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Starbucks Sued for Scalding Coffee Spill

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A woman in Knoxville, Tennessee is suing Starbucks for $250,000 for burns caused by scalding coffee served with an unattached lid.

Jordan Triplett, 23, ordered Starbucks coffee at the store’s drive-through on July 13. When she was handed the coffee, “she experienced extreme heat radiating through the cup and protective cardboard sleeve,” states the lawsuit. As Jordan drove away from the window and “negotiated a turn onto the roadway,” she was “balance[ing] the . . . cup of coffee on her thigh with her hand on the top of the cup.” She then noticed that the lid on the coffee cup was not secured properly, and before she could change her grip on the cup, the lid “dislodged from the cup, thereby causing scalding coffee to spill and splash onto (her) lap, right thigh, and right hand.”

After driving to a friend’s house, she discovered blisters on her hand, inner thigh, and vaginal area. Her doctor classified the injuries as first and second degree burns, resulting in “severe and permanent injuries . . . mental anguish, (and) cosmetic impairment, scarring and disfigurement.”

Though Starbucks offered Jordan a gift certificate after lodging her complaint with their headquarters, she is seeking reimbursement for her medical bills from the coffee giant, as well as damages for loss and enjoyment of life.

Is this similar to the the infamous “McDonald’s hot coffee” case? Will it lead to a new round of anti-lawsuit media attention? Should it? I have my own views, as a trial attorney, and I admit that I winced when I first saw this headline. Admittedly, I do not know all of the facts. I suspect this lawsuit will receive a lot of media attention over the coming months, and, maybe years. From my own point of view, I have spilled coffee in a similar manner, and I know who I blamed. It will be interesting to see how this case is handled in the local court. In Virginia (where I practice law), which follows the legal doctrine of contributory negligence, this case would not survive long at all.