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05/03/02 . by Standard Reporter . Evening Standard . United Kingdom
McDonald's sued over drinks
Dozens of victims of scalding are suing McDonald's over the high temperature the fast-food chain serves its hot drinks.
All the claims for damages arise out of hot tea or coffee being spilt on McDonald's customers, the majority of whom were children, the High Court has heard.
In a preliminary trial expected to last two weeks, Mr Justice Field will be asked to decide whether:
• McDonald's was serving drinks at too high a temperature
• There was a duty to sell drinks that were cooler
• Cups used in the restaurants were so inadequate that it amounted to negligence
• There was a duty to warn customers of the risk of scalding
Timothy Horlock QC, representing the victims, who are suing in a group action, said McDonald's had a marketing strategy to attract young customers with special offers and gifts - and often parents or grandparents were pressured by their children to take them to the fast-food outlets as a treat.
He said that children were particularly at risk from this type of injury - at least 16 of the claimants were aged four or under at the time of their accidents. Mr Horlock said:
"This is not surprising since, according to the defendant's own statistics, 60 per cent of accidents to their customers happen to children under the age of 10."
He said that most members of the public did not realise that a drink served at McDonald's was at a far higher temperature than they were often used to at home and hot drinks were served in an insulated cup which gave no warning of the heat of the contents inside.
Mr Horlock said: "There was no expectation on the part of the general public that a burn from one of these drinks could result in injuries needing skin grafts, and pain relief involving morphine and pethidine. It is the nature and the severity of the injury which is unexpected."
He added: " In essence, the claimants' case is that liquid of a temperature at which the defendant served its hot drinks is extremely dangerous since the briefest contact with human skin can cause significant injury."
Mr Horlock said that McDonald's was aware of that danger and was negligent in not taking measures to protect the public.
He said the average temperature of drinks served in McDonald's machines ranged from 75 to 90 degrees Centigrade, when a temperature of 66.5 degrees would have been satisfactory.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 05 March 2002