- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

LONDON (AP) McDonald's customers should know that coffee and tea are served hot and can burn them if spilled, a British judge said yesterday in a ruling against 36 persons who claimed they were scalded by drinks bought at the fast food chain.

High Court Justice Richard Field said McDonald's has no obligation to warn customers about the risk of scalding.

Timothy Horlock, an attorney for the plaintiffs, had argued that McDonald's served drinks that were too hot, used inadequate cups and did not warn customers of the risks.

At least 16 of the plaintiffs were under 5 years old when they were injured, he said.

Justice Field said that McDonald's customers would not accept coffee and other drinks if they were served at temperatures low enough to prevent scalding.

He said the safety of hot drinks sold by McDonald's met the general expectations of the public.

"I am quite satisfied that McDonald's was entitled to assume that the consumer would know that the drink was hot and there are numerous commonplace ways of speeding up cooling, such as stirring and blowing," the judge said.

In 1994, an 82-year-old New Mexico woman was awarded $2.7 million after suing McDonald's for burns she got when coffee from a drive-through window spilled in her lap.

A judge, while calling McDonald's behavior in the case "callous," reduced the punitive damages to $480,000 for a total award of $640,000.

The case later was settled for an undisclosed amount. The woman and McDonald's signed a confidentiality agreement as part of the settlement.

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