When the subject of frivolous lawsuits comes up, someone always mentions the McDonalds hot coffee lawsuit as an example, because the short version sounds so outrageous: a woman sued McDonalds because her coffee was served hot. But the short version doesn't tell us much.
The world’s most infamous cup of coffee spilled on February 27, 1992 in Albuquerque, NM. Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old grandmother, was a passenger in her grandson’s car when they drove through at a McDonald’s, and after she received her styrofoam cup of joe her grandson pulled the car forward and parked so Liebeck could mix in her cream and sugar. Liebeck braced the cup between her knees, but when she tried to pull off the cup’s lid, the entire cup of coffee spilled into her lap. Although subsequent developments in the courtroom turned Liebeck and her case into objects of derision, it’s worth noting that she actually suffered legitimate injuries from the accident. Liebeck’s sweatpants absorbed the hot coffee and held it next to her skin, which helped lead to third degree burns on six percent of her body. Liebeck ended up spending eight days in the hospital and undergoing skin grafts to counter the effects of the burns.
But that's only the beginning of the story. Liebeck asked McDonalds for $20,000 to cover her medical expenses and lost wages. McDonalds offered $800. That's when the story starts to get complicated. Read the entire account of how a jury decided to award Liebeck $2.9 million when the case went to court (and that's not even the end) at mental_floss. Link