First, the 180-degree coffee that was spilled into the lady's lap was so hot, that the burns and scarring it left on her would have been enough, if she had still been of childbearing age, to prevent her from ever having children.
Second, McDonald's contended that it was necessary to serve the coffee extra-hot, because most customers would get the coffee, put it in the cupholder, start driving, and then pick up the coffee a few minutes later to drink it. If the coffee was served at 180 degrees, it was still hot when the customer started drinking. McDonald's argued that lowering the temperature would mean the coffee would be cold when the customer started drinking, the customer wouldn't like it, and McDonald's would lose millions in coffee sales.
So, the jury awarded Stella the few thousand dollars she had sued for in medical damages and pain...
...PLUS several million dollars--the amount McDonalds said they would save by keeping the coffee hot, and just paying out compensation to the occasional burn now and again.
Stella didn't ask for that money. It was a windfall. But the jury decided that, rather than issue an injunction to make McDonald's stop what it was doing, it would hit them in the pocketbook instead. I don't know if I agree with that, but it does make for an interesting new viewpoint of the case.