Déjà vu all over again – A case similar to the famous McDonald’s hot coffee case.
I recently settled a case for a young lady who suffered severe burns on her lower arm and wrist while attempting to remove a roasted chicken from a heated self-service cabinet at a well-known Chester County, Pennsylvania supermarket.
When reaching into the enclosure, she placed her arm on the bottom of a metal casing which surrounded the opening in which the roasted chickens were warming, In order to retrieve the chicken, she had to place most of her arm inside the cabinet. Although, the metal casing was never measured for its true temperature (it had been replaced by the time we got the case), it was hot enough to cause severe burns to my client who merely rubbed against it for about one to two seconds.
Numerous burn treatments were required for many months and she was left with a permanent scar. She also experienced significant pain during her recuperation.
The Similarities to The Hot Coffee Burn Case
The supermarket and its insurance carrier at first refused to accept any blame. They equated it to the famous McDonald’s coffee spill case and said that it was my client’s fault for rubbing against the cabinet and that everyone knows warming bins are hot. We agreed that the bins are supposed to be warm but argued there was a big difference from being merely “warm” and being so hot that mere contact could cause full thickness tissue burns within two seconds.
During our investigation we learned that there had been several other cases reported to the supermarket of people suffering serious burns when reaching inside these warming bins and that although the store was aware of the problem it made a conscious decision not to reduce the temperature or cover the metal with some type of insulation to protect the customers.
One would think that if a store owner knew it was injuring its patrons, it would take better steps to correct the problem to protect its customers. This could be as simple as covering the hot metal or, at the very least, providing a warning to those who were about to reach inside.