Can You Sue Over Spilling a Hot Drink?

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Hot drink lawsuits have gotten a bad reputation since the headline-grabbing McDonald’s coffee case from the US, Liebeck v. McDonald’s. Some scoff at these types of personal injury claims, branding them frivolous, but the reality is that hot beverages can cause serious personal injury, including severe burns that require hospitalization and extensive medical treatment.

So, can you sue over spilling a hot drink?

The Answer Is Yes, You Can Sue For Compensation

If you are injured when a hot beverage such as coffee or tea is spilled on you, you can sue for compensation. Say, for example, that you have been badly burned by a hot drink handed to you at a drive-thru restaurant. Depending on how the injury occurred, the basis of your claim may be negligence (the employee did not take adequate precautions to ensure the lid was properly attached to the cup; the temperature of the drink was served above the manufacturer’s recommendations), failure to warn, and/or product liability (the restaurant used an unsuitable cup and/or lid; the lid or carrying tray used was defective, etc.).

What Compensation Can You Receive?

Public perception about compensation in hot drink lawsuits is skewed by the highly publicized Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants lawsuit in the United States. The 79-year-old plaintiff in that case suffered third-degree burns in her pelvic region when a hot coffee spilled in her lap after she purchased it from a McDonald’s restaurant. She was hospitalized for eight days while undergoing skin grafting, followed by two years of medical treatment which left her with permanent scarring. A jury awarded her USD $2.9 million, but this was reduced on appeal to USD $640,000. Much of her award was punitive damages due to McDonald’s aggressive defence tactics and refusal to accept the plaintiff’s reasonable offer to settle for $20,000 to cover her hospital stay and skin grafts.   

Personal injury damages in Canada tend to be lower, and it is more difficult to claim punitive damages than in the U.S. That being said, Canadians who are hurt by wrongful or harmful incidents are entitled to claim compensation for pain and suffering, loss of income, lost earning capacity, and past and future health care costs. The amount of compensation you can receive in a hot drink lawsuit will depend on the severity of your injuries and the impact they have on your life. Many hot drink lawsuits are settled out of court for an undisclosed amount, making it difficult for the average person to know how much their claim may be worth. An experienced personal injury lawyer can review your case and provide an opinion on the likely range of damages you can expect to receive.

Get Advice From An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

Hot drink lawsuits are often aggressively defended, especially where the wrongdoer is a large chain restaurant. Our team of personal injury lawyers is here to help. Our firm offers a free, initial consultation to discuss your rights and options for obtaining compensation. Call us today at 604-229-6448 or fill out our online form on www.simpsonthomas.com to request your free legal consultation.