Latest hot coffee lawsuit data points

by Ted Frank on October 28, 2006

Remember that the reason anti-reformers justify Stella Liebeck’s infamous hot coffee lawsuit against McDonald’s is because McDonald’s was allegedly the only one selling coffee hot enough to burn? The family of a Dallas Cowboys coach has hired an attorney to sue McDonald’s over allegedly tainted food. Here’s how Jeff Carlton of the AP describes him:

Cecil W. Casterline, the Haley’s lawyer, has previously sued Whataburger and Wendy’s on behalf of clients allegedly scalded by coffee.

Earlier: Starbucks; Burger King; Dunkin’ Donuts; Starbucks; Starbucks; an Indiana gas station and coffeemaker manufacturer; and McDonald’s again and again. (Update: also Stony Brook University Hospital cafeteria, and Starbucks again.) All hot coffee burns. That’s why even small children know not to spill it on themselves, and why most courts hold it’s not actionable when one spills hot coffee on oneself.

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Hot coffee data point: Thomas Skaggs v. Pilot Travel Center
06.03.08 at 10:45 pm

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1 tsiroth 10.28.06 at 11:47 pm

When my husband was a toddler he was at a children’s reading at the public library with his family. He pulled a cup of hot coffee down off a table onto himself.

His polyester clothing was melted onto his skin, and 30 years later he still has visibile scars on his chest and arm.

No one sued the library.

2 b 10.29.06 at 7:05 am

I thought the problem was the specific temperature. I agree most should know that spilling coffee on oneself is bad, but should the restaurant serve hot coffee, or 175 F coffee? Why risk the liability in this day and age?

[TF: All competent restaurants brew and serve their coffee at a temperature comparable to or higher than McDonald's. (Low-end $30 home coffeemakers do not, but that's because they cannot reach required temperatures, rather than for safety reasons; the high-end $100 coffeemakers brew and store at the higher temperature.) They do this because coffee tastes better when prepared and served this way, and people prefer hot coffee. Even coffee at a lower temperature will burn. Any story to the contrary is an invented theory by the plaintiffs' bar.]

3 Deoxy 10.30.06 at 10:53 am

“should the restaurant serve hot coffee, or 175 F coffee?”

They should serve hot coffee – 175 F is too cool. Having worked food service, I can tell you that my manager wanted the coffee at 190 F, because that’s the CORRECT temperature to serve at. If the coffee got too cold (like, say 175 F), we THREW IT AWAY and made more.

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