McDonald's still apparently serves their drive-thru coffee exceedingly hot, and a San Francisco woman is claiming that a poorly affixed lid on a coffee cup, served to her at the Fillmore McDonald's, led to her getting serious burns, and she's now suing.
It's not for us to judge the merits of a lawsuit that was filed last week in San Francisco Superior Court on behalf of octogenarian Mable Childress. But the outlines of it are extremely similar to a noted lawsuit from the early 90s, known as Liebeck v. McDonald’s. In that suit, a 79-year-old woman, Stella Liebeck, was ultimately awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages over third-degree burns that Liebeck sustained to her legs and groin from some scalding McDonald's coffee, over which she was hospitalized.
Liebeck's award was ultimately reduced to $480,000, and the parties settled for an undisclosed amount, said to be $160,000. But that suit made national headlines and became synonymous with frivolous litigation — though multiple other plaintiffs have sued and won over burns from coffee and other hot beverages, against McDonald's and other companies.
In another similar case, a Louisiana woman sued Burger King over hot coffee that spilled on her in a drive-thru in 2012; and a convenience store chain in New Jersey paid out a $3 million settlement in 2020 over hot water spilled on a three-year-old child. In multiple instances, judges have dismissed these suits as well.
But, as NBC Bay Area reports, Ms. Childress is seeking damages from the McDonald's at 1100 Fillmore Street in San Francisco over a similar June 13 hot-beverage incident. Childress claims that when she went to take a drink from her cup at the drive-thru, "scalding coffee poured out of the cup" causing burns to her groin. Childress says she went into the restaurant to complain to employees, but they allegedly "ignored" and "refused to help her."
Dylan Hackett, Childress's attorney, tells SFGate that the McDonald's employees "didn’t give her the time of day," and she then took herself to the hospital.
Peter Ou, the owner of the Fillmore McDonald's franchise, gave a statement to the Today show, which has since picked up the story, saying, "My restaurants have strict food safety protocols in place, including training crew to ensure lids on hot beverages are secure. We take every customer complaint seriously — and when Ms. Childress reported her experience to us later that day, our employees and management team spoke to her within a few minutes and offered assistance. We’re reviewing this new legal claim in detail."
It's unclear what amount of money Childress is seeking, but per NBC Bay Area, the filing indicates it is "an unlimited civil case that could exceed $25,000."
This McDonald's has seen its share of troubles in the past. Four people were injured in a shooting there in 2019, and a man was fatally shot in this McDonald's drive-thru in February 2016. Later that same year, in September 2016, a pair of Folsom Street Fair tourists were allegedly gay-bashed outside the restaurant.
Photo: Erik McLean