RE: cooking instructions for Kraft Dinner

Subject: RE: cooking instructions for Kraft Dinner
From: <puff -at- guild -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 4 Jan 2001 18:16:35 -0500

Eric L. Dunn writes:
>>>5. Keep your sense of humor. After all, who could have predicted
>>>that MacDonald's would have to label coffee as "hot" because
>>>customers burned their mouths? Or is that lesson: never
>>>underestimate the softheadedness of a percentage of consumers? ;-)
> This is only a fraction of the truth. McD's had to label their
> coffee hot after a successful multi-million dollar lawsuit by an
> injured customer. The customer had bought a coffee at a drive
> though, placed the coffee between their legs and then it spilled.

Thanks for bringing this up, so I didn't have to :-). I did some
homework on this story a couple years ago. I don't remember all of the
details, but I'll say what I know.

I'll start by clarifying some of the money issues. The customer
was burned (see below) and requested that McDonald's pay the medical
costs, a little over $10K if I recall correctly. McDonald's declined.
She then sued McDonald's for said costs, plus court costs. She won.
The JURY decided to award punitive damages as well, largely because of
McDonald's handling of the situation and the fact that they had
several previous court decisions against them, for which they did not
change their practices. I think the original award was on the order
of $80,000, and subsequently was raised to over the

> While initially this seems to be a case of litigation getting
> ridiculous and the stupidity of a consumer being rewarded in court,
> we must be honest and report the full details. McD's brews coffee
> with water at an unreasonable (read extreme) temperature in order to
> stretch the coffee grounds as far as possible. They had also
> already been warned many times in previous lawsuits about this
> practice being dangerous to the public (I don't know how many suits
> or how they were settled).

Correct and very much the case.

> So while we may judge the customer as foolish attempting to balance
> a cup of coffee, can we in all honesty say that it is acceptable the
> said spilled coffee should cause serious burns? (I don't remember if
> 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree) We are not talking about burning your
> mouth, but causing serious injury.

2nd degree burns:

A second degree burn develops wet blisters (remember the body fluid we
talked about?). If these blisters pop, wet body fluid leaks out. After
that happens, it is very important to put some fluid back into the
body. This can be done by drinking a lot of juices (if your tummy is
not sick). Sometimes this fluid is put into your body using an I.V. (a
plastic tube that goes under the skin and into your blood vessel; a
special watery substance drips inside). Some second-degree burns
heal. It takes about two weeks. Other second-degree burns are deeper
into the skin and will not heal well without an operation and skin

Also note that the burns in question were on her groin area; you
may argue that it's not smart to put a cup of hot coffee between your
legs, but at sane temperatures you wouldn't be risking actual injury
by such an action.

> Indeed one of the thrusts of the case against McD's was that the
> coffee, at the temperature served, was unfit for human consumption
> (I may be inclined to argue it's unfit for consumption at any
> temperature, but I digress).

I'd agree to that, but then again I'm a coffee snob.

Steven J. Owens
puff -at- guild -dot- net

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