Friday, May 7, 2010
A news report this morning commented on a lawsuit filed against Starbucks, the coffee shop, for serving tea that caused second degree burn injuries. Among other other claims, the lawsuit alleged that the container was unsafe and that the tea was unreasonably hot. I recently had a client with a similar claim against McDonalds involving hot coffee. It is amazing that these types of claims continue to spill in to law offices. As a starting point, it is helpful to know that skin begins to burn when exposed to fluid with a temperature above 115 degrees. In fact, at 120 degrees, a child's skin will be burnt severely enough to require surgery after just 3 seconds of exposure. The temperature at which water boils is 212 degrees. So how warm should hot drinks be when served to the customer? It is recommended that coffee be brewed at temperature between 190-200 degrees. It should then be kept on the burner at a temperature between 180-185 degrees. McDonalds used to serve its coffee at 180 degrees. Home brewed coffee is usually around 135-145 degrees. Reports indicate that Starbucks serves its coffee around 185 degrees. Obviously, people like their coffee hot. So who is to blame when a spill occurs?