Review Your Business Policies and Manuals for Liability Risks

Employee Manual

In a recent article we discussed an incident on a Southwest Airlines flight where a passenger spilled hot water on herself.  The incident brings to mind McDonald’s “hot coffee” lawsuit, where an elderly woman received third-degree burns over the lower half of her body when she spilled a cup of McDonald’s coffee in her lap. The case was made famous in the media due to the large verdict awarded to the woman by the jury.

One of the biggest factors against McDonald’s was found in its employee manuals.  The instructions for brewing coffee stated the standard coffee temperature should be 185 degrees, plus or minus 5 degrees.  Apparently, the company enforced this standard, despite receiving several complaints over the years about burns caused by the coffee.

The jury found that McDonald’s dismissed or ignored the potential danger to customers of brewing and maintaining coffee at such a temperature.

The moral of the story:  Review your internal policies and manuals periodically to identify areas of risk.  Did Southwest Airlines make reasonable efforts to ensure passenger safety regarding something as seemingly innocuous as hot water? (Especially after the McDonald’s case.)  Did Southwest consider the fact that spills are more common on an airplane in flight?

Take time at least annually to review your internal policies and manuals for potential employee or customer safety hazards and consider consulting with a certified safety consultant recommended by your attorney or insurance carrier.  Protect yourself, your employees, and your customers from unnecessary risks.

The attorneys at the Scolieri Law Group, P.C. can review your situation and provide advice for minimizing your liability exposure or any other matter related to managing your business.  Located in western Pennsylvania, our attorneys are experienced in Pennsylvania business law and committed to exceeding client expectations.  Contact us today at (412)765-0546 or via email at