McDonald’s is the world’s biggest fast food company, employing more than 210,000 people worldwide in more than 100 countries.
Like many huge companies, it inevitably finds itself in the courts defending itself from legal complaints.
The complaints range from customers involved in incidents, some of which are thoroughly bizarre.
Here are some of the strangest lawsuits launched against McDonald’s.
The Hot Coffee Case
This is one of the most infamous cases against McDonald’s.
It happened after a woman named Stella Liebeck suffered third-degree burns and required skin grafts after she spilled super-hot coffee on herself.
The case in 1992 was, perhaps unfairly, cited as an example of the kind of ludicrous lawsuits often seen in the U.S.
She sued the company, offering to settle for $20,000 to cover her medical costs.
But McDonald’s wasn’t interested and offered her $800, which wouldn’t even nearly have covered the then 72-year old’s injuries.
During the subsequent court case, it was revealed McDonald’s coffee is unbelievably hot – between 180 and 190 degrees.
This is far hotter than other fast food outlets.
It was also revealed 700 other people had suffered burns.
It was said the company had compared the number of burns to the billions of cups sold a year and deemed them insignificant.
However, it was successfully argued that there was no indication of how hot the coffee was.
McDonald’s was probably left regretting its initial reluctance as Ms. Liebeck was awarded $200,000 in damages, as well as $2.7 million as a result of the company’s behavior in the case.
McDonald’s has also gone on the offensive in the courts.
In the 1990s, two activists were sued for distributing material criticizing McDonald’s business practices.
The trial lasted for several years and is the longest ever seen in U.K. legal history at 313 days.
McDonald’s won the case, but the case placed a lot of attention on its business practices, and the case was seen in some circles as an attempt to stifle criticism.
Too hot apple pies
It’s fairly well-known that McDonald’s apple pies are very, very hot.
But in 1995, a man filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s after he was given apple pies that squirted the boiling filling onto his arm.
He won £750 in compensation.
Speaking after the case, his lawyer said: “Had a child been injured in this way it could have been a lot more serious.”
McDonald’s settled out of court without accepting liability.
Not enough napkins causes “emotional distress”
An incident at a McDonald’s in California left a man “unable to work” due to “emotional distress” – or so he claimed.
Webster Lucas launched a $1.5 million lawsuit after being given one serviette with his Quarter Pounder Deluxe.
It was claimed the manager refused to give him any more, and Lucas, who is African American, claimed the Mexican American manager was racist towards him, saying something which sounded like “you people.”
He said he had suffered “undue mental anguish” due to the row and launched a $1.5 million lawsuit.
According to the suit, the manager “developed a nasty attitude” and mumbled a few words to Lucas.
Lucas claimed the manager “began using curse words and yelling across the aisle.”
In court, McDonald’s claimed staff “made every effort to ‘soothe the situation over in favor of their store manager'”
In a statement, McDonald’s director of U.S. media relations, Lisa McComb, said:
“We understand this customer was disappointed with his visit. We have made every effort to make it right for him.
However, it was later revealed Lucas had a history of legal cases against fast food outlets.
Court documents revealed two previous lawsuits against Jack-In-The-Box – he did not receive a payout.
He had also bought cases against Walmart, Denny’s, and others.
Most of his claims were dismissed.
$5 million over slices of cheese
This case happened in 2018 and was brought into court over a couple of pieces of cheese.
Two customers demanded $5 million from McDonald’s over what appears to be a minor disagreement.
The pair sued after being charged the price for a Quarter Pounder with cheese but got a Quarter Pounder without cheese.
They argued hamburgers and cheeseburgers are different prices on the McDonald’s menu, but when they order a Quarter Pounder without the cheese, they’re still forced to pay the same amount.
The suit claimed:
“McDonald’s is being unjustly enriched by these practices because it receives payment for cheese it does not deliver to its customers.”
The couple argued they had “suffered injury as a result of their purchases because they were overcharged.”
The judge, William Dimitrouleas, did not have much sympathy for the two.
He called the couple’s attempt to say the hamburger is only available with cheese “absurd.”
According to the Miami Herald, the judge’s dismissals of the case said: “Under any common sense analysis, there is no market for a customer to come into a McDonald’s restaurant and order a slice or two of ‘cheese’ as a product that is separate, distinct, and independent from any other product or menu item.
“Nor is there a separate product market for a customer to order a slice of tomato, or a slice of lettuce, or a slice of pickle, etc.”
The price of a single slice of cheese was not revealed during the case.
Neither was the cost of bringing the case to court.