Many people have probably noticed the warning on McDonald’s coffee cups. What seems like an obvious statement, “CONTENTS HOT,” is actually the result of a landmark product liability settlement.
The basic premise behind product liability is that manufacturers are responsible for producing safe products. This encompasses not only the intended use of products, but potential unintended uses as well. In the famous (or infamous) McDonald’s coffee case, it was the restaurant’s responsibility to serve coffee at a safe temperature. In fact, the coffee that burned the plaintiff in the case had a temperature of around 180 degrees, 40 degrees hotter than is safe for consumption. This means that the restaurant made a harmful product for consumption, and did not effectively warn the customer about the potential dangers of the hot coffee. Product liability cases typically fall into three different categories. The first category focuses on design flaws. If there was something fundamentally dangerous in the design of the product, then a lawsuit could be filed through a product liability attorney. This is a difficult case to prove, since most products go through rigorous safety testing before being put on the market. The second category for a product liability case is manufacturing liability. In this case, the actual manufacture of the product is what caused the injury. Product liability lawyers in this instance will usually focus on a lack of quality control at a manufacturing facility, and have to prove that the actual manufacture of the product was faulty. The third category for product liability litigation is known as “failure to warn.” This tends to be one of the more common types of case, and is typically the easiest for a company to prevent. Companies and manufacturers are obligated to warn consumers about the potential dangers and hazards of using their product. Adding warning labels in prominent areas is one of the main ways companies can help prevent frivolous lawsuits. However, it’s important to stress that the warning must be visible and readable in order to be effective. That’s why the McDonald’s coffee cup warnings went from a small mark on the side of the cup to the large “CONTENTS HOT” warning on the lid. The bottom line when it comes to product liability lawsuits is that companies are responsible for providing safe and effective products for you to use. Defective products or faulty manufacturing can lead to serious injuries, and it’s important for you to know your rights when it comes to the use of products in your everyday life. If you have more questions about product liability, or would like to speak to a product liability attorney about an incident you may have suffered, contact Frenkel and Frenkel today to learn your rights.