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Spilled Tea Sparks Another Starbucks Lawsuit

By Burg Simpson
November 13, 2017
3 min read

It looks like Starbucks is in hot water again. Denver resident Deanna Salas-Solano has sued the coffee chain in federal court over a drive-thru order gone horribly wrong.

Salas-Solando claims that, in September 2015, a barista handed her an unsecured 20-ounce cup of tea that spilled, melted through her clothes and burned her and her dog. Her suit claims she suffered second-degree burns on her abdomen and thighs that later required skin grafts. Additionally, the suit adds that the tea burned her dog, which had jumped into her lap. The dog died later from its injuries.

She Said, They Said

Salas-Solando’s suit, which seeks damages of more than $75,000, says she received a cup of tea with an unsecured lid. She also claims the cup did not have a sleeve and was not double-cupped. The cup immediately burned her hand, the suit charges, causing her to drop the cup, spilling hot tea into her lap. Salas-Solando went to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with a “two percent total body surface area second-degree burn injury to the abdomen and bilateral thighs.”

Starbucks, on the other hand, disputes this version of events, claiming it has video footage that contradicts the suit’s claims.

“We have video evidence that clearly contradicts the claims made by the plaintiff and believe they are without merit,” the company announced in a published statement. “We look forward to presenting our case in court. While we are sympathetic to Ms. Salas-Solano and the injuries she sustained, we don’t have any reason to believe our partner (employee) was at fault.”

Although the company did not release the video in question, Starbucks officials did allow several media outlets to view the footage. While it’s unclear from the video as to whether the lid was securely in place, multiple sources reported that Salas-Solano was on her cell phone at the time of the incident while the dog was in her lap prior to the spill.

A History of Hot Beverage Suits

Starbucks faced a similar suit earlier this year. A Florida woman sued the Seattle-based coffee giant after she spilled a coffee on her midsection at a Jacksonville location, causing first- and second-degree burns. A jury ruled for the woman, awarding her $100,000 in damages.

Then there is the infamous McDonald’s lawsuit from the early 1990s that grabbed headlines worldwide. That is when a 79-year-old widow spilled a McDonald’s cup of coffee in her lap, causing second- and third-degree burns over 16 percent of her body. She spent a week in the hospital and endured multiple skin grafts. After McDonald’s refused to compensate the woman for her injuries, she sued.

The case went to trial, and the jury awarded the woman $160,000 in compensatory damage and $2.7 million in punitive damages. While the jury award was later reduced to $500,000, the lawsuit had the desired effect: Today, McDonald’s serves its coffee about 10 degrees lower than they did in 1992.

Coffee is big business today. With a Starbuck’s on nearly every corner and fast food restaurants offering more coffee drinks than desserts, coffee is clearly more popular than ever. But consumers shouldn’t have to risk their lives in pursuit of a good cup of coffee. If you’ve experienced a similar situation and been hurt through the negligence of another, contact a Colorado personal injury attorney at Burg Simpson immediately. Call Burg Simpson at 303-792-5595 or fill out our FREE case evaluation form HERE.

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