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Award For Scalding Coffee A Hill Of Beans

A Spokane couple who sued a fast-food restaurant for serving scalding coffee got the cold shoulder from a jury Thursday.

Sandy and Gary Waldren said the lid on a cup of black coffee wasn’t secured properly when they ordered it in October 1994 at Zip’s Drive In on East Sprague.

As her husband passed the cup to her and started to drive away, Sandy Waldren spilled the coffee on her hand and leg, suffering second-degree burns.

They asked for $75,000 in damages, but received only $1,600 from Spokane County Superior Court jurors, who deliberated about five hours over two days before reaching the verdict.

The money will barely cover Sandy Waldren’s medical bills, not to mention the $2,000 cost of bringing expert witnesses to trial, said the couple’s attorney, Greg Staeheli.

“I’m disappointed because the restaurant was negligent and the jury knew it,” he said. “They had trouble with the money.”

Tim Cronin, an attorney for Zip’s, could not be reached for comment.

Staeheli said the timing of his case was unfortunate because it came on the heels of a nationally publicized McDonald’s lawsuit. In that case, an Albuquerque, N.M., woman received nearly $3 million from the restaurant chain after spilling hot coffee in her lap in 1992.

Witnesses in the Zip’s trial said the Waldrens were served coffee that was 180-190 degrees.

Other fast-food restaurants in Spokane, including McDonald’s, serve coffee at 140-160 degrees, Staeheli said.

In contrast, experts said, coffee brewed at home is generally 135-140 degrees.

, DataTimes