More than 20 years ago, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck ordered coffee at a McDonald’s drive-through in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She spilled the coffee, was badly burned, and one year later, sued McDonald’s. The jury awarded her $2.9 million but she eventually settled for about $500,000. Her story became a media sensation and fodder for talk-show hosts, late-night comedians, sitcom writers, and political pundits. The New York Times has a short piece and a video on how serving hot coffee has changed since then:
The point is, the world now caters to the coffee drinker. The idea of getting into a car without cup holders and lifting the lid off the cup in order to add milk and sugar and drink the coffee, as the facts of the case show Ms. Liebeck did that morning, seems strangely anachronistic.
Within the ensuing years, some genius invented a sculptured lid with a little sipping hole in the top, eliminating the need to open the cup and reducing the potential for spills. Sloshing grew less likely once the lip was raised above the cup rim.
Let’s not forget the evolution of the cup holder. Teams of car engineers continuously work to perfect their design for drivers in the front and those passengers two rows back.