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Starbucks Sued for “Too Hot” Tea

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Starbucks by Adam UXB Smith on Flickr

Photo by Adam UXB Smith on Flickr

It was probably only a matter of time before another one of these “too hot” beverage lawsuits came up against the new reigning coffee giant, Starbucks.

This lawsuit comes out of New York via Zeynep Inanli, who claims that the tea she got from a Manhattan Starbucks was “unreasonably hot, in containers which were not safe.” According to Reuters, Inanli alleges she suffered injuries because of the hot tea, including burns, and requests unspecified damages.

Unfortunately the original complaint isn’t yet scanned into the New York County Clerk’s website, so we don’t know more about the specific legal claims or the alleged events and injuries, but watch this space for updates.

The recent Starbucks lawsuit, of course, bring back memories of the famous case against McDonald’s, Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, which has become a rallying cry for those who seek tort reform in the United States.

In that case, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck sued the fast food chain, alleging its coffee was “defective” (too hot) and more likely to cause burns than other establishments’ coffee.

Liebeck had purchased the coffee and was sitting in the passenger seat of a car, coffee place between her legs, as she removed the lid. The coffee spilled into her lap and was absorbed by the cotton pants she was wearing, which held the hot liquid against her for a minute and a half. Doctors found that Liebeck had sustained third-degree burns on six percent of her body and other lower degree burns on over 16%. Liebeck had to undergo skin grafting and other extensive therapy to recover from her injuries.

In 1994, a jury awarded Liebeck $2.86 million, but the trial judge reduced the award to $640,000; instead of allowing the case to go through the appeals process, the parties then settled out of court for an amount that remains confidential.

What do you think of such lawsuits? Have you ever been literally burned by Starbucks, McDonald’s, or other establishments?

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May 6th, 2010 at 11:48 am

Posted in Legal News

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