A New Jersey woman, Jennifer Fragoso, recently filed suit against Dunkin’ Donuts after she claims that a cup of the coffee and donut chain’s hot apple cider spilled into her lap and scalded her thighs.  The lawsuit was filed on February 11 against Dunkin’ Brands, Inc. and the franchise owner, Anju Donuts, Inc.  According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff visited a local Dunkin’ Donuts store on September 24, 2012 and ordered a cup of hot apple cider.  The lawsuit alleges that the cider was heated beyond industry standards to the point where patrons could not safely consume it.  The lawsuit alleges that when the plaintiff spilled the cider, she sustained severe burns.  The lawsuit further alleges that the beverage failed to have adequate warnings or instructions on the lid and container in which is was served and that the beverage was sold in a dangerous fashion with the lid not properly secured to the Styrofoam cup. 

The incident could constitute negligence by the defendants if it is proven that the defendants knew or should have known that the beverage was unreasonably hot and that a consumer could be injured if a spill occurred. 

The case has drawn comparisons to the lawsuit filed in the early 1990s against McDonald’s in the case of Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants.  That case involved an incident where a New Mexico woman suffered third-degree burns to her groin after spilling hot coffee purchased from the fast-food chain. The jury awarded that plaintiff nearly $2.9 million.  The 2011 documentary Hot Coffee analyzed the severe and debilitating burn injuries that the Liebeck plaintiff suffered from her hot coffee spill.  The film shows how some people who were skeptical of the allegations raised in the Liebeck case used the publicity from the trial instigate the need for tort reform.  Unfortunately, the case negatively changed many people’s perceptions of personal injury lawsuits.  In reality, though, the Liebeck plaintiff was an unsuspecting elderly customer who was severely injured as a result of the defendant’s negligence.   

Clearly, the current New Jersey case against Dunkin’ Donuts and the local franchise owner illustrates how when hot liquids spill on people, serious scalding injuries can occur.  Even worse, the case shows that if the lid to a cup is not secured properly, it can further increase the likelihood of a hot beverage’s spilling onto an unsuspecting customer. 

If you or someone you know has sustained a burn injury from someone else’s negligence, please give us a call right away to discuss the situation.