Author`s name Ольга Савка

Russian woman claims million for a cup of McDonald's coffee

When the plaintiff was leaving the restaurant, the woman could not cope with a heavy door and spilled hot coffee on her hand

A Moscow court returned to the case, which Muscovite Olga Kuznetsova filed against the McDonald's restaurant chain. The plaintiff, who spilled a cup of hot coffee on herself, increased her financial claims to the fast food corporation from 100,000 to almost one million rubles ($34,700).

The plaintiff's lawsuit is based on a cup of hot coffee, which she spilled on her hand while opening a heavy door of the restaurant and suffered skin burns as a result of the accident. Olga Kuznetsova's lawyer, Maksim Dombrovitsky, told reporters that it was decided to raise the sum of the claimed compensation in connection with the protracted court process.  “The process has been going on for almost a year now. The plaintiff has paid for the expertise and suffers further losses too,” the lawyer explained.

The court ruled to suspend the hearing of the case indefinitely. It was also decided, however, to conduct an independent expertise of the accident to estimate the risk of entering and leaving McDonald's restaurants.

McDonald's lawyer, Maksim Titatenko, said that investigators had already conducted two forensic procedures on the matter. “Legal experts of McDonald's corporation conducted their expertise on the matter as well. The results eventually turned out to be rather contradictory. That is why McDonald's asked the court permission for another independent process,” the lawyer said. The hearings on the case were thus suspended until independent experts present their results to the court.

The incident occurred on 5 May 2004 in one of McDonald's restaurants in the Moscow region. When the plaintiff was leaving the restaurant, the woman could not cope with a heavy door, dropped the tray, spilled hot coffee on her hand and burnt her skin. Kuznetsova says that a tight spring shut the door immediately and knocked the tray out of her hands.

Having recovered from psychological shock and the trauma, Olga Kuznetsova filed a claim against McDonald's asking the corporation to compensate the damage, which she estimated at 60,000 rubles (about $2,000). The company did not consider it necessary to meet the woman's requirement. The Muscovite sued the fast food corporation and raised her claims to 100,000 rubles (more than $3,000).

McDonald's did not acknowledge its guilt and said that all cups, in which the corporation serves its hot drinks, contain an adequate warning written in Russian: “Caution, hot!” The Moscow administration of the global fast food giant said that the company was sorry about the coffee accident, but the warning printed on every cup protects consumers' rights and complies with the adequate law.

Olga Kuznetsova became the first Russian citizen to sue McDonald's, although her lawsuit is not the first one filed against the American fast food corporation. The most famous process is known as the McDonald's Coffee Case. Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was severely burnt with McDonald's coffee in 1992. The woman sued the corporation and won the trial: the court ordered McDonald's to pay the plaintiff $2.9 million, although the sum was subsequently cut to $640,000.