An Oregon teen is suing McDonald’s alleging an employee of at one of the fast-food chain’s Madras, Oregon-area restaurants spilled scalding hot water on her, causing severe burns to her abdomen and lower body.
The lawsuit, filed Oct. 4 in Multnomah County Circuit Court, claims the water that the McDonald’s employee allegedly served and spilled was unreasonably hot and caused the 14-year-old girl to suffer “partial thickness burns” to her midsection and lower body, Willamette Week reports.
The scalding water damaged the teen’s epidermis – the outer layer of skin, as well as the dermis layer underneath. These “second-degree” burn injuries usually result in blistering and scarring. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the July 29, 2017, incident at McDonald’s left the teen with significant and extensive scarring as a result of her burn injuries.
While a cup of hot liquid may seem harmless enough, a cup of 140-degree liquid – far cooler than the boiling point of 212 degrees – can result in full-thickness burn injuries when skin is exposed for three seconds or longer.
While the majority of McDonald’s customers enjoy their hot coffee or hot tea unscathed, the potential for serious injury exists if the liquid is unreasonably hot. In fact, very few people would worry about the consequences of such a spill.
This is what happened to now-deceased Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who nearly lost her life after being burned by a cup of scalding hot coffee she received through a McDonald’s drive-thru in 1994.
In the 10 years preceding Ms. Liebeck’s injury, which was the subject of the 2011 documentary Hot Coffee, McDonald’s had received more than 700 reports of burn injuries from customers, many of whom were seriously burned by coffee that McDonald’s served at temperatures of 180-190 degrees.
Those 700 burn injuries, however, apparently were drowned out by the sheer volume of other McDonald’s customers who drank their coffee unscathed because the fast food giant continued to serve it.
Ms. Liebeck sued McDonald’s over her life-threatening third-degree burns and was awarded $3 million by a jury. A judge later reduced the award $640,000.