Girl Burned By Denny’s Coffee is Awarded a $500,000 Settlement

Two years after a 14-month-old girl was injured by a cup of hot coffee at a restaurant, she and her family have reportedly received a settlement worth at least $500,000.

According to the Buffalo News, the federal court has approved the six-figure settlement, which was awarded to the child and her parents, Jose Adames and Sally Irizarry.

The incident occurred in 2012 at a Buffalo-area NYS Thruway stop in Angola in a Denny’s Restaurant, which has since been closed. The girl pulled a hot cup of coffee off the table, sustaining first- and second-degree burns when it spilled on her abdomen, neck, and chest.

The family argued that the waitress was negligent when she placed the hot cup of coffee within the child’s reach, writing in court papers that “some time after the family is seated, a cup of coffee is placed on the table, which the infant was able to grab and dump on herself.”

This personal injury case was unusual in that it went to trial rather than being settled. Approximately 4% of such lawsuits actually make it to a courtroom; among those, plaintiffs only win about half the time. In this instance, a settlement offer was made by the insurance carrier for G.B. Restaurants, the parent company of the Denny’s franchise, partway through the trial. U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott approved the offer, which is undisclosed but reported to be in the range of $500,000.

The family was able to prove that the girl, who is now five, will need lifetime medical care which will amount to more than $340,000.

This case brings to mind a landmark 1992 lawsuit against fast-food giant McDonald’s, in which 79-year-old Stella Liebeck sued after being badly burned by hot coffee and was awarded $500,000. That ruling made headlines around the world, sparked a number of copycat litigation, and prompted many restaurants to print warning labels on their paper coffee cups.

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