During the 1990s, McDonald’s faced a widely-publicized legal battle when a customer spilled hot coffee on herself, resulting in severe third-degree burns in the pelvic region that necessitated skin grafts. Many regarded the lawsuit as trivial or comical, yet the jury held a different opinion and granted the customer a compensation of $2.9 million. Presently, the fast-food giant has encountered another legal setback concerning its hot food.
In 2019, Philana Holmes visited a McDonald’s in Florida with her 4-year-old daughter, Olivia Caraballo, with the intention of purchasing a Happy Meal for her. Once the mother received the meal, she gave it to Olivia, who was seated in the back of the car in a car seat. After a short while, Philana heard her daughter scream, and upon turning around, she noticed that chicken nuggets had fallen onto Olivia’s lap. Unfortunately, one of the nuggets got stuck between the child’s seat belt, and Philana couldn’t immediately dislodge it.
Due to the excessively high temperature of the nugget, it resulted in second-degree burns. Consequently, Philana Holmes and Humberto Carabello Estevez filed a lawsuit against both the franchise and the corporation, seeking compensation for the damages. In May, a jury in Broward County ruled that both parties were liable for the incident.
On July 19, the family was granted $800,000 by the jury. Although they had initially sought $15 million, their legal representatives deemed the verdict to be reasonable and equitable. Holmes expressed her satisfaction with the jury’s decision, mentioning that she was glad they considered Olivia’s perspective in reaching a fair judgment. She conveyed her contentment with the final outcome to the media.
It remains uncertain whether McDonald’s will take steps to include warning labels on its chicken nugget containers following the resolution of the lawsuit, which was a contributing factor to the company being deemed responsible by the Broward jury. After the previous hot coffee case, McDonald’s had introduced warning labels on its cups.
In a similar vein, Starbucks has also faced legal challenges in recent times regarding the temperature of its coffee and tea. In 2017, a Florida jury awarded $100,000 to a woman for serving hot beverages in cups with defective lids.