More than 20 years ago, an Albuquerque, New Mexico, man took his grandmother through a McDonald’s drive-through. The grandson then pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot so his grandmother could add cream to the cup of coffee she had purchased.
When the grandmother attempted to remove the lid from the cup, which she held carefully between her legs, the coffee spilled all over her lap. Seeing his grandmother in pain, the grandson helped her remove her terry-cloth sweatpants and wrapped her in a blanket he kept in the car.
The grandson didn’t know it at the time, but the coffee was so hot that it caused his grandmother to suffer third-degree burns. He also didn’t know at the time that the incident and what happened after would cause his grandmother to live in infamy.
The grandmother from the story is the person we all remember for “suing McDonald’s because her coffee was too hot.” But her family says that the media has painted an unfair image of the woman, who has since passed away.
“Everybody says well, ‘she’s a gold digger, she was just suing McDonald’s because she wants a lot of money,’ and really her only point was she didn’t want it to happen to anybody else,” her grandson recently told a local news reporter.
As it turned out, McDonald’s had a policy of keeping coffee 30 degrees hotter than any home coffee maker could produce, and more than 700 people had reported burn injuries from the coffee in the nine years before the woman was injured.
Originally, the grandmother had only wanted McDonald’s to lower the temperature of their coffee and pay for her medical bills. When the restaurant refused to do those things is when the woman decided to sue, her family says.
Additionally, while the original jury award in the personal injury case was for $2.9 million, the grandmother ended up settling for a fraction of that amount, her attorney pointed out.
So when you hear references to the case -- whether it’s in pop culture or from a neighbor down the street -- the grandmother’s family hopes that you will remember her for who she really was.
“She wasn’t looking to get rich,” the grandson said. She just didn’t want other people to “suffer what she suffered.”
Source: KRQE.com, “Burned by the media: Million dollar coffee lawsuit,” Dean Staley, Feb. 27, 2014