Do you know who Stella Liebeck is?

She is the 79 year old New Mexico grandmother in the McDonald’s hot coffee case that has been so thoroughly misrepresented over the last few years by the insurance industry and other tort “deformers.”

Here is a 16 question quiz to see if you know the actual facts . . . (The answers are in bold type.)

1. When Stella was burned, she was in the:

  • driver’s seat.
  • passenger seat.
  • rear seat.

2. When the coffee spilled, the car was:

  • moving.
  • parked.
  • on the highway.

3. The cup:

  • was being handed to her and was dropped.
  • was in her crotch.
  • was between her knees.

4. When the coffee spilled, Stella was:

  • squeezing her legs together while reaching for her Egg McMuffin.
  • removing the lid to add cream and sugar.
  • eating her breakfast.

5. Stella received burns to her:

  • inner thighs.
  • other sensitive areas.
  • all of the above.

6. These burns were:

  • 1st degree.
  • 2nd degree.
  • 3rd degree.
  • all of the above.

7. Stella required:

  • 2 days in the hospital.
  • 5 days in the hospital.
  • 8 days in the hospital and skin grafting surgery.

8. McDonald’s quality assurance manager testified that the company actively enforced a requirement that its coffee be served between: (HINT: Your coffee at home comes out at about 135 to 140 degrees).

  • 140 to 150 degrees.
  • 150 to 170 degrees.
  • 180 to 190 degrees.

9. True or False: McDonald’s Quality Assurance Manager testified that the company knew that coffee served at the required temperature was not fit for consumption because it would burn the mouth and throat.

10. According to the experts, coffee served at the temperature required by McDonald’s will cause full thickness burns to human skin in:

  • 2 to 7 seconds.
  • 10 to 20 seconds.
  • 30 to 60 seconds.

11. Prior to Stella’s burns, McDonald’s had received more than this number of coffee burn claims:

  • 100.
  • 300.
  • 700.

12. Prior to her lawsuit, McDonald’s rejected Stella’s offer to settle all her claims for medical bills, injury and scarring for the total amount of:

  • $20,000.
  • $100,000.
  • $500,000


13. The jury evaluated Stella’s total claim for compensatory damages for all of her medical bills, injuries and scarring at:

  • $200,000.
  • $500,000.
  • $2,000,000.

14. Based on the evidence and testimony, the jury also awarded punitive damages against McDonald’s in the amount of:

  • $2,700,000.
  • $4,300,000.
  • $10,000,000.

15. Which was later reduced by the court at McDonald’s request to:

  • $480,000.
  • $1,500,000.
  • $5,000,000.

16. As her percentage of fault for her own injury, the jury assessed fault against Stella in the amount of:

  • 0% her fault, 100%McDonald’s fault.
  • 10% her fault, 90% McDonald’s fault.
  • 20% her fault, 80% McDonald’s fault.

Surprised? At what? Your score, or the true facts?

Here’s more surprising truth:

  • The punitive damages awarded against McDonald’s equaled only about 2 days of McDonald’s nationwide coffee sales; similar to the average person paying a parking ticket.
  • Based on the 20% assessment of fault against Stella, her total compensatory damage award was reduced from $200,000 to only $160,000.
  • After appeals, and after the court reduced the punitive award to only 3 times the damage award, or $480,000, for a total of $540,000, the claim was finally settled for a confidential sum believed to be a lesser amount.

Now that you know some of the facts, you know that the McDonald’s hot coffee case is NOT about a frivolous lawsuit and a runaway jury . . . as the insurance industry would have you believe. Instead, it is about a corporation’s arrogance and greedy indifference to its customers’ safety.

To learn even more about the McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case, or to discuss your potential injury case, contact us.

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