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Burned by Starbucks?

Acker + Associates P.C. Newsletter


Burned by Starbucks?

(No, we are not talking about the taste.)

A woman in Florida was awarded $100,000 this week after her Venti Pike Place coffee spilled on her while visiting a Starbucks drive-thru. The case is reminiscent of the nearly $3 million award by a New Mexico jury against McDonald’s in 1992 for spilled drive-thru coffee.

So, you are thinking of frequenting drive-thru coffee merchants instead of playing Keno? In Oregon, to prevail on a claim of negligence you would have to prove, among other elements, that the coffee merchant’s conduct was unreasonable in light of the risk of you getting burned. Handing you coffee in a drive-thru does not seem unreasonable. Arguably, handing you coffee with a loose lid may be considered such. You would also need to show that the negligent conduct caused you harm. In both the Florida and New Mexico cases, the spilled coffee caused first and second degree burns, resulting in permanent scarring.

Many coffee merchants are regulating the heat of their coffee to ensure that it will not cause burns. Perhaps, some will also install cameras to defend against claims of customers that might be loosening the lids of their morning java.

Whether you are brewing or buying the coffee, contact Acker + Associates for any legal questions or assistance.