Most people have heard the story of the woman who sued McDonald’s after she got badly burned from spilling coffee on herself. What’s less known is that she didn’t get the millions people think she did, and that she only won the case for her severe burns because it was proved that McDonald’s had known that their coffee was too hot and a danger to customers, but made it that way anyway.
I’ve actually never gotten a call from someone who burned themselves while drinking coffee at work. The facts of how it happened would determine if it was a case or not. I did get a call from someone who had a severe injury drinking coffee that is kind of a crazy story.
A worker was traveling for her job and was at a hotel. She went downstairs for breakfast, got some food and poured herself a cup of coffee. Or at least she thought she did.
In this case, some hotel worker had actually put the coffee maker through a cleaning process and this woman ended up drinking a cleaning product, not actually coffee. Why this happened in the main eating area is anyone’s guess, but the end result was that she sustained severe chemical burns to her mouth and internal injuries to her lungs that required hospitalization.
While she certainly has a lawsuit against the hotel, she also clearly has a work comp case as she’s based out of Illinois. Traveling employees under the Illinois Work Comp Act are covered for any injury that is considered to be “reasonably foreseeable.” Basically, any activity you’d do while traveling that isn’t reckless (such as driving drunk) is foreseeable. It’s of course expected that she’d have breakfast and drink something. Since she got hurt while doing that, she should get work comp benefits.
This will go down as one of the more unique accidents I’ve ever been called about in 24 years of being a lawyer, but it’s not the craziest story I’ve ever heard. There have been people injured riding a bike in a volcano in Hawaii that got work comp. There have been wildlife attacks. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I once heard about a flight attendant getting bit by a shark in Australia. Even though none of these people were “on the clock” in the traditional sense, they won because when you travel for work, you are on the clock once you begin traveling. Just about any injury that happens while traveling for work is on the clock as well.
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