Luntz Watch: The McDonald’s Myth

[Influential conservative strategist Frank Luntz has produced a 160-page playbook to advance the right-wing agenda. Think Progress cuts through the spin and gives you the tools you need to fight back. Check here for updates throughout the week.]

From, “more words that work” on lawsuit abuse reform:

“We all remember the McDonald’s lawsuit…millions paid out to a woman who, at a drive-through window, spilled coffee on her lap that was — go figure — HOT!”

FACT: As a result of her injuries, 79 year old Stella Liebeck spent eight days in a hospital. In that time she underwent expensive treatments for third-degree burns including debridement (removal of dead tissue) and skin grafting. The burns left her scarred and disabled for more than two years

FACT: Before a suit was ever filed, Liebeck informed McDonald’s about her injuries and asked for compensation for her medical bills, which totaled almost $11,000. McDonald’s countered by offering her $800.

FACT: The original, $2.7 million award was equal to two days of McDonald’s corporation coffee sales.

FACT: On appeal, a judge lowered the award to $480,000, a fact not widely publicized in the media.

FACT: During trial, McDonald’s admitted that it had known about the risk of serious burns from its coffee for more than 10 years. From 1982 to 1992, McDonald’s received more than 700 reports of burns from scalding coffee; some of the injured were children and infants. Many customers received severe burns to the genital area, perineum, inner thighs and buttocks.