Woman sues McDonald’s over coffee burns

McDonald’s is once again a defendant in a lawsuit over burns suffered after a customer ordered a coffee.

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Mable Childress has filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court alleging that she had “severe burns” from hot coffee that she had gotten at the drive-thru of a McDonald’s in San Francisco, the “Today” show reported.

Childress said that the restaurant employees breached their “duty of care” when they did not put the lid of the coffee cup on securely before they handed her beverage to her. She also claims that the employees would not help her during the June 13 incident.

Childress tried to take a drink from the cup when the lid opened, pouring hot coffee on herself, The San Francisco Standard was first to report. She said that she had tried to tell three McDonald’s employees, including managers, but they “ignored” and “refused to help her,” her attorney said, according to “Today.” Childress left the restaurant to seek treatment on her own.

She said that she suffered severe burns, scarring and emotional distress. She also incurred hospital and medical expenses because of the incident, the suit says.

The owner of the franchise, Peter Ou, told the “Today” show in a statement, “My restaurants have strict food safety protocols in place, including training crew to ensure lids on hot beverages are secure. We take every customer complaint seriously — and when Ms. Childress reported her experience to us later that day, our employees and management team spoke to her within a few minutes and offered assistance. We’re reviewing this new legal claim in detail.”

Childress’ suit is categorized as an unlimited civil case which could exceed $25,000.

This isn’t the first time McDonald’s has been taken to court over its food temperatures being too high.

Earlier this year, a jury determined that both McDonald’s and a Fort Lauderdale franchisee were liable after a 4-year-old girl was burned by a chicken nugget from her Happy Meal. The nugget fell and was stuck between the girl’s leg and her seatbelt for about two minutes, resulting in second-degree burns, WPLG reported.

Both companies said they were not at fault, adding that the food was served hot to prevent salmonella poisoning and that it was meant to be eaten, not stuck between a seatbelt and skin for several minutes, the Sun Sentinel reported.

The family was awarded $800,000 total — $400,000 for damages and $400,000 for her future, according to the Sun Sentinel.

McDonald’s has also been sued for having coffee that was too hot in Canada. Lok Fung was burned in 2021 when an employee let go of the cup before Fung had a full grasp on it, spilling the coffee and burning her left wrist and thigh, CBC News reported.

Then there is the most famous case — Liebeck v. McDonald’s.

In that case, Stella Liebeck, 79, sued McDonald’s after she spilled a cup of coffee on her lap in 1992. She suffered third-degree burns over 16% of her body. In some areas, the burns were down to the muscle layer. Her injuries caused her to be hospitalized for over a week and required skin grafts. Her treatments lasted two years, the American Museum of Tort Law said.

She had offered to settle for $20,000 but McDonald’s refused, offering only $800. Eventually, Liebeck was awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages for pain, suffering and medical costs, with the amount decreased to $160,000 because she was 20% responsible for her injuries. The jury added $2.7 million in punitive damages, with the trial judge lowering that amount to $480,000.

Both sides eventually settled for an undisclosed amount, which was allegedly less than $500,000, the American Museum of Tort Law said.

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