CHJAPTER 2, CASE 5
Legal Issue – unintentional tort /negligence, liability for medical expenses andcompensatory damages
For legal issues, put in the form of a question. For example, ask, did the defendant act in a negligent
manner towards the plaintiff is serving the hot coffee?
The issue is to cover medical expenses and compensatory damages to a customer, who suffered 3rd
degree burns to her both knees due to a hot coffee bought at a ‘drive-thru’ services.
Plaintiff – a customer
Defendant - a fast food restaurant
Duty of care
Test of Foreseeability - would a reasonable person in similar circumstances have foreseen the injury to
the plaintiff as a result of his/her actions?
Plaintiff: The restaurant is serving at ‘drive-thur’ and should expect that the driver will need to drive
from the spot and move at least several metres towards parking place. As injury from the hot coffee is
reasonably foreseeable, the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care.
Defendant: It is reasonable that the person cannot drive with a hot beverage between her knees. While
moving the leg to push the accelerator she will turn over the container with liquid spilling. She was
inaccurate holding a hot coffee between her legs while driving; she needs to use the special holder within
the car for her beverages. This goes more to arguments related to contributory negligence.
In my opinion duty of care owed by defendant.
Standard of Care
Start with: Did the defendant meet the requisite standard of care? How should the reasonable fast
food restaurant have acted in serving hot coffee?
Plaintiff: The restaurant is responsible for serving secure products to the customer. They should tell that
coffee is very hot and the lid is not leak-proof, and they did not. They also need to have readable
disclaimer on the container warning about the hot temperature of coffee. There is a disclaimer, but it is too
hard to read it because of small font and poor contrast. Or argue that the coffee could have been served
at a lower temperature.
Defendant: We are not responsible for what happens in the customer’s car. We even do not know, if
there is a holder for beverages, or not. The customer should control her safety issues and is not expected
to librate with hot beverages on her knees. We have a disclaimer at both container and lid, as well as we
have a huge sign at our showwindow. Also, they clearly advertise that their coffee is the hottest which is a
type of warning label.
The restaurant met requisite standard of care, at least to some extent, as the have different types of
disclaimers. Probably, they also should have payed customer’s attention that the coffee is very hot.
Causation Was defendant’s action the cause of the injury?
– but for test - no injury if the coffee is not as hot. So, yes for this test good
– proximate cause – there was intervening event, which was client’s decision to pit coffee
on her knees and then begin to drive. So, probably not for this test. Good.
In my opinion Causation owed by defendant. Or state the defendant caused the injury to the plaintiff.
Remoteness of Damages
• Are injuries suffered too remote – no they are direct: the client got the coffee, which caused
• Is general type of injury reasonably foreseeable – yes it is foreseeable that a burn can take
place from being served hot coffee.
• Generally person takes victim as he/she finds him/her (e.g., “thin skull” principle) – the