McDonald’s sued over hot coffee spill three decades after landmark case

A customer who was burnt by hot coffee has filed a lawsuit against a McDonald’s franchise in San Francisco  (PA Wire)
A customer who was burnt by hot coffee has filed a lawsuit against a McDonald’s franchise in San Francisco (PA Wire)

A San Francisco McDonald’s is being sued by a customer in her 80s who was allegedly refused help after suffering severe burns from a “scalding coffee” that spilt in her lap.

Three decades after McDonald’s was sued over a spilt hot coffee in a landmark case, Mable Childress filed a lawsuit for physical pain and emotional distress suffered in the 13 June incident.

Ms Childress, 85, alleged in the lawsuit filed in the San Francisco Superior Court that drive-thru staff at the fast food chain handed her a coffee cup with a loose lid.

When she tried to take a sip, the lid came off and she was allegedly drenched over her legs, groin and stomach with the hot beverage.

She tried to report the incident and speak to the manager, but alleges that staff at the Fillmore St McDonald’s “refused to help her”.

After an hour trying to get assistance, Ms Childress took herself to an emergency room where she was treated for first and second-degree burns, her attorney Dylan Hackett told The Independent.

Mr Hackett said his client was “doing better” now, but is still receiving treatment for her injuries three months on.

Ms Childress is seeking unspecified damages against the fast-food giant for physical pain and emotional distress.

McDonald’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Independent.

Franchise owner-operator Peter Ou told The Independent in an email that the restaurant had strict safety protocols to ensure lids on hot beverages are secure.

“We take every customer complaint seriously — and when Ms Childress reported her experience to us later that day, our employees and management team spoke to her within a few minutes and offered assistance. We’re reviewing this new legal claim in detail,” Mr Ou said.

In 1992, Stella Liebeck sued McDonald’s after sustaining third-degree burns when a hot coffee spilt in her lap at a restaurant in New Mexico.

A jury awarded her nearly $3m in punitive and compensatory damages after she required skin grafts from the coffee.

The case led to nationwide calls to reform tort laws to make it harder for plaintiffs to sue.

Mr Hackett told The Independent the lawsuit hadn’t figured into Ms Childress’ lawsuit, as the circumstances in both cases were different.

In July, a Florida jury awarded $800,000 to the family of Olivia Caraballo after she received second-degree burns from a Chicken McNugget that fell on her leg in 2019.