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While there are some hot coffee and/or hot tea spills that happen in the dining area of restaurants, they most commonly occur in fast-food and various kinds of drive-thru lanes. Many of these injuries are devastating and life-altering. Here are but a handful of examples (some real and some partially or completely made up, and others with names, dates, details, and locations changed in an effort to protect the innocent) of scald and burn injury lawsuits resulting from hot coffee spills in a fast-food restaurant drive-thru:

  • In July 2019, a Texas woman was handed a large coffee through a drive-thru window of a major coffee shop chain and the lid popped off, spilling the scalding contents all over her lap. She suffered first – and second – degree burns. She sued and won $100,000; with $85,000 awarded for pain and suffering, and $15,000 for medical bills. During the trial, “’a (restaurant company) representative testified that the company gets 80 complaints a month about lid leaks and lids popping off.’ (The company’s) attorneys argued that it ‘would not be relevant’ to warn customers of the risk.”[1]
  • In March 2020, a lawsuit was filed against a well-known fast-food chain by a 40-year-old woman in Oakland, California. She ordered a medium-sized coffee at the drive-thru and suffered second-degree burns to her groin area when the coffee spilled onto her. She stated that “the lid on the medium size cup of coffee (she) ordered through the drive-thru was not securely fastened by the employee prior to handing it to (her).”[2] A jury ruled in her favor and awarded her $245,000 for her injuries and suffering.
  • In January 2021, a woman and her sister ordered three coffees at a doughnut shop drive-thru in Delaware. She was in the passenger seat and her sister was driving. Allegedly, the employee handed her sister hot coffee cups that weren’t placed firmly in the to-go tray, additionally, the lids to the drinks weren’t secured properly to the cups. As her sister brought the tray into the car, the coffees came loose and spilled onto the woman, burning her legs and buttocks. “’Screaming in pain, the plaintiff was forced to rip off her leggings in the parking lot, exposing herself in full view of the (doughnut shop’s) employees,’ the lawsuit states. ‘Seeing this, the employees were pointing, laughing, and mocking the plaintiff.’ The coffee spill resulted in serious burns and nerve damage, the lawsuit states, as well as permanent scars.” She is suing the local owner of the restaurant as well as two employees.
  • In December 2018, a woman ordered a hot coffee from a drive-thru at a major fast-food chain in Chicago, Illinois. When the employee handed her the cup, the coffee “spilled in her lap resulting in second-degree burns on her legs, groin and buttocks.” The lawsuit cites “negligence in failing to properly handle hot materials when delivering to customers, failing to maintain liquids at a temperature that would protect customers from suffering burns, failing to train employees in handling hot liquids and failing to act as a reasonable person using ordinary care in the same or similar circumstance.” She is suing for “$1 million in damages for past and future medical bills, physical pain, lost wages, physical impairment, physical disfigurement and mental anguish.”[3] A similar incident happened – and a lawsuit was filed – in the same city, at the same restaurant chain, one year prior.
  • In August 2017, a man and his wife ordered two cups of hot coffee and an iced coffee from the drive-thru of a doughnut shop in Washington state. The man “suffered second and third-degree burns when the coffee fell into his lap,” according to the lawsuit. The suit also accused the restaurant and its’ employees of being “negligent in ‘the preparation, sale and service of the coffee to the plaintiff in that it was too hot.’”

There are countless other examples that I could cite and many more that I have personally been involved in – and again understand I changed the details of each of these cases so that these writings cannot be used in your case, or in any future debates and discussions with me when I am under oath – but you get the idea.

Look cases up for yourself – the landscape is littered with them.

Excerpt taken from the upcoming book, “Coffee Burns in Drive Thrus,” by Howard Cannon.

To find out how you can win a Coffee Burn case, call us at 800-300-5764!

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