McDonald’s Is Facing Another Coffee-Related Lawsuit—And This One Is Even Worse!

McDonald’s is enduring yet another coffee-related lawsuit— this time, as Insider reports, an Alabama woman has filed a $13 million lawsuit against the fast food chain after being was served a cup of coffee that contained harmful chemicals and resulted in damage to her throat and organs. Here’s what you need to know:


The Latest Coffee-Related Lawsuit and its Details

According to the woman, after she realized she had actually consumed chemicals and not a normal cup of coffee, McDonald’s employees refused to let her see the label on the chemical bottle. They also allegedly refused to 911 on her behalf. The lawsuit also alleges that even after the woman called 911 by herself, the staff at the restaurant she visited wouldn’t let emergency responders see the bottle in question, either.

The Takeout writes that “while it has not yet been determined whether this woman will be awarded the damages she’s seeking from McDonald’s,” there’s precedent for the popular company to make “huge payouts” for drink-related mistakes. The lawsuit listed other instances of chemicals being found in McDonald’s “lattes, iced tea, hot chocolate, and soda,” the outlet points out.

How This Compares to the OG McDonald’s ‘Hot Coffee Lawsuit’

Fans will remember 1994’s infamous Liebeck v. McDonald’s, or the case in which 79-year-old Stella Liebeck purchased a cup of McDonald’s coffee at a drive-thru in Albuquerque, New Mexico and it spilled onto her lap. She then sued McDonald’s and a jury awarded her with almost $3 million in punitive damages for the burns that she suffered.

While many accused Liebeck of being greedy (and expressed that hot coffee would, in common sense, be hot to the touch), the truth is, as The Takeout writes, that “McDonald’s really was serving coffee at unusually high temperatures.” According to the American Museum of Tort Law, while most restaurants were keeping coffee around “160 degrees Fahrenheit,” at the time, McDonald’s coffee could be “kept as hot as 190 degrees.” At that heat level, it would really only takes 3 seconds for a spilled liquid to cause “third-degree burns” on a someone’s skin.


Liebeck actually did sustain third-degree burns after the coffee spilled in her lap during her drive-thru visit. She had to be hospitalized for 8days, get skin grafts, and her recovery from the incident lasted over 2 years. When Liebeck filed her lawsuit, she just simply wanted Mickey D’s to cover her medical costs, which summed up to around $20,000. When McDonald’s countered with an $800 settlement offer, she decided to take the chain to court.

During the trial, fans also might remember that one takeaway was that least “700 other McDonald’s customers had suffered serious injuries from the extreme heat of the coffee,” as The Takeout writes, and McDonald’s “never did anything about it.” Ultimately, the jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages, and the second part is what gained the most public attention. In reality, Liebeck did not receive “millions” from the lawsuit, and the parties ended up settling for an amount less than $500,000, as reported by the American Museum of Tort Law.


Now, nearly 30 years later following that case, this current chemical lawsuit against McDonald’s should not be “seen as one woman’s attempt bilk the brand of its millions,” as The Takeout points out, but rather a “revelation of how careless and hazardous mistakes are allowed to happen within the fast food industry.”