Starbucks Settles Lawsuit After Employee Spills Hot Coffee On A Baby

Starbucks has settled a lawsuit in which a barista accidentally spilled hot coffee on a 7-month-old baby.

Ethan Thorn was an infant when his parents brought him into a Starbucks in Somerville’s Davis Square in April, 2006. According to the lawsuit, a store employee serving a cup of coffee to Ethan’s father accidentally spilled coffee on the baby’s legs and groin, causing second-degree burns. The baby was in his father’s arms at the time.

The baby, now 2, was treated at Shriners Hospital in Boston over the course of several months, according to the lawsuit.

The $70,000 settlement does not require Starbucks to admit any liability, and will be placed in a trust for the boy.

Here’s the odd part:

The suit, filed on behalf of the family by Manchester lawyer Orestes Brown, said the coffee shop employee “had a duty of reasonable care not to serve hot coffee to an infant.”

What a strange way of wording it.

Starbucks settles suit over coffee-scalded infant for $70K [Gloucester Daily Times via Starbucks Gossip]
(Photo:Vince Brown (attila))


Edit Your Comment

  1. DrGirlfriend says:

    Well, the Starbucks employee was in fact not serving coffee to the infant. So, case dismissed.

  2. KingPsyz says:

    Jesus… if someone spilled scolding hot coffee on my baby a lawsuit would be the least of their worries after having to take care of that whole facial reconstruction issue…

  3. Leiterfluid says:

    Why was there a lawsuit? *$ should have agreed to pay for any medical costs, and that should have been the end of it.

    What’s the father’s liability for placing him in danger?

  4. KingPsyz says:

    weird… invisible comments are go!

  5. elislider says:

    haha i like how it says the barista had a “duty to not serve hot coffee to an infant”. yeah i blame starbucks for trying to target the infant demographic. get ’em hooked young

  6. Crumbles says:

    @Consumerist: The $70,000 settlement doesn’t not require… What a strange way of wording it.

    Funny, I was thinking the same thing. Seriously guys? A professional blog with a double negative?

  7. KingPsyz says:


    The Dad didn’t take the baby to a bar or a knife fight, he took it to a coffee shop and the dumbass wage slave spilled hot coffee on his baby.

    The kid should thank every diety known that the father didn’t beat his ass to a pulp then and there and that his (surely former) employer footed the bill for his ineptitude.

  8. chiieddy says:

    My husband’s mother once spilled hot coffee on him when he was an infant with resulting 3rd degree burns. Wonder if we should sue her? For the currently non-visible burn scars?

    Note, this was 30 years ago. They didn’t go after the people who manufactured the pot or the onesie he was wearing that had plastic that melted to his body either. The vast amount of lost cash here astounds me!

  9. Nelsormensch says:

    @Crumbles: Pretty sure that’s just a typo.

  10. KingPsyz says:

    Right, that’s totally the same thing…

  11. gingerCE says:

    This sounds fishy. An infant? Why was the father holding the infant with one arm and grabbing hot coffee with the other? Most infants are in strollers or are kept in their car seats when brought inside a restaurant or store. It’s unusual for someone to carry in their infant like this–especially when they know they are going in to order to hot coffee–juggling their change, money etc . . .

  12. Nelsormensch says:

    @KingPsyz: I don’t think that assault is a valid response to what sounds like an accident. I’d hope that a parent’s priority would be on getting this child any necessary medical care, not enacting some sort of revenge.

  13. Sockatume says:

    “Ethan Thorn was an infant when his parents brought him into a Starbucks in Somerville’s Davis Square in April, 2006.”

    I’m pretty sure he’s still an infant now.

  14. says:

    theirs also a risk you take when you go to a store and order a hot cup of coffee. ‘bucks should pay for the medical bills certainly, but $70,000? Come on now. If it cost that much, then someone should investigate how much hospitals are overcharging insurance companies (well, they should do that anyway, because it’s sort of becoming an issue)

  15. MercuryPDX says:

    Rainman moment: “Hot coffee burn baby! Hot coffee burn baby!”

    …the coffee shop employee “had a duty of reasonable care not to serve hot coffee to an infant.”

    New article: “Starbucks refuses to serve father coffee for holding baby!”

  16. ceriphim says:

    Does $70,000 seem unusually, well, reasonable, to anyone else? Maybe it’s the fact that I’m living in California currently, but it doesn’t really seem outrageous. Especially considering the deep pockets we all know Starbucks has. Kudos to the plaintiff…?

  17. KingPsyz says:


    So I take it you don’t have children?

  18. ClayS says:

    True, it could be worse than $70K with the right jury. If it wasn’t Starbucks, but instead the local deli, it might be nothing. I hope the people that cheer that award aren’t the same one’s that whine that Starbucks charges too much.

    Hopefully the plaintiff has learned better than to hold an infant in one arm while receiving hot coffee.

  19. UpsetPanda says:

    @ClayS: Though in this day and age, I wonder, what could he have done? Put his child down and leave him alone while he went to get his cup of fiery hot magma? If his son were kidnapped, could we scream negligence? I don’t think there was a problem with carrying a child in your arms and receiving your fiery hot magma, it’s just that the coffeemonkey in this story spilled some of it, and it happened to be on the kid.

    It sucks, and I’m glad the kid is okay, and I’m glad they get $70K which will cover his medical bills and even if they didn’t need the money, it’ll go into a trust for college (I hope). Maybe the kid will become a lawyer.

  20. ClayS says:

    It’s been a while since my kid was that age, but I think she was usually in a stroller when out and about.

    Have you ever spilled a drink? I have and its better not to be holding something important with the other hand. True the “coffeemonkey” did it in this case, but the father could easily have spilled it just as well.

  21. bluecashier says:

    Those cups tend to be slippery on the outside when you hold them. I would not think of drinking hot coffee when holding an infant. Even a small amount spilled would burn a baby’s sensitive skin. This must be their first baby. Hopefully they will be more careful with subsequent children. I am very glad the baby is okay.

  22. Aladdyn says:

    Its definitely the fathers fault that the the baby got burned. Its also definitley the servers fault. No need to argue, they can both be at fault. The father could have held the infant in such a way that any coffee that spilled would not have come near his infant and the server could have seen that the father was holding an infant and slowed down and or waited for the father to move the infant away from the counter before placing the coffee down. I would assume that the baby was right against the edge of the counter, the coffee tipped over and the coffee slid along the counter until it reached the edge of the counter, getting on the baby.

    I used to work at a retail store and it was amazing to see the number of morons who would walk around pushing a stroller with hot coffee in the cupholder. Every now and then they would lose a cup when going over a bump but all the ones I saw landed on the floor luckily for their babys.

  23. says:

    @MercuryPDX: yeah, seriously, in 50 years their will be no corporations because they can’t afford all the law suits we can possibly think up.

  24. KingPsyz says:


    Ahh assumption is a great thing isn’t it?

  25. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I would like to know how the coffee was spilled on the infant.

    Without that specific information, it’s really impossible to determine whether the settlement was warranted, and whether or not there was negligence on the part of the Starbucks employee or the parent.

    After the whole []‘s_Restaurants)”> McDonalds fiasco, $70,000 seems pretty reasonable for medical bills.

  26. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Oh, for Pete’s sake.


    Stupid HTML

  27. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:


    I am full of fail tonight.

  28. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I give up.

  29. KittensRCute! says:

    personally i see no reason for a baby to be at starbucks. i say the parents are being greedy and using the baby as a tool to get money. greedy bastards.

  30. Sherryness says:

    I’ve often wondered why Starbuck’s did not have a policy of setting the drink on the counter, and never handing it directly to the customer, for just this type of reason. It seems like a safety/liability no-brainer.

  31. KingPsyz says:

    At the mom & pop I used to work for we ALWAYS set the coffee down on the counter and reminded every customer, even the regulars “BE CAREFUL, IT’S HOT!”

    It was more about good consistant customer service than avoiding lawsuits.

  32. says:

    Shouldn’t the suit read “had a duty of reasonable care not to serve hot coffee on an infant”?

  33. Dick.Blake says:

    Sounds like the father is at fault for juggling a baby and coffee….

    it also sounds like the guy behind the counter caused an accident… I wonder how much liability Starbucks would have if he maliciously spilled coffee on a baby.

  34. gmark2000 says:

    @chieddy. You can’t get a 3rd degree burn (blackened and crispy) from hot coffee, only a severe 2nd degree.

  35. KingPsyz says:

    well considering the article mentions both parents were present, htere was no reason for the father to be handed anything while he was holding the baby, and without the specifics of the incident, that may have been what caused the spill.

    for all we know, the barista attempted to hand the father the coffee and the father did not grab it as he probablly had no intention of holding a coffee while holding his son.

  36. @gingerCE: Two words: Brittney Spears

  37. kantwait says:

    Um, the starbucks lids are pretty tight and don’t spill too much coffee, even if jostled, so what happened here?? Lidless coffee?

  38. sibertater says:

    I never hand hot coffee to people, EVER. It’s just not done. Jesus, have we learned nothing? It’s effing hot, people. Set it down and let the retards spill their own hot latte on their groins.

  39. nardo218 says: Sounds like a plan

  40. sibertater says:

    @KingPsyz: AMEN! I even make jokes by saying, “Caution: The beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot.” It’s funny, because that’s what the cups say.

  41. nardo218 says:

    @kantwait: Hm, good point. I once had one sommersault out of my car cup holder and land upside down in the little coin tray underneath. Nothing spilled. :)

    OTOH, if you put the sippy part in line with the seam on the cup, you get a constant stream of leaking coffee.

    I’d guess the lid slipped off, or he ordered it to drink there, in a earth friendly ceramic mug.

  42. cordeduroi says:

    I can’t wait till a tobacco company accidentally spills its product on an infant’s groin… $700,000,000 lawsuit!!

  43. Critcol says:

    That’s not the Davis Sq Starbucks in the picture! The one pictured looks quaint and reasonably unique which is exactly not the Davis Sq Starbucks!

  44. MercuryPDX says:

    @dwayne_dibbly: [] is your friend.

  45. Myron says:

    A baby’s skin burns more easily than an adults. Take Starbucks out of the equation and the father still should not be holding a baby and a hot cup of coffee at the same time.

    The father was wrong to put the baby in vicinity of hot coffee. The employee was wrong to spill the coffee on baby.

  46. pastabatman says:

    Kinda a non story.

    who’s fault? Life. Sh*t happens. that’s why starbucks, and all businesses have insurance.

    70 grand sounds about right. A blip on starbucks’ insurance radar.

  47. Falconfire says:

    Im sorry WHO TAKES A FUCKING INFANT TO A STARBUCKS!. Seriously thats just insane….

  48. shades_of_blue says:

    Why was there a lawsuit, Starbucks’ insurance policy should cover all medical bills… It’s a horrible thing to happen, but the father is equally to blame IMO. After he got his hot coffee, how did he expect to hold it in one hand and an infant in the other? The whole incident lacks common sense.

    Bottom line, father put infant in harms way, the unexpected happened and it was probably going to happen on his way back to his seat anyway. Heck, setting the child on an unpaved stone road would offer a lower risk of death or dismemberment. Stupid father, stupid lawsuit, clumsy employee.

  49. pastabatman says:


    Huh? Sarcasm, right?

  50. KingPsyz says:

    Yes once you breed you are required to remain with in softly padded areas with access only available to lukewarm liquids and rounded foam topped edges…

  51. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    @Mercurypdx: Thanks 8)

  52. HaxRomana says:

    I’ve had customers spill coffee on me. Where’s my $70,000?

  53. mrrbob says:

    This sounds like an idiot-fest. poor kid

  54. says:

    Jesus, people, it’s a baby, not a bomb. It isn’t hard to hold a baby in one arm and something else in another; after about two days, it’s remarkably easy to do (e.g., rock baby while stumbling back to your bedroom half-asleep and trying not to trip over toys/laundry/diapers).

    I’m certainly not going to advocate holding your child while using a chainsaw, or cooking sausage on a stovetop… but being served coffee or carrying a cup? That’s not “putting the kid in harm’s way” unless you thrust him in the server’s face or let baby play with the hot cup. (Christ, it doesn’t even say if the spilled beverage was intended for the father. Maybe he ordered a frappucino and SOMEBODY ELSE’S scalding coffee was tossed on them.)

    I once had a waiter drop a tray of empty glasses and one smashed on my head and glass shards fell in my infant daughter’s hair. No cuts, in fact she didn’t even wake up — great outcome, but could have been worse. By the same logic many commenters are using, I am a bad mother for taking my child to a restaurant which had glass on the premises because I should have known that some of them could be thrown at me.

    Face it: babies go places with their parents. Starbucks isn’t a strip bar or porn shop or liquor store — it’s a store that sells coffee and there’s nothing inappropriate about children going in with their parents.

  55. Did anyone even think that maybe he had the baby in a sling? I guess you all can call me a terrible mother, but wow, I’ve had fussy kids that I put in the sling and take out for a walk. And oh my gosh, sometimes I want a drink while I’m walking! And if we’re at the mall, I might just walk to the food court and get one!

    Admittedly, I don’t drink coffee, so that’s a non-issue for me, but I have spilled smoothies and pizza on my kids. But you know what? If I’d have stopped walking, they would have started screaming…

    I do agree that in this situation, the best case would have been for him to NOT be wearing a baby and getting a hot drink, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to have his parenting insulted. At least he is there, holding his baby.

  56. rjhiggins says:

    @Sockatume: And I’m pretty sure you’re wrong. The generally accepted definition of infant is less than 1 year; after that he’s a toddler.