You've probably heard about people suing over burning themselves on too-hot coffee. Were these just rare occurrences, or is it something you should be worried about? Here's what you need to know and how general liability insurance can protect you.
Yes, You Can Be Sued Over Food Temperature
It is absolutely possible to be sued over food temperature, and it's also possible to be found liable in court. The allegation would be that you were negligent in giving the customer something that wasn't safe to consume when a reasonable customer would assume it was safe to do so. A customer can win a negligence claim when you:
- Had a duty of care (to give them food in safe condition to consume)
- Breached that duty (by giving food or drink that was too hot)
- Caused an injury (burns)
- Caused financial loss (medical bills and related expenses)
But Coffee Is Hot
A restaurant owner might say that customers should expect coffee to be hot or be careful when they're taking their first bite of a dish right out of the kitchen. That is true to some extent, but most customers still expect to be able to eat or drink something as soon as you give it to them. When a judge or jury is deciding what a reasonable customer would expect, they're going to consider what most customers expect.
There is still a gray area, though. A customer may not have a claim that would win over temporary discomfort or even a very minor burn. However, there have also been cases of restaurants serving coffee at near-boiling temperatures. That's much hotter than any reasonable person would expect. It can lead to serious injuries, and a judgment would almost always go in the customer's favor.
What You Can Do
As a restaurant owner, your first step should be to make sure everything goes out at a safe temperature. This might include letting things cool in your kitchen for a few minutes if necessary. Use standardized processes to avoid any mistakes. If you take appropriate safety precautions and something does go wrong, your general liability insurance would likely cover any resulting claims.
Get A Quote