A Dunkin’ franchisee is paying a woman $3 million to settle a lawsuit involving hot coffee falling on her lap that she alleges caused severe burns and life-altering injuries, according to her lawyers.
The unnamed woman claimed the incident, which happened in February 2021 at an Atlanta-area location, occurred because the cup’s lid was not secured.
According to the woman’s attorney, the lid came off the cup after she was given the drink and the hot coffee spilled on her lap causing second- and third-degree burns to her thighs, groin and abdomen. She also required “extensive” skin grafts, a statement said. The injury resulted in her spending weeks at a burn unit in a Georgia hospital, costing her $200,000 in medical bills.
“America may run on Dunkin’, but our client had to re-learn how to walk due to the severity of her burns,” said Morgan & Morgan attorney Benjamin Welch in a statement. “We alleged that the spill never would have happened had the drive-thru employee properly secured the lid on our client’s coffee cup.”
Welch said that the woman, who was 70 years old at the time of the incident, said that she had to “alter the way she lives her life” because of the injuries. Walking is painful for her and that she still must apply creams to he her burns “several times a day.”
Golden Donuts LLC, the franchisee, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Corporate parent Dunkin’ isn’t named in the lawsuit and also didn’t respond for comment.
This case echoes the famous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit several decades ago, in which another woman spilled coffee on her lap and suffered third-degree burns. Third-degree burns are the most severe and penetrate through the entire skin.
A jury in 1992 agreed with her contention that the coffee was unreasonably hot, which it was, according to the American Museum of Tort Law. The coffee was “30 to 40 degrees hotter than coffee served by other companies,” the law museum said. The plaintiff in that case was initially awarded nearly $3 million, but she settled for less, around $480,000, after an appeal.
Morgan & Morgan founder John Morgan said in a statement that “restaurants still have failed to learn their lesson to prioritize customers’ safety. We hope this settlement sends a message to all restaurants and franchisees: this isn’t complicated; train your employees properly and prioritize customer safety.”
McDonald’s is currently dealing with another similar lawsuit. A woman accused a San Francisco location of serving a “scalding” cup of coffee with an improperly attached lid, which allegedly resulted in the coffee pouring out onto the plaintiff Mable Childress’ body and causing “severe burns” after she tried drinking it.
The plaintiff also said in the lawsuit that the restaurant employees “refused” to help her, a point that the McDonald’s denied.
“We take every customer complaint seriously, and when Childress reported her experience to us later that day, our employees and management team spoke to her within a few minutes and offered assistance,” the McDonald’s franchisee owner, Peter Ou, said in a statement to CNN.