McDonald's coffee focus of two new lawsuits

March 26, 2012

Yet again, McDonald's is defending its hot coffee in court – this time as part of two new lawsuits brought forth by customers claiming they experienced burns from the beverage.

According to Chicago Business, the first suit alleges that a 4-year-old Chicago girl suffered second degree burns and will have permanent scars.

The child was getting her grandmother a coffee refill and the lid wasn't secured. She had misinterpreted the grandmother's request to throw the cup away and instead, while refilling, spilled coffee on her chest causing the burns. She was unsupervised because the grandmother was watching her little sister.

The plaintiffs are seeking nearly $4 million in damages, including $2.5 million in punitive damages, $1 million for pain and suffering and $250,000 in compensatory damages.

The second suit alleges that hot coffee spilled onto a woman's thighs and abdomen after she ordered the drink from a drive-thru window in August 2010 at a McDonald's in Rockford, Ill.

Melissa Pettigrew, 35, still is getting treatment for the burns, according to her lawyer. The suit claims employees served coffee that was too hot or without securing the lid, or that they were not trained properly on how to hand off the drink to customers.

Pettigrew's husband is also named as a plaintiff, alleging he has "suffered the loss of consortium" because of her injuries.

Both suits were filed last week in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago.

A McDonald's spokesperson said the safety of customers has always been a top priority and these are unfortunate incidents. All of the chain's coffee cups warn customers to handle the beverages with care.

McDonald's has been the defendant in hot coffee cases before. In 1993, an elderly woman in New Mexico sued the company for the same reason, and eventually settled after going to trial.

In 2010, a Chicago-area mother sued McDonald's claiming that its hot chocolate badly burned her daughter.

A Texas woman brought forth a similar suit in 2007, claiming McDonald's failed to warn her that coffee is served hot after she spilled the drink in her lap.

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Topics: Coffee/Bakery/Donut , Customer Service / Experience , Food & Beverage , Legal Issues , Operations Management , Staffing & Training

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