SW Legal Educational Publishing

Coffee Maker Not Liable for Burns Caused by Hot Coffee
Description Consumer injured when she spilled cup of hot coffee in her lap may not recover from the company that made the coffee maker. The maker worked as intended, producing coffee in the temperature range that is industry standard. Since everyone knows that coffee is hot, no special warning is required.
Topic Torts
Key Words Products Liability, Failure to Warn, Design Defect, Expert Testimony
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts McMahon received third-degree burns when she spilled take-out coffee in her lap. She sued Bunn, the maker of the coffee machine used at the restaurant, for design defect and failure to warn. District court dismissed the suit; McMahon appealed.
Decision Affirmed. "Let us tackle the contention that Bunn should have warned the McMahons about the dangers of hot coffee. What would this warning have entailed? A statement that coffee is served hot? That it can cause burns? They already knew these things and did not need to be reminded." The coffee was served at 179 degrees, which is within the industry standard of 175 to 185 degrees. The machine worked as intended. McMahon's expert testimony that hot coffee makes Styrofoam cups too flexible is inadmissible under Daubert because it is nothing but a naked opinion.
Citation McMahon v. Bunn-O-Matic, ---F.3d--- (1998 WL 351294, 7th Cir.)
150 F.3d 651 (7th Cir., 1998)

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