The story goes like this - a woman orders coffee from McDonald's, spills it on herself, sues the restaurant and becomes an overnight millionaire. In the early 1990s, the case of Liebeck vs. McDonald's became legendary as an example of the frivolity of American lawsuits. The reality of what actually happened to Ms. Liebeck became lost in late night jokes and media headlines.
Now, 20 years later another lawsuit has been filed by a Los Angeles woman who says she had hot coffee spilled on her at a McDonald's drive-through when the lid to the cup was not secured properly. Paulette Carr is seeking unspecified monetary damages in the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
How similar are the two cases? How has tort law changed in the two decades since the 1994 decision made it the punchline of jokes? Why was the original Liebeck vs. McDonald's case so misrepresented?
Ken Wagner, attorney in Albuquerque, NM who represented Stella Liebeck in the original case.
Adam Zimmerman, professor of law at Loyola Law School