Woman Burned by McDonalds

Question 1

Is hot coffee so dangerous, as the jury thought?

From the case study, it is evident that serving coffee at very high temperatures as McDonalds does is dangerous as it caused a 20percent burn on the elderly woman, Stella Liebeck (Shaw & Barry, 2015).

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Is our society too protective of consumers these days, or not protective enough?

The society just as the consumers have continued to do, has expected businesses to ensure the safety of the products they sell and therefore, it has always assumed that businesses do so and the regulations of the government are effective enough. The increasing number of people being treated for product related harm every year in America is a good indication that the society is not protecting the consumers, as it should be from the failure of the businesses in ensuring product safety (Shaw & Barry, 2015).

Should a reasonable consumer be expected to know that coffee can burn and to have assumed this risk?

The court overruled the assumption that businesses always held that consumers are knowledgeable of the products they select since from the economist perspective, most consumers do not choose products based on the risks associated with them. Therefore, a consumer today is described as one that depends on the businesses to provide products that are safe for use. In this regard, consumers are less knowledgeable of the products they buy and consequently employ very few safety standards if any when using them. However, a reasonable consumer is one that would not assume that all businesses ensure product safety because; the government can be weak at regulating them. In McDonalds’s case, such a consumer would be one that would be aware risks involved and take some personal safety measures when handling hot coffee (Shaw & Barry, 2015).

Is a warning label sufficient to ensure product safety?

To normal consumers, businesses need to do much more than using warning labels. Warning labels help in minimizing potential hazards but the use of additional demonstrations may be of more help to customers (Shaw & Barry, 2015).

Question 2

In serving such hot coffee, did McDonald’s act in a morally responsible way?

McDonalds ignored the interests of consumers by choosing to serve coffee at such high temperatures. The company sold what would harm consumers (Shaw & Barry, 2015).

What ideals, obligations, and effects should it have taken into consideration?

With the knowledge that the coffee was at dangerous temperatures, McDonalds should have ensured that the cups used to serve consumers would not bend easily when held and would be opened and closed at ease. In addition to the product labels, McDonalds also needed to demonstrate to customers how to handle the cups when intending to drink the coffee (Shaw & Barry, 2015).


Shaw, W. H. & Barry, V. (2015). Moral issues in business 13th ed.: Consumers. Mason: Cengage Learning.

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