“Hot coffee injury” makes many people think of the personal injury lawsuit in which a 79-year old woman was severely burned by McDonald’s coffee and awarded what seemed like a large verdict ($2.9 million) until you know that the verdict was the equivalent of only 2 days’ coffee revenue for McDonald’s. And did you know that the woman initially asked for only $20,000 to cover her medical expenses and lost wages, but McDonald’s refused to pay it?
Unfortunately, hot liquid injuries, known as scald injuries, still occur with alarming frequency.
Scald Injury Statistics
According to the CDC, about 1.1 million people are treated for burn injuries every year. Of all burns requiring hospitalization, 38-58% are due to hot liquids or steam. People over age 65 are at an elevated risk, and account for nearly 9000 emergency room visits for scalds every year. More than three-quarters occur in the home, and about two-thirds of victims are women. The most common cause for scald injuries is hot food or beverage (42%), followed by hot water or steam (30%). Coffee accounts for about 15% of all nonfatal scald injuries suffered by persons age 65 and over.
Hot coffee injuries are completely unnecessary and are often due to negligence on the part of restaurant owners. To prevent the growth of bacteria, food must be maintained at a temperature of 140° Fahrenheit. At this temperature, it takes five seconds for a liquid to cause a burn that requires skin graft surgery. This is dangerous, and worthy of a warning.
However, many restaurants keep their coffee at higher temperatures, which significantly increases the risk of injury. At 160° F, serious injury is almost instantaneous. In the infamous hot coffee case, McDonald’s maintained its coffee at a completely unnecessary 180-190° F, which could result in instantaneous burns, even after allowing a reasonable time for cooling.
If you have suffered a serious scald injury as a result of hot food or beverage served at a Chicago-area restaurant, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries. For a free case evaluation, please contact Willens & Baez today.