It's a crappy cup of coffee that burns your tongue," rails attorney S. Reed Morgan. Granted, a cup of Joe at McDonald's may not match Starbucks' fancy brew. But Morgan has made a career of attacking those piping-hot, 65 cents cups. His latest victory: A $2.9 million award for 81-year-old Stella Liebeck, after she spilled a cup of McDonald's coffee in her lap.
An outrageous sum? Not at all, insists Morgan. Liebeck (photo) suffered third-degree burns that required a hospital stay and skin grafts. And Morgan claims McDonald's officials have known about hundreds of java-related injur-
ies dating back to 1978. In 1988, Morgan won $27,000 for a 29-year-old woman who spilled McDonald's coffee. Two years later, McDonald's paid a Santa Monica (Calif.) woman $235,000. McDonald's officials didn't return phone calls.
Morgan--who says he was prepared to settle the Liebeck case for a mere $300,000--produced an array of burn experts and dermatologists who testified that McDonald's could easily solve the problem by serving a cooler brew. "Why can't they make a decent cup of coffee?" he complains. Lucky for him, they don't.