Wawa, a convenience store chain on the east coast agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit for injuries to a then 3-year-old girl who was severely burned while in the store. The incident happened in April of 2018 when the girl and her mother went into a Wawa in Neptune, New Jersey, and placed two cups of hot water for tea at the counter for the clerk to ring up.
The clerk knocked over a bottle of water that hit the cups causing them to spray scalding hot water on the girl. The water caused second and third-degree burns over 15% of her body. The lawsuit against Wawa alleged that the water dispenser temperature was set too high and at a dangerous temperature and would cause serious injury if spilled. They also alleged that Wawa knew of the danger but did nothing to fix it thus acting in disregard for customer safety.
Similar to McDonald’s Coffee Case
Many remember a similar lawsuit against McDonald’s where a 79-year-old woman, Stella Liebeck, was severely burned by hot coffee. She alleged that McDonald’s knew that the coffee temperature was unsafe but did nothing because it would be cheaper to just pay the lawsuits.
The jury awarded the woman $2.89 million, but the judge reduced it to $640,000 saying it was excessive. One of the most striking differences between the McDonald’s case and the Wawa case is that Liebeck spilled the coffee on herself, and many people felt that she was just trying to make McDonald’s pay for her mistake.
There was an outcry when the McDonald’s jury award was read because many people felt that it was a nuisance suit and Liebeck should know that coffee is going to be hot.
Loaded for Bear
The settlement allows Wawa to avoid a lawsuit that unlike the McDonald’s case where public sentiment was against the excessive jury award, the public would be extremely sympathetic to a 3-year-old girl that was horribly burned.
Konzman’s attorney, David Mazie, was ready to keep the trial focused on the little girl. He said he was ready to have paramedics testify that the burns were so bad Livingston EMS wanted to airlift her to the hospital.
The lawsuit claimed that Wawa’s actions keeping the water at such a high temperature showed a “reckless and wanton disregard for the safety of patrons.”
The settlement was approved by a U.S. Magistrate with the child getting $2.55 million and her mother getting $450,000. The child’s portion will be held in trust and paid out partially by an annuity.