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05/03/02 . By Paul Peachey . The Independent . United Kingdom
McDonald's sued over hot drinks
The fast-food giant McDonald's was taken to court yesterday by dozens of people who claim to have been scalded by their hot drinks.
The 36 victims, most of whom are children, claim that the cups used by McDonald's were not suitable and that the tea and coffee was too hot, the High Court heard.
Timothy Horlock QC, representing the group, said children were particularly at risk from being scalded, with at least 16 claimants aged four or under at the time of the accident.
"This is not surprising since, according to the defendant's own statistics, 60 per cent of accidents to their customers happen to children under 10," Mr Horlock said. He said the company's marketing strategy was designed to attract young customers. He said many people did not realise the drinks served at McDonald's were often far hotter than at home.
"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," Mr Horlock said.
Mr Horlock told the preliminary hearing that McDonald's was aware of the danger and was negligent in not taking measures to protect its customers. He said the average temperature of drinks served in McDonald's machines ranged from 75C to 90C.
McDonald's is contesting the action. In 1994, it settled a case with a woman who claimed she suffered serious burns after spilling coffee bought from a McDonald's in New Mexico. She was awarded $2.9m (£2m) by a jury, which was reduced to £640,000 (£450,000) on appeal.
The hearing continues today.