Chances are you are not quite familiar with the name Stella Liebeck but maybe you are well aware of the infamous McDonald’s coffee case. The story revolves around Mrs. Stella Liebeck, aged 79 at the time, from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Unfortunately, she burnt herself very badly after spilling a whole cup of McDonald’s hot coffee back in 1992.
She received 3rd degree burns and was hospitalized for over 8 days. Her burns were so bad that she needed special skin drafting surgeries to fix both her legs and groin area. Liebeck lost over 20% of her body mass and underwent over 2 years of medical treatment that was necessary for her full recovery.
After the incident she accumulated over $18,000 in hospital bills and decided to claim them from McDonald’s. Mrs. Libeck’s only goal was to get her money back and make the McDonald’s corporation lower the temperature of their coffee product because they were dangerously hot.
Unfortunately, she was offered only $800 before she sought for the help of the Texas attorney Reed Morgan who filed another lawsuit against McDonald’s for gross negligence.
Eventually, in August, 1994 a twelve-person jury awarded Stella Liebeck 2.7 million in punitive damages. That verdict was later reduced to a total of $640,000 and after an appeal both parties settled for less than $600,000.
The case of Stella Liebeck exploded into an international frenzy of miscommunication. The badly burnt woman’s image suffered a lot because many believed she was engaged in frivolous litigation just to earn some quick cash. Although many considered her case to be a fluke this was not the truth and Liebeck just wanted to receive what she deserved: justice.