One day, this innocent picture showed up on someone’s account with a caption poking fun at Americans. They didn’t know the full story, and chances are, neither do most people. It all happened so long ago, all that’s left is what the media wanted us to remember…
But is that really what happened? When we see warning labels that say “Caution: Do Not Swallow” on a basketball or “Warning: Contents Will Be Hot After Microwaving” on food, we think to ourselves, ‘well of course it will, it’s a microwave pizza! Who could be so dumb?’ We automatically assume that it would be common sense to just “do not eat the small plastic parts that come with this toy,” but for it to have a warning, someone must have done it…right?
In this case, the internet did what the internet does best…random strangers stepped in to explain in vivid detail exactly why this picture is so heartless!
That’s what the media smear campaign against her would have you believe, anyway. The truth of the matter is that the McDonald’s in question had previously been cited – on at least two separate occasions – for keeping their coffee so hot that it violated local occupational health and safety regulations. The lady didn’t win her lawsuit because American courts are stupid; she won it because the McDonald’s she bought that coffee from was actively and knowingly breaking the law with respect to the temperature of its coffee at the time of the incident.
I mean, do you have any idea what a third-degree burn actually is? Third-degree burns involve “full thickness” tissue damage; we’re talking bone-deep, with possible destruction of tissue. Can you even imagine how hot that cup of coffee would have to have been to inflict that kind of damage in the few seconds it was in contact with her skin?”
But it doesn’t stop there. Someone else jumped in with even more facts!
The woman injured was 79 years old at the time of her injuries, and suffered third-degree burns to the pelvic region (including her thighs, buttocks, and groin), which in combination with lesser burns in the surrounding regions caused damage to an area totaling a whopping 22% of her body’s surface. These injuries that required two years of intensive medical care, including multiple skin grafts; during her hospitalization, Stella Liebeck lost around 20% of her starting body weight.
She was uninsured and sued McDonald’s Restaurants for the cost of her past and projected future medical care, an estimated $20,000. The corporation offered a settlement of $800, a number so obviously ridiculous that I’m not even going to dignify it with any further explanation.
The settlement number most often quoted is not the amount that the corporation actually paid; the jury in the first trial suggested a payment equal to a day or two of coffee revenues for McDonald’s, which at the time totaled more than $1 million per diem. The judge reduced the required payout to around $640,000 in both compensatory and punitive damages, and the case was later settled out of court for less than $600,000.
Keep in mind that at the time, McDonald’s already had over 700 cases of complaints about coffee-related burns on file, but continued to sell coffee heated to nearly 200 degrees Fahrenheit (around 90 degrees Celsius) as a means of boosting sales (their selling point was that one could buy the coffee, drive to a second location such as work or home, and still have a piping hot beverage). This in spite of the fact that most restaurants serve coffee between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit (60 to 71 degrees Celsius), and many coffee experts agree that such high temperatures are desirable only during the brewing process itself.
Whether these are 100% correct or not, the story is still terrifying, even after so many years. This heartbreaking story still makes me sad to think about. Corporations have a lot of power, and the fact that the only thing people remember about this huge case was “some idiot didn’t think that hot coffee would be hot” is incredibly sad. What do you think about this awesome comeback? The person who posted the original picture replied later and thanked the “angry mob” for letting her know the real story. She had no idea when she uploaded that picture and caption.
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