OAKLAND -- A 23-year-old UC Berkeley business school graduate is suing In-N-Out Burger over second-degree burns she suffered when a scalding cup of coffee fell into her lap at an Oakland drive-thru in April last year.

Boston resident Hedy Chen's lawsuit filed in Alameda County court this week alleges that employees at In-N-Out's Oakport Street location in Oakland refused her pleas to call 911 and told witnesses that it was against company policy to summon medical aid for customers. Instead, they gave her a bag of ice, which can exacerbated burns, and told her to stop holding up the line, Chen's attorney, Kirk Boyd, said.

In-N-Out Burger declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday.

A woman has filed a lawsuit against In-N-Out, claiming employees served her coffee that was too hot, then refused to call 911 after she spilled it on
A woman has filed a lawsuit against In-N-Out, claiming employees served her coffee that was too hot, then refused to call 911 after she spilled it on herself. (John Green / Bay Area News Group file)

Boyd said an employee handed Chen coffee that was too hot to hold without a protective sleeve, and it immediately toppled over on to her thighs. She spent three days in a burn unit and still needs laser treatments for the scarring.

Chen is seeking damages for her medical bills and suffering, as well as a written statement from the Irvine-based company that its policy in the future will be that all employees are instructed to call 911 if asked by a customer, Boyd said.

"Once you are burnt like that, regardless of how it happened, and you scream 'Call 911,' it's time to call 911." Boyd said.

The attorney likened the lawsuit to a famous case against McDonald's in which a New Mexico woman was burned by coffee and was awarded $2.5 million for burns.

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.