In a case reminiscent of a notorious incident from 1992, an elderly woman in California is taking legal action against McDonald’s after a hot coffee spill left her with severe burns. Mabel Childress, an octogenarian, is being represented by Dylan Hackett, a personal injury lawyer and the managing partner at Hackett Law Firm. The lawsuit alleges that employees at a San Francisco McDonald’s failed to securely fasten the lid on Childress’s coffee cup, resulting in painful consequences.
Claims of Negligence
Childress’s ordeal unfolded on or about June 13 when she visited the McDonald’s drive-thru on Fillmore Street. Attempting to enjoy her coffee, disaster struck as the hot contents spilled onto her lap due to the unsecured lid, causing severe burns. Despite her efforts to report the incident to three employees, they allegedly refused to assist her, prompting Childress to seek treatment elsewhere.
The legal complaint contends that McDonald’s and its employees breached their duty of care by improperly securing the coffee cup lid, leading to severe burns and emotional distress for Childress. The lawsuit asserts that the company’s negligence was a significant factor in causing her injuries, which have resulted in ongoing pain and scarring.
Seeking Justice and Remedies
Childress’s attorney, Dylan Hackett, emphasized the importance of the lawsuit, expressing hope that it will lead to safer coffee serving practices in the future. The legal action, filed as an “unlimited civil case,” seeks monetary compensation for hospital and medical expenses, as well as general damages.
In response to the allegations, Peter Ou, the franchisee who owns the Fillmore Street McDonald’s, emphasized the company’s commitment to food safety protocols and customer satisfaction. Ou stated that they take every customer complaint seriously and are diligently reviewing the new legal claim.
Precedent in Coffee Spill Cases
This incident isn’t the first time McDonald’s has faced legal action over a hot coffee spill. In a highly publicized case in 1994, Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was awarded significant damages after suffering third-degree burns from spilled coffee. While the initial verdict included punitive damages of $2.7 million, the amount was later reduced upon appeal. McDonald’s ultimately settled with Liebeck for an undisclosed sum.
However, unlike Childress’s lawsuit, Liebeck’s case aimed to convince McDonald’s to lower the temperature of their coffee heaters, which were heating drinks to temperatures between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit, well above the boiling point of water.
A String of Hot Beverage Mishaps
Hot beverages seem to have brought McDonald’s more than their fair share of legal trouble. In a recent case, a South Florida jury awarded $800,000 in damages to Olivia Caraballo’s family. Caraballo suffered second-degree burns when a hot Happy Meal Chicken McNugget fell into her lap and became lodged between her seat belt and thigh. This incident occurred in 2019 and involved a 4-year-old child.
Philana Holmes, Caraballo’s mother, expressed satisfaction with the jury’s decision, stating that she had no expectations and found the judgment more than fair.
As Mabel Childress’s case against McDonald’s unfolds, it serves as a reminder of the legal complexities surrounding seemingly routine incidents and the ongoing need for consumer safety and accountability in the fast-food industry. A case management conference is scheduled for February 14, 2024, where further details will emerge in this ongoing legal saga.
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