Legal Memorandum: Verdicts and Settlements for Burn Injuries

Issue: What is the range of settlements awarded for burn injuries caused by extremely hot food or drink?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Jury verdicts and settlements; Burn injuries; Hot food or drink
Jurisdiction: Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia
Cited Cases: 594 N.E.2d 1142; 497 N.Y.S.2d 306; 966 F. Supp. 416
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 07/01/2000

A search in a jury verdicts and settlements database for similar cases in the last ten years revealed 41 reports, most of which revolved around spilled coffee.  Of these, 29 were plaintiffs’ verdicts or settlements, and 12 reported defense verdicts.  We have separated out three cases in which the plaintiff was injured by cheese or pizza sauce.   The plaintiffs’ verdicts or settlements range from a high verdict of $2,900,000, reduced to $680,000, in Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, No. CV-93-02419 (Bernalillo County, N.M. Dist. Ct. 1994), to a low settlement amount of $1500.  Dropping the highest and the lowest plaintiffs’ verdict or settlement creates a range of $90,000 to $1504 with an average of $23,272.

Eight reported cases were located.  In Pasela v. Brown Derby, Inc., 594 N.E.2d 1142 (Ohio Ct. App. 1991), the jury awarded the injured party $75,000, plus $20,000 to her father.  An award of $7000 to her mother was reduced due to a finding that the mother was contributorily negligent.  In Babich v. Hunan Szechwann Inn, Inc., No. 9-97-04 (Ohio Ct. App. 1997), the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, but the opinion does not report the amount of the verdict.  Four cases resulted in judgments for the defense.  Holowaty v. McDonald’s Corp., 10 F. Supp. 2d 1078 (D. Minn. 1998); Tipton v. PJ’s Pancake & Steak House, No. OT-97-021 (Ohio Ct. App. 1998); Greene v. Boddie-Noell Enters., Inc., 966 F. Supp. 416 (W.D. Va. 1997); Huppe […]

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