Essay on Hot Coffee

3309 Words Sep 15th, 2015 14 Pages
Loyola Consumer Law Review
Volume 10 | Issue 4

Article 6


Courts Split as to Whether Consumers Injured by
Hot Coffee Can Seek Recovery
Zachary Rami

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Recommended Citation
Zachary Rami Courts Split as to Whether Consumers Injured by Hot Coffee Can Seek Recovery, 10 Loy. Consumer L. Rev. 310 (1998).
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Courts split as
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Additionally, this Note will explore courts' differing

310 * Loyola Consumer Law Review

levels of confidence in consumers' ability to ascertain the dangers of everyday life. This Note concludes that the Seventh Circuit's approach in
McMahon could potentially threaten legitimate recovery by consumers, which in turn, highlights the importance of an effective litigation strategy. The Spill That Spurred National
The precursor to McMahon and Nadel was a highly publicized 1994 case involving a New Mexico woman, Stella
Liebeck, who spilled 180 degree
McDonald's coffee on herself and suffered serious burns.4 The jury awarded the plaintiff $2.9 million in damages, most of which were punitive in nature. The judge subsequently reduced the verdict to $640,000. The large verdict attracted national attention as politicians, lawyers, and citizen groups, favoring tort reform used the case to symbolize what they believed was wrong with the civil legal system: frivolous lawsuits, excessively high jury verdicts, and huge lawyer contingency fees. In fact, Newsweek magazine called Stella Liebeck the
"poster lady" for tort reform efforts in the U.S. Congress.5

Volume 10, number 4

Case Notes

Despite public perception, many of these "coffee" lawsuits are not meritless. In fact, they arise from the credible legal doctrine of products liability. In the early days of American law, courts subscribed to the principle of caveat emptor (or, buyer beware), which held that a

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