The Unsafe Practices at McDonald’s: Hot Coffee

Subject: Management
Pages: 2
Words: 575
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: College

The legal side of this situation is founded on the general understanding of tort reform, which translates to any wrongful act by an organization, either negligently or willfully. Based on the understanding, every potential damage or injury can be grounds where a civil lawsuit can be brought (Saladoff et al.). Stella Liebeck suffered injury after McDonald’s coffee spilled on her as she tried to put sugar and cream in the drink. From the spill, Liebeck gets third-degree burns on six percent of her body, the extent of which included her genital region (Saladoff et al.). Due to the burns, Liebeck was undergoing debridement treatments and skin grafting in eight days.

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The temperature at which Mcdonalds’ sold its coffee was extremely hot, between 180 and 190 degrees. The employees at golden arches knew that served at that temperature, the coffee was scalding and would result in injuries if spilled. Mcdonald’s was aware of the temperature the coffee was served; it presented a danger to its consumers in case of any spills (Saladoff et al.). However, even with the understanding, the firm continued to serve at temperatures deemed unsafe. This practice was advised by a consultant that made the firm consider the extraordinary hot coffee maintained its optimum taste. At the trial, the legal issue, as associated with the tort reform, was despicable by the jury and the judge. The jury awarded the 79-year-old grandmother, Stella Liebeck, $2.7 million in punitive damages and $200,000 in compensatory damages (Saladoff et al.). The ruling was made despite Mcdonald’s coffee cups having a warning sign, ruled out as insufficient or not large enough.

The impact of the case shows that every business has the responsibility to put the safety of its consumers first. Based on the tort reform, the system has two fundamental mandates, one, to compensate victims, and two, to discourage unsafe practices through a correcting mechanism. Personally, the lawsuit impacts me in the following way; it is my constitutional right to be protected against harm by organizations. Every firm must ensure consumer safety and work to guarantee the least possible ways to prevent injuries from the consumer, me, failure to present a civil lawsuit against them.

Before seeing the film, I believed that the lawsuit was uncalled for. Coffee spills all the time, and everybody knows that coffee must be taken hot. Additionally, I did not realize there are laws to protect the consumer against unsafe organizational practices. However, my negligence was changed after watching the film with the realization the coffee served to Liebeck was inappropriately hot, and both the firm and its consumers knew it posed a danger and high risk to consumers if spilled. Further, my thoughts changed on realizing that lawsuits can be established due to unsafe organizational practices, resulting in compensation to the defendant and discouraging the unsafe practices to the plaintiff.

Moreover, the unsafe practices at Mcdonald’s had been linked to more than 700 coffee-spilled injuries in more than ten years before the case of Liebeck. The understanding contributed to the decision handed by the jury and the judge. Significantly, I now realize that through tort systems, consumers are protected against unsafe organizational practices that can cause danger or injury to consumers. Lastly, I can now tell that in the past three decades, tort reformers have been omitting some of the facts associated with the several lawsuits while leading the public to believe amounts awarded in frivolous cases as unjust or absurd.

Work Cited

Saladoff, Susan, Carly Hugo, and Alan Oxman. Hot Coffee. YouTube,