McDonald’s Case Study Analysis

McDonald’s: The Coffee Spill Heard ‘Round the World

 The case between Stella and McDonald is one of the famous lawsuit cases sparking interests in people in the United States. The issue triggers mixed reactions as some individuals pity Stella, and others support McDonald’s. This paper will summarize existing facts, describe the case’s issues, evaluate the case, provide analysis and highlight the recommendations.

Summary of the Existing Facts

The incident occurred in February 1992 when Stella and her grandson, Chris, stopped at Mcdonald’s to buy coffee (Carroll, 2018). Upon receiving her coffee order, they continued with their journey. Stella could not locate a flat surface in the car to place her coffee, and instead, she held her coffee in between her knees. Unfortunately, as she pulled the lid from the coffee cup, the hot coffee spilled on her thighs and groins and caused severe burns (Carroll, 2018). This resulted in her admission to the hospital. After recuperating, she filed a case against McDonald’s for gross negligence. The court declared McDonald guilty and had to pay compensatory damages. Even after the trial, Mcdonald’s made no change to their coffee temperature as the same was served in other chains (Carroll, 2018). McDonald’s blamed Stella’s negligence, as she ought Stella ought to have taken safety measures while opening the lid.

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Issues/ Problem Identification

 McDonald’s case’s primary issue is that customers received third-degree burns after consuming the restaurant’s coffee. Stella suffered severe burns after the coffee she had bought at Mcdonald’s coffee chain spilled and burned her thighs and groins (Cain, 2007; Carroll, 2018). Another issue is that McDonald’s disregarded consumers’ safety by failing to brand their coffee cups with warnings that would signal the customers that the product is hot. Companies should not ignore their customer’s safety at any point (Cain, 2007). Consumer safety should always be given a priority. Additionally, the consumer’s negligence is evident in this case. Coffee is served hot globally, but Stella ignored that fact.

Analysis/ Evaluation

McDonald’s case triggers numerous judgments and arguments. Some arguments are in favor of the coffee chain, while others are siding with Stella. One of the ideas is that McDonald’s must sell safe products to consumers. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, retailers must ensure total safety by providing general safety information, for instance, by labeling products (Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2021). For instance, if MacDonald’s had labeled on the coffee cup about potential spills and burns, maybe Stella could be cautious. On the other hand, it is the consumer’s responsibility to take caution when handling hot products (Abuabara et al., 2019). If Stella was careful when opening the lid, she could have escaped the burns.

Another argument arising from this case is that McDonald’s did not spill coffee on Stella, but she did it herself. Therefore, she was the one to blame for the accident. She mishandled the hot coffee, which caused severe burns. Besides, McDonald prepared the coffee based on consumer’s preferences – hot coffee; thus, lowering the temperatures would affect the restaurant’s general sales.

In favor of Stella’s case is that Stella’s case was not the first case. Several instances of consumers receiving burns from coffee are witnessed. McDonald’s knew about the subject but did nothing to reduce the spillage and burning incidences. Stella’s case pressured the company to put caution labels on their cups. McDonald’s restaurant should be held accountable for its negligence. Stella also argues that McDonald’s should have informed her and other consumers that coffee is served at a temperature of one hundred and seventy degrees which can cause severe burns upon touching the skin (Carroll, 2018). Consumers lacked awareness of burn risks caused by hot coffee.


Companies should adopt some recommendations to prevent future occurrences similar to Stella’s case. Several cases of burns arising from McDonald’s coffee have been reported, thus the need for recommendations. Firstly, hot beverage retailers should do everything stipulated by the safety commissions to ensure consumer’s safety (Carroll, 2018). They should prioritize customer’s safety before considering their preferences. Consumers are their critical shareholders; hence their safety should be guaranteed. For example, the coffee restaurant should brand their coffee cups with warning labels to signal consumers while handling hot coffee. Also, coffee joints should design coffee cups with cardboard sleeves that protect their customers from burns.

Additionally, McDonald’s coffee chain should apologize in public and own up their mistake. Apologies will foster customers’ trust. Besides, branding McDonalds and other food outlets should sell their products at a temperature fit for consumption. To enhance this, food outlets should establish cooling stations for their products.

 On the other hand, consumers should be keen when buying and utilizing products, especially hot products. They should take necessary cautions to avoid injuries. Moreover, consumers should avoid negligence while purchasing and consuming any hot product. Consumers should read instructions regarding hot products carefully.  Both consumers and companies have roles in ensuring safety.


Cain, K. G. (2007). The McDonald’s Coffee Lawsuit. Journal of Consumer & Commercial Law, 11(1).

Carroll, A. (2018). Business & Society: Ethics, Sustainability, and Stakeholder management. Cengage Learning.

Consumer Product Safety Commission. (2021). Retailers: Product Safety and Your Responsibilities. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Retrieved 24 February 2021, from–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Retailers-Product-Safety-and-Your-Responsibilities.

Abuabara, L., Paucar-Caceres, A., & Burrowes-Cromwell, T. (2019). Consumers’ values and behaviour in the Brazilian coffee-in-capsules market: promoting circular economy. International Journal Of Production Research, 57(23), 7269-7288.