Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

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Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby Tsukiyumi » Sun Dec 22, 2013 8:02 pm

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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Dec 22, 2013 10:48 pm

I pointed this out on this very forum some time ago.
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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby Tsukiyumi » Mon Dec 23, 2013 4:06 am

Sure, but you didn't do it in VIDEO form. :)
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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Mon Dec 23, 2013 11:48 am

There is that.
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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby sunnyside » Mon Dec 23, 2013 5:00 pm

I think a lot of the hubub over this and other lawsuits is the way that punative damages are awarded to a plantiff, potentially making them wealthy. Personally I'd rather see punative damages distributed in some manner more akin to class action lawsuits, setting up something like the tabacco settlement funds, or donating to appropriate charities, depending on the nature of the lawsuit. In the hot coffee case I'd have rather seen the plantif just recieve medical expenses and a compensatory package (lost wages, pain and suffering, etc) which she did, and then punative damages perhaps going to support burn wards at hospitals or somesuch.

Although this particular case also touches on concepts of freedom and personal responsibility vs safety and is set against a backdrop in the US of all sorts of things like playgroud equipment, nature trails/overlooks, and whatnot being torn out, blocked, etc because of the potential for a lawsuit.

In this case millions of people liked their coffee hot, otherwise McDonalds wouldn't have been serving billions of cups that way. A quick wiki check on the temperature of the coffee in the lawsuit indicates that the temperature it was served at was already below the ideal brewing temperature for coffee. That high heat indicates to a customer the establishment isn't skimping on the brewing, and a lot of people believe coffee should be too hot to drink when you get it.

Actually, as a Trek tie in, I remember Kira explaining that to a confused Odo in some episode or other. Maybe the one where that guy wants to buy a holoprogram featuring Kira from Quark?
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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Tue Dec 24, 2013 12:06 am

For me this comes down to three things. The first is that the image a lot of people had of this case was that the woman was given "hot" coffee in the sense that we normally think of hot coffee... where if you spill it on yourself you go "ow!" and fan yourself a bit, and maybe you're a bit red for a while. I think a lot of the outrage stemmed from that - "Hell, I burn myself on my coffee all the time, and she gets money for it?!" Actually seeing that this was something that did real genuine harm goes a long way to destroying that reaction, in my eyes.

The other is that McDonalds KNEW this was happening to people... and not just a few people, there have been some 700 of their customers injured by their coffee. Coffee that was being served hotter than their own guidelines said was safe. This was all reported to them over and over again - their own quality assurance people reported that their coffee was unfit for human consumption or even handling, and they did nothing. And at trial, when asked why, they had no answer. Not even an attempt at an excuse. In my eyes, that puts them clearly in the wrong.

And lastly, the amount. Yes, it may be far more than the woman deserved. But she offered to settle for twenty grand to cover her bills and they refused. She wasn't out to gold-dig a big corporation here. And the punitive damages, whilst they sound a lot, are just two day's worth of coffee revenue. That's not going to harm McDonalds in any real way... but it is enough of a sting that they won't want another 700 such cases. Essentially, it's a warning.

I can see the concept of punitive damages going somewhere other than the defendant, but I don't think it would really be practical. Making it like a class action payout would effectively turn any lawsuit into a class action one, which is a bit over the top. Giving it to a charity sounds nice, but which charity? Who decides? On what basis? Does the receiving body have some say in how the lawsuit goes, since they stand to benefit? Can the receiving body help the plaintiff out to increase their chances of getting the cash? It would add even more complexity to lawsuits. Big awards to the plaintiff can feel unfair, but IMO it's the least bad solution.
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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby sunnyside » Sat Dec 28, 2013 4:19 pm

GrahamKennedy wrote:For me this comes down to three things. The first is that the image a lot of people had of this case was that the woman was given "hot" coffee in the sense that we normally think of hot coffee... where if you spill it on yourself you go "ow!" and fan yourself a bit, and maybe you're a bit red for a while. I think a lot of the outrage stemmed from that - "Hell, I burn myself on my coffee all the time, and she gets money for it?!" Actually seeing that this was something that did real genuine harm goes a long way to destroying that reaction, in my eyes.

The other is that McDonalds KNEW this was happening to people... and not just a few people, there have been some 700 of their customers injured by their coffee. Coffee that was being served hotter than their own guidelines said was safe. This was all reported to them over and over again - their own quality assurance people reported that their coffee was unfit for human consumption or even handling, and they did nothing. And at trial, when asked why, they had no answer. Not even an attempt at an excuse. In my eyes, that puts them clearly in the wrong.


There isn't any indication, to my knowledge, that this coffee was any hotter than what McDonalds had been serving by the tens of millions. Further just a brief check online indicates that the ideal temp for making coffee is actually hotter than the McDonalds guidelines, and (based on poking around) people who like their coffee tend to run their machines at the max temperature they can dial it to. Mikey does that as well I believe.

So the point is that this coffee was hot in the sense people normally think of hot coffee. Even after the incident McDonalds only dropped the temperature by ten degrees. The difference is that what others have experienced is just a splash before flicking the coffee mostly off ourselves. Whereas in this particular incident all off the coffee was held right up against her by her sweat pants and being in a seat. Her age probably played into this as well in that her skin would have been much more vulnerable, and she would have been less able to get it off of her such as by arching out of the seat or very quickly getting out of the car. Instead it sounds like the coffee pooled for a while. That's what turned coffee handled safely by millions every day into nasty nasty burns.

To a degree it comes down to the concept of things being inherently risky. The linked thing indicated the rate of a burn was one in 24 million if I'm remembering correctly, and no deaths. If that's the bar for something being clearly too risky such that it needs to be legislated than you're going to be missing out on a lot, which probably includes almost every sport in existence, swimming, steak (chocking hazard), every form of transportation, and any contact with other humans (disease risk).

Hurm. Those would probably be more compelling examples if this wasn't a Star Trek forum. :wink: But I think you get the point.



GrahamKennedy wrote:
And lastly, the amount. Yes, it may be far more than the woman deserved. But she offered to settle for twenty grand to cover her bills and they refused. She wasn't out to gold-dig a big corporation here.


It sounds like she wasn't, and with all the press might well have been happier without all the negative press that went with her story (though even the reduced settlement of not quite a million dollars might have a way of making up for that.)

I can see the concept of punitive damages going somewhere other than the defendant, but I don't think it would really be practical. Making it like a class action payout would effectively turn any lawsuit into a class action one, which is a bit over the top. Giving it to a charity sounds nice, but which charity? Who decides? On what basis? Does the receiving body have some say in how the lawsuit goes, since they stand to benefit? Can the receiving body help the plaintiff out to increase their chances of getting the cash? It would add even more complexity to lawsuits. Big awards to the plaintiff can feel unfair, but IMO it's the least bad solution.


I think randomly selecting from legally recognized charities would be better than delivering mega millions to plaintiffs. Whatever you think of this case, there are a lot of frivolous lawsuits out there that wouldn't happen if it wasn't a way to play for big money. On the other side of that some more reasonable cases fold up because of media storms and the Jury not wanting to give somebody such a payout, as mentioned in the above story.

You could even just assign a fine that dumps into the US treasury, if the case isn't at the federal level that might not get called out as any sort of conflict of interest.
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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Dec 29, 2013 2:35 am

sunnyside wrote:There isn't any indication, to my knowledge, that this coffee was any hotter than what McDonalds had been serving by the tens of millions.

Don't really see how that is a point in their favour.

Further just a brief check online indicates that the ideal temp for making coffee is actually hotter than the McDonalds guidelines, and (based on poking around) people who like their coffee tend to run their machines at the max temperature they can dial it to. Mikey does that as well I believe.

Then make it at that temp and then cool it down before you give it to people.

To a degree it comes down to the concept of things being inherently risky. The linked thing indicated the rate of a burn was one in 24 million if I'm remembering correctly, and no deaths. If that's the bar for something being clearly too risky such that it needs to be legislated than you're going to be missing out on a lot, which probably includes almost every sport in existence, swimming, steak (chocking hazard), every form of transportation, and any contact with other humans (disease risk).

The difference is that the risk was readily avoidable, the company had identified it as such, and then decided to do nothing to avoid it. That's not the case in your other examples; for instance there may be a choking hazard with eating steak, but there's nothing much the company can do to stop that from happening. Or at least nothing reasonable. Letting coffee cool down to the point where it doesn't actually injure people who touch it is a pretty simple fix; they just couldn't be bothered.

I think randomly selecting from legally recognized charities would be better than delivering mega millions to plaintiffs.

Which charities, though? All of them?

Whatever you think of this case, there are a lot of frivolous lawsuits out there that wouldn't happen if it wasn't a way to play for big money.

I kind of doubt that. Most lawsuits don't result in huge wins; they result in small ones. That's more than enough to keep people suing in bad faith, IMO.
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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby sunnyside » Mon Dec 30, 2013 5:10 pm

GrahamKennedy wrote:Then make it at that temp and then cool it down before you give it to people.


While certainly possible, none of the companies mentioned in the report do that, and I've never experienced hot coffee served at any establishment that isn't well above the temperature required to rapidly scald someone. Essentially the definition of "hot coffee" is a product that will give you third degree burns in one second if you were to dunk your finger right into it.

As a consumer, you would of course be free to order an iced coffee if that's what you'd like. You could probably even request that they toss an ice cube in there to rapidly drop the temperature, if you're looking for something a bit more normal, adding some milk or creamer could maybe get the product down to ~140 degrees F which would at least give you a a few seconds before third degree burns set in. This particular lady could have done that, but she didn't.

I guess to make it clear what I'm saying is if that lady did what she did at any other resturant or even picking up a cup from a friend she would have had the same outcome. Having the temperature at 180 instead of 190 would have reduced that damage, but only slightly and the pictures would look essentially the same.

This case was about setting an arbitrary threshold on a "reasonable" temperature for scalding coffee, and it seems to have been set by McDonalds competitors being cheaper with their brewing (I do believe McDonalds advertized that their coffee won taste tests and whatnot during that timeframe).

That's not the case in your other examples; for instance there may be a choking hazard with eating steak, but there's nothing much the company can do to stop that from happening. Or at least nothing reasonable. Letting coffee cool down to the point where it doesn't actually injure people who touch it is a pretty simple fix; they just couldn't be bothered.


You could require restaurants to only sell chop steak. I dunno if you have that on your side of the pond. Chop steak is basically cooking up and serving ground beef in the same way as one would cook and serve a normal steak. I'm not sure if you'd consider that reasonable or not, however I'm pretty confident serving coffee at 120-140 degrees F wouldn't be considered very reasonable.


Which charities, though? All of them?


There is a list of recognized charities (you have to file with the government). Though as I said random
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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby Reliant121 » Tue Dec 31, 2013 8:42 am

sunnyside wrote:I guess to make it clear what I'm saying is if that lady did what she did at any other resturant or even picking up a cup from a friend she would have had the same outcome. Having the temperature at 180 instead of 190 would have reduced that damage, but only slightly and the pictures would look essentially the same.


In my mind that demonstrates the industry pandering to consumerist desire for speed at the behest of safety is to blame.
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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby sunnyside » Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:49 am

Reliant121 wrote:In my mind that demonstrates the industry pandering to consumerist desire for speed at the behest of safety is to blame.


I'd agree if it actually seemed to be a case of them not wanting to take the time to let the coffee cool down. However these serving temperatures are also the holding temperatures. Meaning even if that pot was made an hour ago, they aren't going to serve you hot coffee that won't give you a good scalding.

Rather they're pandering to the consumerist desire for a product that is potentially harmful to them.

...actually that probably goes for most of the rest of the McDonalds menu...but we all love it.
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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby IanKennedy » Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:27 pm

sunnyside wrote:...actually that probably goes for most of the rest of the McDonalds menu...but we all love it.

Wow, I hadn't realised that. I was firmly of the opinion that I can't stand the stuff. Give me Burger King over McDonalds any day.
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Re: Remember that hot coffee lawsuit?

Postby Angharrad » Fri Jan 03, 2014 8:48 pm

Now I'm hungry. :lol:
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