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Liebeck placed the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the far side of the lid toward her to remove it.
In the process, she spilled the entire cup of coffee on her lap.
Although a New Mexico civil jury awarded .86 million to plaintiff Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman who suffered third-degree burns in her pelvic region when she accidentally spilled hot coffee in her lap after purchasing it from a Mc Donald's restaurant, ultimately Liebeck was only awarded 0,000.
Morgan offered to settle for 0,000, and a mediator suggested 5,000 just before trial, but Mc Donald's refused these final pre-trial attempts to settle.
During the case, Liebeck's attorneys discovered that Mc Donald's required franchisees to hold coffee at 180–190 °F (82–88 °C).
Liebeck's attorneys argued that these extra seconds could provide adequate time to remove the coffee from exposed skin, thereby preventing many burns.
Mc Donald's claimed that the reason for serving such hot coffee in its drive-through windows was that those who purchased the coffee typically were commuters who wanted to drive a distance with the coffee; the high initial temperature would keep the coffee hot during the trip.
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Mc Donald's had refused several prior opportunities to settle for less than what the jury ultimately awarded.