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Bogle v MacDonalds Restaurants Limited, High Court

16 April 2002
The issues

Burns – hot drinks – restaurants – OLA.

The facts

This was one of 36 cases brought against MacDonalds and all arising out of personal injuries caused by the spillage of hot drinks/hot water. The claims were all distinct but shared a number of common features and were made the subject of a Group Litigation Order in February 2001. The majority of the Claimant’s were children, at least 16 being 4 or under at the time of the accidents. Allegations were made that MacDonalds were in breach of their duty of care in serving drinks at too high a temperature. In addition, Claimants argued that there should have been warnings and that the cups and lids used were inadequate. Allegations were made in negligence and in respect of a breach of the Occupiers Liability Act and in addition under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, alleging that the hot drinks were “defective”. The drinks were served at between 75 and 90 degrees centigrade and the evidence was to the effect that drinks served at 65 degrees would be sufficiently hot to cause burns if in contact with skin.

The decision

1. To have served drinks at lower temperatures would have been to have served drinks at temperatures that were too low from the point of view of customers expecting hot drinks.

2. As a matter of fact, the cups and lids were sufficient for their task (specifically being made to retain a hot drink if the cup was tipped over whilst the lid was on).

3. The duty on the Defendant was not to ensure that there were no accidents involving hot drinks, but to take such steps as were reasonable to avoid or reduce the risk of injury. It was not in breach of that duty.

4. There was no duty to warn customers about a risk posed by hot drinks, since the risk was patently obvious.

Action Dismissed.

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