Liebeck was wearing cotton sweatpants; they absorbed the coffee and held it against her skin, scalding her thighs, buttocks, and groin.
Well, here's the issue as to why most people don't have it happen even when they spill the coffee on themselves...I think.
However, the company's own research showed that some customers intend to consume the coffee immediately while driving.
So, we know that it's not actually hot enough to burn the mouth and throat when drunk.
Or do we?
Other documents obtained from McDonald's showed that from 1982 to 1992 the company had received more than 700 reports of people burned by McDonald's coffee to varying degrees of severity, and had settled claims arising from scalding injuries for more than $500,000.
Alright, so what are some of these other settlements, and what made this one not worth settling for more than $800?
Sadly, the wikipedia link isn't working. But I found it here: http://www.business.txstate.edu/users/ds26/Business%20Law%202361/Misc/McDonalds%20coffee.pdf
Even more eye-opening was the revelation that McDonald's had seen
such injuries many times before. Company documents showed that in the
past decade McDonald's had received at least 700 reports of coffee
burns ranging from mild to third degree, and had settled claims arising
from scalding injuries for more than $500,000.
Some observers wonder why McDonald's, after years of settling
coffee-burn cases, chose to take this one to trial. After all, the
plaintiff was a sympathetic figure -- an articulate, 81-year-old former
department store clerk who said under oath that she had never filed
suit before. In fact, she said, she never would have filed this one if
McDonald's hadn't dismissed her request for compensation for pain and
medical bills with an offer of $800.
But, doesn't say why.
Wow.. sounds like McDonalds could have avoided it by going with the offer that they originally asked for.
One of the things I've often heard about the legal system is that people will figure out court costs and deliberately aim for a number beneath that cost. Since it's usually cheaper to settle than it is to actually fight the suit, most corporations will just settle.
However, I have no idea how accurate this is. I'd love if someone could verify that one way or another.