The case: Coffee is intended as a hot beverage, so the idea of suing a company because the coffee was hot sounds wacky. In Stella Liebeck's case, it was justified. Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman from Albuquerque, N.M., spilled a cup of coffee from McDonald’s on her lap while she sat in the passenger’s seat of a parked car in 1992. The beverage was hot enough to put her in the hospital for seven days with third-degree burns on her inner thighs, groin and buttocks. This article explains that when she contacted the company to see if they’d reimburse her for her medical bills, the leaders of the Golden Arches took her to court. The case lasted a week, though by the time the case went to trial it was 1994.
The result: While the jury originally awarded Liebeck $160,000 for compensatory damages as well as an additional $2.7 million for punitive damages, the judge later reduced the amount of punitive damages to $480,000. Yet, neither side was satisfied. Both parties appealed the decision and later settled the matter out of court for an undisclosed amount. While newspaper headlines and late-night talk show monologue jokes referenced the court case, it was immortalized into pop culture when it was parodied in a 1995 episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld. It's worth noting that another woman filed a similar suit earlier this year.
Related: Survey: McDonalds Has the Worst Burger in America