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Hot Coffee Case – Woman Sues Burger King for Spill in Virginia

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A Virginia woman has filed a lawsuit against Burger King for injuries received when an employee of Burger King handed her a hot coffee inside of a paper bag, rather than in a cup holder. The plaintiff was burned badly on her left thigh, according to the lawsuit, when the lid to the coffee popped off and the hot liquid spilled onto her lap – presumably through the bag or through the bag’s opening. She alleges she received severe burns and has demanded $50,000 from Burger King.

The injury allegedly took place in a Burger King in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The plaintiff alleged that the Burger King employee knew or should have known that "handing coffee in a paper bag was dangerous". She also alleged that the coffee’s temperature exceeded a reasonable one for the fast-food industry.

Most people will remember the McDonald’s hot coffee case, where a jury awarded $2.9 million to a New Mexico woman who was scalded by hot coffee. A judge later reduced the award in that case to $640,000, and then a confidential settlement was reached. Most people do not know the whole McDonald’s hot coffee case story.

This writer suspects that many people will compare this recent Burger King hot coffee case to the 1992 McDonald’s matter. It does seem to me, however, that handing one hot coffee in a paper bag, where the customer may not reasonably be expected to see the coffee until it is, perhaps, spilled, could be a problem for Burger King, depending upon other facts involved in the trasaction (e.g., did the customer see the employee put the coffee in the bag?). It will be interesting to see how this case turns out, and how the case is perceived by the media and the public. I think it important that judgment be reserved until all facts are learned.