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Apple cider spill could cost Dunkin Donuts

March 17, 2014

An infamous lawsuit from 20 years ago saw a McDonald’s patron sue the fast food company for serving her coffee that was too hot. The patron spilled the coffee on herself by accident and suffered terrible burns. The lawsuit garnered a generous decision by a jury, which decided McDonald’s had to pay $2.9 million for the woman’s injuries. Ultimately the ruling was knocked down by a judge and the two parties settled out of court, but the point was made clear to restaurants: don’t serve your customers an excessively hot beverage.

However, a new lawsuit involving hot apple cider brings this topic up again. Kentucky residents know about the chain Dunkin Donuts. This pastry and coffee chain that is being sued by a 24-year-old woman who says she suffered second and third degree burns on her thighs after spilling hot apple cider on herself.

The woman claims that the temperature of the liquid was simply too hot, and that the lid of her beverage holder was not properly secured. She then accidentally spilled the drink in her lap, causing her to suffer the burns that will leave her permanently scarred.

But does she have a legitimate claim in this product liability lawsuit? It would seem so, given the precedent set in the McDonald’s lawsuit. However, the problem is that restaurants are required to serve their beverages within a certain range of temperatures. This range is usually 165-180 degrees when coffee is served at a restaurant, and patrons wait for the liquid to get to a cooler temperature, or add something to it that cools it down.

It will make for an interesting case. The woman has undoubtedly suffered as a result of the injuries, and the permanent nature of her injuries demonstrates the severity of the incident.

Source: ABC News, “Woman Sues Dunkin’ Donuts Over Hot Cider; A Look Behind Beverage Suit Tsunami,” Alan Farnham, Feb. 25, 2014