Stella comes to Beaumont

By The SE Texas Record | May 12, 2007

It was the lawsuit that made lawsuit abuse famous.

Back in 1992, Stella Liebeck, age 79, burned herself with a 49 cent cup of McDonald's coffee. She sued the fast-food giant, making the incredible claim that the joe was "unreasonably dangerous" because it was too hot. A New Mexico court awarded her $2.9 million.

Fast forward to Port Arthur, circa Jan 15. Caterer Katie Lacey ordered coffee with her breakfast at the McDonald's drive-through on Gulfway Drive, then spilled it on her lap. She filed suit in Jefferson County last month, charging the coffee was, you got it, too hot to handle. Lacey says the restaurant should have warned her it was "boiling."

Oh brother.

First and foremost, we're pretty sure the coffee wasn't "boiling" by the time Lacey got her hands on it. We've been drinking the stuff daily since mom and dad allowed us, and we've never once seen a bubbling pot, much less a cup. But we digress.

Coffee is supposed not just supposed to be hot, it's supposed to be very, very hot. Steaming. In fact, the National Coffee Association recommends coffee be brewed at between "195-205 degrees Fahrenheit" and drunk immediately, or at least maintained at "180-185 degrees Fahrenheit."

Or, as U.S. District Court Judge Frank Easterbrook explained in his opinion on a similarly frivolous case, "the smell (and therefore the taste) of coffee depends heavily on the oils containing aromatic compounds that are dissolved out of the beans during the brewing process. Brewing temperature should be close to 200 degrees F to dissolve them effectively."

"For coffee to be 150 degrees F when imbibed, it must be hotter in the pot."

Or else it is colder when you finally take a sip. And from this purview, there's nothing worse than a cool cup of coffee.

If McDonald's had spilled hot coffee on Ms. Lacey, it would bear responsibility for her damages suffered. But seeing as she spilled the coffee on herself, this claim should be summarily dismissed. She should have been more careful.

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