluctant to hold accountable a company whose negligence resulted in injury due to product liability. Consulting an attorney for assistance may allow one to receive compensation for medical bills. It may also make the world a safer place for everyone.

Source: vox.com, "What a lot of people get wrong about the infamous 1994 McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit", German Lopez, Dec. 16, 2016

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