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Hot Coffee at Burger King Sold to Motorist May be Defective for Being Too Hot
Description Motorist's son was burned by cup of coffee sold at Burger King window. Appeals court held that design defect (too hot) and failure to warn (of the heat) claims could not be dismissed on summary judgment and were for the jury.
Topic Torts
Key Words Foreseeable, Intervening Cause
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Nadel was driving his kids to school. His son Christopher was in the front seat next to him; Nadel's mother, Evelyn, was a passenger on the other side. They stopped at Burger King (BK) and received two cups of coffee fitted with lids and placed in a cardboard drink container, which was handed to Evelyn. Somehow, as Nadel drove away, the coffee got spilled on Christopher, who suffered second degree burns on his right foot. Nadel sued for breach of a warranty of merchantability, breach of a warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, the coffee was too hot (design defect), and there was a failure to warn. BK moved for summary judgment because Nadel admitted he knew the coffee was hot. Nadel replied that 175 degrees is known to be too hot to be safe. BK was granted summary judgment; Nadel appealed.
Decision Affirmed in part, reversed in part. Affirmed as to breach of warranty claims. Reversed as to design defect and failure to warn claims. The risks of coffee spills are foreseeable, so cannot be denied by the seller. It is for a jury to determine if the coffee was sold too hot. There was no intervening cause, the handling of the coffee by Evelyn, because the seller knows the coffee is likely to be passed around in a car, and so is on notice. It is also for a jury to determine if there was a failure to warn, given the heat of the coffee. While Nadel knew the coffee was hot, he may not have been aware of how hot.
Citation Nadel v. Burger King Corp., 1997 WL 266762 (Ct. App, 1st Dist., Ohio)
695 N.E.2d 1185 (Ct. App., Ohio, 1997)

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