Nearly 18 years ago, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck famously sued McDonald’s Corp., blaming the restaurant chain for third-degree burns she suffered when she spilled a cup of hot coffee on her lap. Liebeck’s case fueled hilarious parodies and inspired tort reformists to push for change. Nonetheless, two more people filed hot-coffee lawsuits against the fast-food giant last week.
Mona Abdelal of Norridge, Ill., took her two grandchildren to a nearby McDonald’s in January. According to Abdelal’s lawsuit, she asked her 4-year-old granddaughter to throw away her empty coffee cup, but the child misunderstood and took the cup to the front counter to get her grandmother a refill. Abdelal claims a McDonald’s employee handed a hot cup of coffee to the child without a cardboard holder and without securing the lid, causing “a lot of coffee” to spill onto the girl’s chest, which resulted in second-degree burns and permanent scarring. Abdelal also claims she suffered first-degree burns on her finger when she tried to help her granddaughter.
The complaint accuses McDonald’s of violating its policy of not serving coffee to minors as well as failing to warn her granddaughter of the dangers of handling the hot coffee. Abdelal seeks almost $4 million in damages.
Melissa Pettigrew of Chicago also is suing McDonald’s for “horrific” burns she suffered after she ordered coffee from a drive-through window in 2010 and it spilled onto her thighs and abdomen. Pettigrew also claims McDonald’s employees didn’t properly secure the lid and that the coffee was too hot.