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The Famous McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit

150 150 Clifford Horwitz

Insurance companies attempting to deprive millions of justice in court rooms

The McDonald’s coffee case is flaunted as the poster child for “frivolous lawsuits”. Insurance companies and corporations pushing tort reform commonly rally behind and argue the legal system is “out of control”. The insurance companies spend millions promoting misconceptions about tort cases to promote their agenda and continue increasing profits for their shareholders.

The insurance argument: “How is this McDonald’s fault? She spilled it. Everyone knows coffee is hot.”

However, the insurance carriers hide the truth from the consumer. The evidence at trial showed McDonalds served coffee that was many degrees hotter than competing companies, that McDonalds received hundreds of complaints from their customers about being seriously burned and McDonalds ignored the complaints.

In fact, the elderly woman, suffered such severe burns on her skin and genitals that she nearly died. Her surgeon claimed it was one of the worst cases he had ever seen and it caused her permanent disfigurement. When the woman asked McDonald’s to help her pay the $20K in current and anticipated medical bills, McDonald’s made her wait over six months and offered her only $800.

“We see this happen unilaterally on a daily basis. Insurers delay, deny, and dispute claims adding insult to their injury,” Horwitz commented.

Over the four years leading up to the woman’s accident, McDonald’s received more than 700 reports of people being burned by their scalding coffee. By the end of the woman’s trial, the jury wanted to send a message to McDonald’s, awarding the woman $2.7 million in punitive damages (2 days of coffee sale revenue) on top of the $160K verdict. However, the trial court reduced the punitive award to $480,000 (three times compensatory damages) even though the judge called McDonalds’ conduct, “reckless, callous and willful”.

The elderly woman ultimately settled for less than $600K. The case was enough to make McDonald’s lower the temperature of their coffee. The case demonstrated the effectiveness of the court system on giving incentives to companies to make their products safe. Without lawsuits, you would not see seat belts or other common safety devices being used.

Yet, the insurance companies will continue to mis-promote this one case in order to prejudice the lay public against lawsuits. The insurance companies would never discuss the thousands of legitimate lawsuits where people are ripped off by insurance companies, insurance companies starve people out, cause divorce and family destruction through their tactics. No. You never hear that in the news because our media is corporate controlled by mega corporations, like insurance companies.

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Clifford Horwitz
AUTHOR

Clifford Horwitz

As Principal Partner and lead trial lawyer of Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, Cliff has devoted his entire career to achieving justice for those who have been victimized by corporate negligence. He has won numerous record-setting jury verdicts and settlements, as well as the the highest personal injury verdict in Illinois history.

All stories by: Clifford Horwitz

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