McDonald's Coffee Case Overview
what in good faith was the responsibility on the part of McDonald's and the defendants? Clearly good faith on the part of McDonald's would have been to not serve scalding hot coffee in the first place. McDonald's also could have printed a warning on each Styrofoam cup -- in very large letters -- "Caution: Very Hot Coffee." But since McDonald's didn't provide ample warnings about the scalding nature of its beverage that assumes the fast-food company either didn't know that a coffee temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit can cause third degree burns; or McDonald's simply didn't care and blithely assumed that no customer would be clumsy enough to spill the coffee. Either way, good faith on the part of the company was sidetracked or pushed out of sight, so to speak.
Good faith on the part of the customer, Ms. Liebeck, would have been to perhaps feel that the cup was very hot given the temperature of the Styrofoam cup when she wrapped her hands around it. That said, she was 79 years of age at the time so she may not have had the sensitivity in her aging hands that would have allowed her to detect the very hot coffee inside the cup. Still, the bottom...
Liebeck was an innocent consumer just wanting a cup of coffee from a drive-through fast food establishment; it wouldn't be fair to say in good faith she should not have spilled the coffee because humans at any age can spill items.
TWO: who breached their obligation -- Ms. Liebeck or McDonald's? It seems clear that McDonald's had an obligation first of all to do no harm to customers. In fact McDonald's had an obligation to satisfy customers with quality food and beverage products and good service. This is what the average consumer expects: to purchase food and beverages that are safe, that don't have the potential to cause third degree burns. Moreover, McDonald's "Mission" statement on its website reads: "From the beginning, we've been a company committed to doing the right thing… [And] we place the customer experience at the core of all we do." In its "McDonald's Values" narrative the company explains: "Our customers are the reason for our existence. We demonstrate our appreciation by providing them with high quality food and superior service…" (www.aboutmcdonalds.com).
Given that pledge by McDonald's on their corporate website,…
Stella Liebeck, who sued fast-food giant McDonald's for compensation, owing to several third-degree, and some second-degree, burns, sustained by her from a cup of scalding McDonald's coffee; and 2) Roy L. Pearson, who sued dry cleaning service, Custom Cleaners, for a compensation of many million dollars, owing to the loss of a pair of his trousers. The facts, issues, laws, ethical issues, and jury decision for both cases, as