Mom Sues Starbucks After She Spills Hot Tea On Her Baby

It’s not surprising that a parent who accidentally scalds their child with hot tea would end up in a courtroom. But it isn’t usually the case that said parent is the plaintiff, suing Starbucks for doing what they do best — or at least do a lot of — serving hot beverages.

In a suit filed on Friday in Brooklyn Supreme Court, the mother of an infant son says she caused “serious injuries” to her child at a local Starbucks because her cup of tea was “improperly served.”

The plaintiff’s story goes like this. In Oct. 2009, she and her 5-month-old were at the counter at Stabucks waiting for their order. When her cup of tea was placed on the counter, she went to take a sip. But she claims the cup was so hot she dropped it, spilling some of the steamy fluid on her own child.

“This cup was improperly served, and that’s the reason my client dropped it on her baby,” explains her lawyer, who says the tea should have been in a tray and served with an insulating sleeve.

This not-at-all-frivolous lawsuit is the second such legal action taken against Starbucks in just a few months. Back in May, we told you about the NYC man who “suffered great pain and mental anguish” over his run-in with a hot cup of Starbucks tea.

For all Starbucks tea buyers: I would like to recommend carrying an Ove Glove with you at all times. Just don’t get it wet, because, well then you might have to sue someone.

Brooklyn mom sues Starbucks over scalding tea that burned infant son [NY Post]


Edit Your Comment

  1. aaron8301 says:

    Wasn’t there precedent set for this type of thing in the 90s?

    • womynist says:

      Yeah, the lady who burned herself on McDonald’s coffee sued, because the cup was not labeled “Caution-Hot”.

      As if you need to be told that the hot coffee you’re ordering is hot. Idiots.

      • SabreDC says:

        This misconception comes up every time there is a story like this. In the McDonald’s case, the coffee WAS too hot. Coffee is typically served at 140 F. McDonald’s, until that point, served it at 180 F.

        • says:

          Which is still missing the point. You’re supposed to handle coffee with caution. The lady did not. Furthermore, I think it is arguable how hot is “too hot”. Coffee used to be served that hot because people wanted it that way – it would be at a reasonable temperature by the time they sat down in their chairs at the office. Now days it’s cold when you get to the office, thanks to that lady.

          • AstroPig7 says:

            I’d prefer coffee that I could drink then and there to coffee that I can’t touch for 20 minutes without burning my throat.

            • bsh0544 says:

              Srsly. When I buy a cup of coffee I have to let it sit for an hour before drinking it.

              Most effective at preventing impulse-buys of coffee though.

          • JulesNoctambule says:

            If it’s hot enough to require skin grafts if you spill it on yourself it’s too damn hot to drink and far too hot to serve, ‘handled with caution’ or otherwise.

          • kmw2 says:

            That’s correct, which is why she was considered to have 20% liability in her original case, despite the fact that few of us would think twice about putting our coffee between our knees in a stationary vehicle to add cream. Did you actually read anything about the case?

        • AnthonyC says:

          Maybe they were following the brewing instructions from the National Coffee Association

          180 degrees is, in fact, the lowest temperature at which they recommend serving coffee.

          If coffee is served at 140 degrees, this has nothing to do with good brewing practice and everything to do with avoiding liability when careless people injure themselves.

          • SabreDC says:

            The National Coffee Association? I’m sorry, what legal jurisdiction do they have? Oh right, they make recommendations. That doesn’t trump “not burning people”.

      • SerenityDan says:

        That case was won because it was found that McDonald’s was serving it’s coffee at 190%, too hot to be safely served to someone.

        • says:

          Pouring “normal” coffee will still burn you, just not as bad. Safety is a matter of perspective. Would you volunteer to pour 140 degree coffee on your junk to demonstrate this conception of safety?

        • Liam Kinkaid says:

          Where can I get some of this magical 190% coffee? I’d be awake for days! :)

        • jnrcorp says:

          I was absent the day of school where they taught us that there was a “proper” temperature to serve a beverage. I was always under the impression that when you make something, like coffee, the water’s usually boiling and most people like it right off the stove.

          • SerenityDan says:

            And it’s too hot to drink right away so you let it cool down first. Coffee is served at 140 degrees. Coffee makers in your house don’t heat the coffee all the way to boiling though from what I can tell. If you make it on the stove top then you take your own risks.

            • RvLeshrac says:

              You actually boil the water, then add it to your French Press. The water cools to a safe temperature while the coffee is steeping.

              Why people use anything else to make coffee, I’ll never know.

          • denros says:

            boiling water makes terrible coffee, just as an aside. I don’t know why anyone would make it anywhere near that hot, although I can imagine with mcdonald’s coffee, you probably want to taste the coffee as little as possible, I guess singeing the taste buds would help out with that.

          • Mr. Pottersquash says:

            There was/is an industry standard on coffee temperature. Part of reason McD’s overheated there coffee was because they found ppl could not taste the difference between poor quality yet really hot beans and good quality normal hot beans. So in essence, McD’s was overheated to make profit and this lady was burned. Kinda easy to see why jury through book at tem.

          • Rectilinear Propagation says:

            I was absent the day of school where they taught us that there was a “proper” temperature to serve a beverage.

            Do you skip the days you’re supposed to be in training at work? Because that’s were the people who made the coffee should have learned that it shouldn’t be hot enough to cause third degree burns.

            • slappysquirrel says:

              This may seem like a stupid question, but if this lady was in the burn unit and required skin grafts, then wouldn’t the coffee have been way too hot to drink? How do people drink coffee “right off the stove” without hurting themselves?

            • regis-s says:

              Don’t blame the employees. They served the coffee per McDonald’s policy. If it wasn’t that hot there’d probably be all sorts of people bitching that it was “cold”.

      • Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:
    • jnrcorp says:

      I remember the McDonalds case where the woman who scalded her personal area because she was “smart” enough to put a cup of coffee between her legs instead of in a cup holder.

    • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

      IIRC, the lady who sued McDonald’s built her case on the fact that McDonald’s coffee at the time was kept at 160 degrees or even hotter, far greater than what is necessary to serve hot coffee. The lawsuit was for damages to her body that would not have happened had the coffee been at a more normal serving temperature. It was for that reason that she won her case.

      • AnthonyC says:

        Except that that isn’t too hot to serve coffee. If anything, it’s too cold.

        The National Coffee Associations has instructions for “how to brew coffee” in order to make good coffee. Coffee should be brewed at 200 degrees F. It should be served immediately, or maintained at 180-185 degrees F until served. Oh, and they say to never reheat it.


        It’s a hot beverage. If you spill hot things on yourself, you get burned. Welcome to adulthood, now get over it and don’t spill hot things on your children.

        • Rectilinear Propagation says:

          1) The National Coffee Association is not a government or regulatory body so it’s not like restaurants are required to do what they say in any way.

          2) The question is whether or not the coffee is safe for serving customers in a fast food environment, not whether or not it’s “good”.

          • FredKlein says:

            1) The National Coffee Association is not a government or regulatory body so it’s not like restaurants are required to do what they say in any way.

            No one said they were ‘a government or regulatory body’. They are, however, in the business of “championing the well being of the coffee industry”. How exactly does giving (supposedly) improper preperation instructions for their product do that?
            Answer: it doesn’t. therefore, it’s safe to assume the instructions they give are not improper. ie: they are the correct instructions.

            2) The question is whether or not the coffee is safe for serving customers in a fast food environment, not whether or not it’s “good”.

            Only one cup out of every 24,000,000 resulted in a burn. By comparison, your chance of getting hit by lightning in a given year is 1 in 750,000*, 32 times higher than getting burned by McDonalds coffee.


        • dbeahn says:

          If you want “good” coffee, you probably shouldn’t be buying it at McDonalds. *cough* DUH *cough* ;)

      • iggy21 says:

        The damages were not ‘to her body that would not have happened had the coffee been at a more normal serving temperature’.

        If that’s the case, she would have received an amount to cover her medical expenses. Instead, she was given a crap-ton of of punitive damages (this is the frivolous part of the lawsuit).

        • thezone says:

          Please look up facts about a case before you speak in public. She was awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages. However, since the jury found her 20% liable she only received $160,000. The jury also awarded her $2.7 million in punitive damage which was lowered to 3X the punitive damages. The damages are determined by the jury. Therefore, one part of the decision cannot be “frivolous”.

        • SChance says:

          No, the punitive damages were *not* frivolous. They were assessed because McDonald’s KNEW the coffee was too hot, they had had many previous complaints and reports of injuries, and STILL had a company policy of maintaining the coffee at 180 degrees because it meant they didn’t have to brew the coffee as often – in other words, putting their profits ahead of their customers’ safety.

          Really, before you open your ignorant mouth about this case again, you should really read the details. Coffee should NOT be so hot that it MELTS POLYESTER FABRIC.

    • Smashville says:

      If you’re referring to the McDonald’s case, unless the baby had third degree burns, skin grafts and a weeklong stay in the burn unit…probably not.

    • SilentBob says:

      I believe so. Regarding McDonald’s right? She was initially awarded a million or so. If I remember correctly, that amount was amended to a much smaller amount. However, no one hears about that part. Will be interesting to see the results of this suit.

    • Link_Shinigami says:

      What everyone forgets about this is, the driver gunned it when she was holding the cup (With or without the lid I can’t remember). Basically, her stupid grandson gunned it out of the lot for some reason which caused her to throw the cup on herself. The real criminal here was the grandson for reckless driving. Unless there was more than one case, but that is the only case I remember from McD’s getting sued for hot liquids

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        It’s good not to let those “fact” things mess with your rant. It makes it sound so much more cooler, even IF you are wrong.

        Liebeck was in the passenger’s seat of her Ford Probe, and her grandson Chris parked the car so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. She placed the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the far side of the lid toward her to remove it. In the process, she spilled the entire cup of coffee on her lap.

        SOURCE: Michael McCann, William Haltom, and Anne Bloom, “LAW & SOCIETY SYMPOSIUM: Java Jive: Genealogy of a Juridical Icon,” 56 U. Miami L. Rev. 113 (October 2001), which describes the accident in detail

        • iggy21 says:

          so, she dumped it on herself. Good to know, she should be the only one blamed.

          • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

            No, the people who served their coffee at 180 degrees should. Spilled coffee shouldn’t result in third degree burns.

            • iggy21 says:

              Yes it should… otherwise it’s not any good.

            • iggy21 says:

              I should remind you that the lady spilled the coffee. Unless McDonald’s actually reached into her car and forced her hand to knock over the coffee in her lap, then i do not see the justification in her lawsuit. And, the fact that she won shows the idiocy of the system.

              And before you try to re-introduce the temperature of coffee as an argument, I should also bring up the coffee is hot. It is something you learn as a kid. If you spill something hot, you get burned. That is why you are supposed to handle hot liquids with care. If you do happen to burn yourself with hot liquids because you choose to be careless, then any burns should act as a lesson learned. But of course, we are taught that it’s never our fault. After all, we find it necessary to label chainsaws with the warning ‘Do not attempt to stop with genitals’. Common sense tells me that I don’t need a warning for that, nor do i need a warning that coffee might burn if i spill (and i know it will burn pretty bad since it should be right under the boiling point).

              • thezone says:

                No you are wrong. McDonald’s had been warned that serving their coffee at 180 degrees instead of the typical 130 to 140 for coffee at home. Furthermore, McDonald’s had had over 700 reports of serious injuries due to the excessive heat. Finally, their own QA person admitted that their coffee was so hot that at person attempting to drink the coffee at their serving temperature could sustain severe burns to their mouth and throat because after 155 degrees the injuries go up exponentially.

                • FredKlein says:

                  No you are wrong. McDonald’s had been warned that serving their coffee at 180 degrees instead of the typical 130 to 140 for coffee at home.

                  Incorrect. The National Coffee Association of U.S.A. instructs that coffee should be brewed “between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit [91–96 °C] for optimal extraction” and consumed “immediately”. If not consumed immediately, the coffee is to be “maintained at 180-185 degrees Fahrenheit”.

                  Furthermore, McDonald’s had had over 700 reports of serious injuries due to the excessive heat.

                  700 burns (of ALL severities) in 10 years… Nationwide.

                  Finally, their own QA person admitted that their coffee was so hot that at person attempting to drink the coffee at their serving temperature could sustain severe burns to their mouth and throat because after 155 degrees the injuries go up exponentially.

                  Actually, McDonald’s quality control manager, Christopher Appleton, testified that this number of injuries was insufficient to cause the company to evaluate its practices. He argued that all foods hotter than 130 °F (54 °C) constituted a burn hazard, and that restaurants had more pressing dangers to warn about.

                  • thezone says:

                    The QA manager did say that the coffee was served too hot for immediate consumption. Additionally, the National Coffee association is not a safety group. And there is a reason that home coffee makers keep it’s coffee at a lower temperature. McDonald’s research showed that most of their customers intended to consume their coffee right away which could cause harm. While any food over 130 degrees would cause a burn temperatures of 180 to 190 degrees can cause third degree burns in a couple of seconds. Once McDonald’s knew their coffee could cause third degree burns quickly they should have lowered the serving temperature. That’s why they were found liable and that’s why they eventually settled.

                    • FredKlein says:

                      The QA manager did say that the coffee was served too hot for immediate consumption.

                      Didn’t your mommy tell you to blow on your food to cool it?

                      Additionally, the National Coffee association is not a safety group.

                      They have an interest in promoting their product. Giving incorrect preparation instructions does not do that.

                      And there is a reason that home coffee makers keep it’s coffee at a lower temperature.

                      Yeah- they don’t. Many coffee makers have a feature where you can remove the carafe WHILE IT’S BREWING and pour yourself a cup. Brewing, mind you, is done at or near boiling! As for why the thin-walled glass carafe coffemakers don’t hold the coffee hotter- it’s because the carafe loses too much heat. enclosed, metal commercial coffee makers won’t lose (‘waste’) the heat, so the coffee is held hotter, like its supposed to be.

                      McDonald’s research showed that most of their customers intended to consume their coffee right away

                      Really, while driving? (This was a drive-thru, remember).

                  • RvLeshrac says:

                    I’m sorry, but the “national coffee association” or whatever doesn’t determine at what temperature the coffee should be served in a commercial establishment. That’s the responsibility of the health department.

                    Which warned them *REPEATEDLY* about serving coffee at temperatures which, if spilled, would cause third degree burns REQUIRING MAJOR SURGERY AND SKIN GRAFTS.

                    Coffee should *NEVER* be served at that temperature. If you’re served coffee at that temperature and don’t cool it with cold milk or cream, you’ll scar your tongue. At best.

              • kujospam says:

                So you are saying if you handle it with care, then you can sue them? Good, you just said she can sue.

          • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

            She was only partly blamed. 20%, IIRC.

        • Jevia says:

          Of course, now McDs asks you how many creams/sugars for your coffee so they can add it for you, so now you don’t have to remove the lid.

  2. pot_roast says:

    The incident happened last October 9th, and she’s just now suing. Easier to get an out of court “Hey, I’m set now!” payday that way.

    • Pax says:

      The time delay does not necessarily indicate any such dishonesty on her part. Even if she went DIRECTLY to an attorney, that attorney would have started not by filing suit immediately (which costs the client money – here in MA, it’s around $200 to file anything but a small-claims suit), but instead, by contacting the company and seeking to negotiate a private settlement.

      Only when the attempt to resolve the issue out of court failed, would the next step – actually filing suit – take place.

    • GrandizerGo says:

      not the only reason to wait at all…
      if the child had scarring, most lawsuits will wait until all healing has been completed so that any life lasting scarring is seen.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Well this is just stupid. She ordered one drink and her lawyer says it should have come in a tray? Trays are not given out to single orders, nor are they even offered in single-cup sizes. If you order what is basically a cup of really hot water and you don’t bother to put a coffee sleeve on it before picking it up, that’s your own fault.

    • iggy21 says:

      Futhermore, she elected to take a sip. How could she sip the tea if it is in the tray? Even with the tray, she would have still taken it out to sip it…

      • edicius is an acquired taste says:

        And on top of that, the cup clearly states, “Careful, the beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot.”

        Throw it out of court. This woman was negligent.

        • coren says:

          So merely picking up her drink is negligent? Should anything be served at a temperature that is too hot to even pick up?

          • iggy21 says:

            I’m wondering if we can sue the woman for recklessly endangering a child for handling hot liquids over the child’s head.

            • Pax says:

              Have you ever dropped a cup of liquid, say, six inches? It tends to splash UPWARDS, quite a bit.

              And no … Starbucks should NEVER have served a beverage at a temperature where the CONTAINER became too hot to handle. Either the contents were excessively hot, OT, the container was not sufficiently thick / insulated.

              • jayphat says:

                Apparently you never by hot beverages. Got to any gas station and buy coffee. You can’t hold the cup for the first few mins because its hot. I learned that when I was 13 or 14. IMO

      • SabreDC says:

        And to add to that: a sip implies that she knew it would be hot. Why didn’t she try to take a mouthful or chug it down? She was expecting it to be hot so she attempted to take only a sip. If my thought process was telling me to pick up the cup and take a sip because it’s hot, surely I would think “the cup is probably hot too”.

        This should be thrown out, no doubt about it.

    • jenjenjen says:

      The box of sleeves is not always right at the cash. Sometimes it’s across by the milk/sugar, so you have to ow-ow-ow-ow your way across to that counter. Not so easy with a kid in tow. If an employee sees that a customer is going to have difficulty getting the cup to a sleeve, they should serve it with the sleeve on it already or double-cup it.

  4. suez says:

    Would she have been happier if the tea served to her had been luke warm?

    This is so silly. I’m always cautious when I order something like that, and the first thing I do is grab a sleeve so I’m ready when they set the cup in front of me. I suspect it was her fault for either not paying attention or juggling too many things in her hands when she added the hot drink to the mix.

    • DingoAndTheBaby says:

      Agreed. It’s as if we’ve already lost the whole “personal accountability” concept from the United States, so now we’re working on getting rid of common sense, too. I feel sorry for the kid, not just because (s)he has potential scarring, but also because (s)he has to grow up as the offspring of a greedy idiot.

      It’s instances like this that remind me of a bumper sticker I once saw: “The gene pool could use some chlorine.”

      On a side note, it’s nice to see a non-anti-Starbucks post.

  5. c!tizen says:

    If I were her I’d also sue my parents, teachers, mentors, personal heroes, grandparents, babysitters, and anyone else most people learn common sense from; for along the way someone should have taught her to think for herself and perhaps not grab a steaming cup of anything, be it with a child in hand or not.

    On the other hand, she’ll probably need the settlement money to cover court costs when her 5 month old grows up and learns she can sue mommy for being an idiot.

  6. BannedInBrittan says:

    But won’t someone please think of the children…

    • Snaptastic says:

      Darn skippy–the child should be sued for hot having a “Do not pour hot beverages on me” stamped on it’s head.

  7. coffeeculture says:

    i feel bad for the kid, but what an idiot mom…what’s next, she’ll sue AT&T, Toyota, and the state transportation agency for texting while driving and running her car over a barrier and off the cliff (without the kid i pray).

    I hope this lawsuit goes down in flames and she doesn’t get a penny.

    • "I Like Potatoes" says:

      A few months ago I stopped at Hardees and got a cup of coffee to go. When I got home, I put it on the counter and turned around to do something at the sink. Within seconds, my 18 month old son grabbed the cup and spilled it on his arm, resulting in second degree burns. Whose fault was this? MINE, MINE, ALL MINE! Did Hardees serve their coffee too hot? I don’t know and I don’t think it matters – all I know is that I should never have left that cup where my son could reach it. Thankfully, after a visit to the ER and careful monitoring, he healed quickly. It is most definitely a lesson I will NEVER forget.

  8. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    If in fact it was served without a sleeve, it SHOULD have had one. Starbucks cups are thin as hell and the heat transfers right through them. That said… it’s really not lawsuit worthy.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Just because a store doesn’t do something doesn’t mean it’s not common sense to do it yourself. Hot beverages are hot – if Starbucks didn’t serve the tea with a sleeve, it’s just common sense to put one on, cause otherwise you might burn your kid.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        If it was hot enough that she dropped it when picking it up, I doubt putting on her own sleeve would have changed the outcome as she’d still have had to touch the hot cup to add the sleeve.

        • ExtraCelestial says:

          But the barista was somehow able to carry it from the water dispenser all the way to the counter to set it down? Not buying it. I’d give her some leeway had it been a bar drink as the milk can be steamed to varying temps, but the hot water dispenser is preset. If it was too hot for her, it would’ve been too hot for everyone else.

          What’s actually improper is trying to drink a hot drink while standing up and holding an infant.

          • kmw2 says:

            The barista, who works with steaming hot beverages all the time, is more likely to be inured to the pain of handling a hot cup of tea. She may even have some nerve damage in her hands from it. My mother, who was a professional baker for years, routinely takes cookie sheets out of the oven with no oven mitt, doesn’t mean I’m going to do it.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I don’t think it takes a genius to see that there isn’t a sleeve, take a sleeve in one hand, hold the coffee cup a few inches off the counter and slip the sleeve onto the cup. It takes about five seconds.

    • SixOfOne says:

      There are always plenty of sleeves available at the counter, and if there weren’t any, she should have asked for one. This is entirely her fault.

    • Smashville says:

      There are sleeves. Most Starbucks if you’re inside, you have to do it yourself.

    • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

      I’m not sure how many times I’ve been to starbucks, but I do know I can count the number of times on one hand… So, I’m probably not the best source, but I seem to recall the sleeve being placed on for me when I ordered a hot beverage.

      Seems to me, if I were a barista (barister? baristo?), I would put the sleeve on before I made the beverage, because I don’t want to burn my own hand…

      • iggy21 says:

        They stopped adding sleeves to be green (sleeves waste paper). If you ask me, this is all the fault of the green movement :)

    • CapitalC says:

      Maybe if she were more eco-friendly she’d have taken her own reusable cup and this wouldn’t be an issue.

  9. Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

    The question is, did Starbucks fail in their duty of care, and at what point does their duty of care end?

    IMHO, if they are brewing hot beverages, and they are providing a sleeve and a tightly fitted cover (which they usually do); and the cups and caps warn the beverage is hot then they have met their duty of care once they transfer the possession of the hot beverage to the hand of the customer.

    Once the customer takes physical possession of the hot beverage, any incident related to same would be the responsibility of the customer. Starbucks cannot control how graceful or clumsy the customer is.

    The real test in this case is whether Starbucks made a business practice of serving tea in a manner where a reasonable person would be likely to spill the hot liquid. I wonder if there was a security camera which caught the situation?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Even if Starbucks didn’t put a sleeve on the hot cup of tea, if there was a stack of sleeves on the counter, the sue-happy tea drinker has no excuse. Like I said upthread; just because Starbucks didn’t put one on the cup for you, it doesn’t mean you weren’t responsible for doing it yourself.

      I doubt the top was on improperly.If the barista had put the top on the cup improperly, chances are as soon as he or she picked up the cup to place it on the counter, it would have spilled liquid hot magma all over the barista.

      • Mr. Pottersquash says:

        problem is, how is she to test the tempature to determine if a sleeve is needed without picking it up?

        and if your saying we should always use a sleeve just to be safe, well then that duty would shift to Starbucks in a stander BPL analysis.

        • AnthonyC says:

          You could always touch the cup with your finger. That’ll give you plenty of information to decide whether you can safely and comfortably hold the cup in your hand.

        • veritybrown says:

          Um, maybe touch the side of the cup? Or at the very least, pause with your hand around the cup for a moment before you rush to snarf down a beverage that is designed to be served hot? Anyone who fails to exercise reasonable caution with a food or beverage that is served hot, and instead greedily tries to consume it without determining whether it is *too* hot for comfort, has only themself to blame if they are injured.

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          Touch the cup while it’s on the counter. If your fingers start to tingle within a few seconds, let go, grab a sleeve, and put it on. If it’s too hot to even hold for a second, ask the barista who managed to handle this lava all the way to the counter to put one on for you.

          I’m sorry, but idiots like this are the same ones who don’t check their prescriptions and then bitch and moan that they got the wrong one.

  10. Putts says:

    Only America can a negligent parent try to blame somebody else and seek a reward for their own stupidity.

    • Mr. Pottersquash says:

      are you kidding me? You think America is a nanny state you need to go to eurpoe…

      • AnthonyC says:

        Countries in Europe certainly have more government regulation, including regulation of the “nanny state” variety, but that has nothing to do with suing people. The US is a far more litigious society than Europe. We are far more concerned about liability- say, from people injuring themselves on your property- than they are.

        Actually, it may well be *because* the US has less regulation that lawsuits like this are more common. If there are clear rules and regulations about how hot coffee and tea should be, then there is no place for lawsuits- disputes between individual buyers and sellers- to arise on this issue.

        • Jevia says:

          Yeah, most countries in Europe don’t have this type of litigation.

          • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

            And the reason most European nations have far fewer lawsuits of this type clogging their courts? They adopt “loser pays” in their tort law. That is, if I sue you and I lose, you will get from me the cost of defending your suit, and vice-versa. That doesn’t happen in America, hence the reason you have all sorts of these suits clogging your courts.

  11. backinpgh says:

    The water they use for tea is rather hot…I tend to ask them to put some ice in it for me. That being said, when I worked at Starbucks I was trained to double cup AND add a sleeve to hot tea.

    • backinpgh says:

      Note: I’m not sure if that was corporate standard, it probably wasn’t, but from experience the baristas all knew the water was too hot for just a sleeve.

      • ExtraCelestial says:

        It’s not. That is a GIGANTIC waste of materials. Bad both for profit and the environment. :o( I can’t imagine how many extra cups your store must’ve burned through.

      • Karita says:

        We did the same at the Starbucks I worked at, for tea and Americanos. The water was so hot that WE couldn’t touch the cups to hand them to the customers.

        Now, on the rare times I go for coffee at Starbucks, I ask for an Americano with tons of room. I need to put in a ridiculous amount of milk to be able to drink it right away.

        So, my point is that I have trouble seeing a successful lawsuit here, due to the (wholly undeserved and ignorant) anger surrounding the McDonald’s case. But I’m also not surprised someone is suing. I don’t remember what temperature the water was, but I know it’s way too hot.

    • chiieddy says:

      Tea is double-cup but I believe the new standard is sleeve, so it depends on when the barista was trained. Personally, I prefer double-cup because I can put the used tea-bag between the two cups after it’s done steeping. The trick is not to juggle hot beverages in one hand with a baby in the other.

  12. says:

    What a bunch of scammers… maybe this Mom should be arrested for child endangerment.

  13. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Here’s my question to this lady and everyone else – I find it IMPOSSIBLE to take a sip of tea or coffee right after it’s poured.
    Here at work, I pour myself a cup of coffee and then I walk over to the water cooler and put a little bit of cold water in my cup. This is the only way I can drink it without burning myself.
    Either that, or I let it sit for about 10 minutes.
    Most people I see, can just sip the hot coffee within a minute – but I have no idea how they don’t burn their lips and tongue.

    In any case, another ridiculous lawsuit.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      Oh, so my questions is “How do people drink hot coffee/tea/soup without burning themselves?”

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        We wait 30 seconds. Not everyone needs instant gratification. I drink between 5-10 cups of coffee a day, from various delis, coffee shops, etc and have been doing so ever since I was old enough to hold a cup. I’ve never burned myself with hot liquid. Why? My parents taught me that hot liquids were hot.

        • NarcolepticGirl says:

          No I just mean, how is it possible that you don’t burn your throat/lips drinking hot coffee right after it’s poured? Do people develop ‘tougher’ skin or something?
          I actually don’t drink coffee/tea that often – maybe once a week. I wonder if that has anything to do with it.

          • Link_Shinigami says:

            I do quick sips on hot beverages to figure out if they are hot enough to burn or hot enough to go down without burning. I imagine most people do the same, and since not everyone is the same, I imagine some people have a higher threshold for what will and will not burn… Just my 2 cents

          • RvLeshrac says:

            Coffee should never be too hot to drink immediately after pouring. If it is, you’ve burned all the flavour out of the grounds and ruined the coffee.

    • Liam Kinkaid says:

      I absolutely agree. I always wonder how people can drink hot coffee right after it’s poured. I let mine sit as well, before I can even think about drinking some. I even like it after it’s gotten cold, as long as it’s not old and stale.

    • crunchberries says:

      I can’t speak for everyone else, but when I usually take a sip of something hot right away, I do get burnt. It just doesn’t register until later when my skin is all blistered in my mouth and by that time, I’ve downed at least half of my drink.

    • menty666 says:

      If I were to guess, I’d say they make it extra hot with the assumption you’re going to get in your vehicle/walk and take it elsewhere to consume. So if it’s 300 degrees now, by the time you get to your office, it’ll have cooled to a more drinkable temperature, but still be hot enough overall.

      • elangomatt says:

        wow, what kind of water is starbucks using that can get up to 300 degrees and still be liquid?

    • melaniem says:

      I used to know someone who ordered her coffee extra-hot. She was a little bit weird.

  14. pantheonoutcast says:

    Is it me, or does it seem that Brooklyn is disproportionately represented here at the Consumerist? It seems as though the entire boro is filled with self-entitled asses, loud-mouth publicity hounds and lawyer-happy responsibility shirkers.

    Oh, wait. It is.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      And here I thought it was just pseudo-ironic hipsters!

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Hipsters with trust funds and lawyer daddies…

        • ExtraCelestial says:

          It’s both hilarious and incredibly sad to see Brooklyn described this way.


          Score one, for gentrification. Next stop, Harlem. *double sigh*

  15. outlulz says:

    I’ve picked up a cup of tea without a sleeve on it from Starbucks and dropped it before (just back on the counter, it didn’t spill or anything). Those things are really freaking hot, it takes 20 minutes just to cool down enough to drink.

  16. alienmindtrick says:

    I’m with on this. The plaintiff KNEW before she entered that Fourbucks serves hot beverages. And while I loathe the company and their overpriced, underflavored coffees, I know that if I go into one there will be a mass of people, hot beverages and rapid movement. Looking for “The real test in this case is whether Starbucks made a business practice of serving tea in a manner where a reasonable person would be likely to spill the hot liquid.” sounds like something an ambulance chaser would say. No “reasonable person” would even begin to approach this in that manner.
    She went to Fourbucks. She got hot tea. She spilled it on her baby and she scalded it. She’s at fault. End of story.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I know it’s trendy for people to call it Fourbucks, but they’re not the only ones who charge $4 for a blended coffee drink. The locally-owned coffee shops do too. Every other coffee shop charges about the same price as Starbucks for the equivalent item.

  17. ap0 says:

    She probably had trouble sleeping at night, knowing that it was her fault her baby got badly burned. At least this way she can attempt to transfer some of the blame off her shoulders and hey, might win some settlement money while she’s at it. Who cares if the transfer of blame isn’t really justified?

  18. InsomniacZombie says:

    I’m not saying I agree with the lawsuit, but Starbucks keeps their tea water stupid hot. When I get tea from them it’s too hot to drink for at least a hot hour.

    • frank64 says:

      The correct brewing temp for tea is that hot though. You can brew it cooler, but it won’t taste as good, even when it cools down. Brewing temperature is just hotter than drinking temperature. If you drink tea you should know to let it cool down a bit.

      • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

        Uh, ideal brewing temperature varies from tea to tea. Green tea should be brewed at less than boiling, for example.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          I hereby award you One (1) Internets for winning this thread.

          I’m not sure why people constantly confuse the temperature at which you brew or steep something with the temperature at which you serve it.

  19. AngryK9 says:

    Breeding ourselves into stupidity, one cup at a time.

  20. vastrightwing says:

    The precedent is not unreasonable after you consider that all we’re seeing now are companies suing the living heck out of consumers for making copies, taking pictures, mentioning their names in blogs. Companies stealing homes and foreclosing on you even when it’s not legal to do so, companies suing other companies for bogus patent infringement, etc. etc. The woman is merely doing the same things which are being forced up us. I see nothing wrong here. Sure, the woman made a mistake, sure she should take responsibility for understanding hot coffee/tea is hot and can burn. But she can benefit from a sympathetic jury. She will employ a lawyer, a judge, some bailiffs, reporters, a support staff, she will get her 15 minutes of fame, Starbucks may settle and she’ll be a little better off. And in this economy, you need to come up with creative ways to earn a living. Companies are sure coming up with creative new fees and over billing us. This is the new economy.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      Yes, because if any company does something, then all companies should be punished for it. (This post was made under the assumption that yours did not contain an invisible SARCASM tag.)

      • vastrightwing says:

        I am being sarcastic. The people who think otherwise are also caught up in this line of thinking. I do not participate in this thinking. However, for people who do, I understand why. It’s everywhere.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      So, the logic being, “Everyone’s a selfish ass, so I should be too?”


  21. smo0 says:

    Why didn’t anyone call Emergency Child Services and have the kid removed?

    I swear, each time that happens – I feel a little better about the world I live in.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Because they don’t generally take people’s children away from them for making one mistake.

      • smo0 says:

        Orly. Law and Order taunt me that if you look at your kid the wrong way you can have him jacked by ECS! Also – they should be, it’s a sign of things to come!

        Red flags people!!!

      • veritybrown says:

        On the contrary, you can have your child taken away from you for any reason whatsoever, regardless of how frivolous, if a Children’s Services worker decides to do so. Likewise, parents who should never be allowed to see their children again are often allowed to keep their kids because they say the correct kiss-up things to their CS worker. I’ve seen this happen repeatedly in real life (not on Law & Order): kids being taken away because someone once saw the parent spanking the child; kids dying from neglect or abuse because the guilty parent knew how to sweet-talk the case worker into leaving the kid in the home. Lots and lots of sick, sad stories that demonstrate the prejudices and lack of good judgment that are rampant in Children’s Services.

        The good news is that if you have a good lawyer and the media on your side, you can usually get back a child that was taken away improperly. The bad news is that too many kids go on dying from abuse, and the CS worker gets, at most, a reprimand.

  22. menty666 says:

    Umm..that’s why they set it on the counter as opposed to handing it to you. Once their hand leaves it, it’s your problem.

    Having said that….when I was lugging around my little one, I’d get ice coffee instead just in case. In fact there was one cold winter day around 15 degrees or so and the barista asked about it, and I explained exactly this point that if I spill the ice coffee on him, he’d be annoyed. If I spilled hot coffee on him, he’d be disfigured.

    In most of the starbucks I’ve been into lately, the sleeves are right there if you want one.

  23. Thufir says:

    1) Black Tea, to properly steep, should be too hot to drink right away (close to boiling, but not boiling). If they use colder water, you get crappy tea.

    2) Drinking hot liquids OVER your child is a bad idea, period.

    3) A single Starbucks cup even with a sleve is still too hot to even handle. You really do need a second cup or an ice cube.

  24. satoru says:

    The suit won’t go anywhere. All Starbucks cups come with the disclaimer “The beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot”. Basically once they serve you the cup, you’re on your own if it’s hot/cold or whatever. You didn’t read the disclaimer? That’s too bad. The disclaimer is a CYA against cases like this.

    You’d have to replicate the conditions of the McDonalds case, where they documented that they wanted their coffee at 180F, they knew this would cause burns, but did it anyways and enforced it at their franchises. They’d have to prove this kind of willful negligence for the case to go anywhere.

  25. Macgyver says:

    It’s her own fault she spilled on her baby, no one else is responsible.
    It seems like now days, people don’t want to take responsibility for themselves, and want to blame someone else for their mistakes.

    People that bring up these type of cases and lose, they should be ordered by the judge to pay the defendants court costs and attorney fees. That should bring an end to lots of these frivolous lawsuits.

  26. lunasdude says:

    Look, I live in NM, where the lady sued McDonald’s and we were embarrassed by this stupid crap.
    The verdict was dramatically reduced later by a a more reasonable Judge.
    Ok people listen to the following, ANYTHING involving boiling water is going to be HOT WHEN SERVED.
    if you are to DAM DUMB to get that simple common sense thing in life then…………oh wait……. common sense… sorry..

  27. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    You know … I have better control over a hot beverage if it’s in a sleeve in my hand. If I was trying to balance a cup of hot tea on a tray, there would be a hot tea tragedy about half the time.

  28. swarrior216 says:

    Hot tea is hot.

  29. Benjamin Stearns says:

    This is the customer’s fault. She ordered the drink, and she decided to drink her hot beverage near her 5 month old child. If the court does its job properly, it will dismiss this stupid lawsuit, and charge this woman for Starbucks’ legal fees. It’s sad that this happened, but it is not Starbucks’ responsibility to look after this woman’s child. What’s next? If she gets into a wreck with her child in the front seat, and her child is killed, is she then going to sue the maker of her car? This is stupid.

  30. alienmindtrick says:

    My point in calling them Fourbucks is that prior to their rise, coffee shops charged a lot less. I was a resident of the Pacific Northwest when Starbucks came to Portland. Within 6 months, many of the remaining coffee shops which had a competing Starbucks nearby had raised their prices, too. Within a year, many of those had gone out of business and the few remaining were priced similarly to Fourbucks. The real shame, in my opinion, was the loss of quality; many of those gone out of business, small mom-and-pop shops in really neat niche locations, roasted on site. The smell of coffee being roasted just a short while before it’s brewed and in your cup is something that cookie cutter chains like Starbucks can’t offer. Nor do you get the same pleasure or experience from talking to the roast master as he explains where those particular beans came from, what he’s doing while he roasts them, and hands you one, still hot from the roaster, for you to sample prior to brewing a cup…just for you. That’s worth four bucks. Getting a cup of generic, overroasted coffee isn’t.

    • Mike says:

      “roasted on site”

      Most people have no idea how important this is to a good cup of coffee. They think all coffee should be as bitter as what Starbucks serves.

  31. Mike says:

    A coffee shop is not a safe place for young children. Anywhere people are holding hot drinks over children is a recipe for disaster. My wife and I decided that we will not bring our young children to coffee shops for precisely this reason. When you have kids you have to make some sacrifices. Coffee shops have people with hot drinks, laptops with cords that people and children can trip over and grumpy adults. It is hardly more appropriate for kids than a bar.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      What brand of bubble-wrap do you use on your kids?

      • Moosenogger says:

        Are you kidding? Sounds like they’re responsible adults and parents.

        I bet you’d be the first one to bring their parenting skills into question if they said their own child was burned by hot tea/coffee at a coffee shop.

  32. nodaybuttoday says:

    CAUTION: Contents is HOT. Shocking, you mean I have to be responsible for my own dumbass actions?

  33. Sonicjosh says:

    If they served her the tea cold would she of sued because it was suppose to be hot?

  34. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Who drinks their hot tea with their child directly underneath?

  35. duncanblackthorne says:

    Woman is criminally negligent. If her baby got burned it’s her own fault. What they should do is toss out her lawsuit and charge her for the injury to her baby.

  36. tape says:

    Grown-ass women dropping scalding hot beverages on their own babies and then blaming someone else for it make me weep for America.

    America: Even if it’s your fault, it’s someone else’s fault.

  37. Sam2k says:

    What happened to the days when parents would risk their own lives to save their child? If anything, this woman should be sued for not loving her child enough to hold onto the “hot” cup.

  38. teke367 says:

    I don’t think the issue here is how hot the tea was, but what responsibility Starbucks has to help prevent such situations. If its reasonable to assume that the tea is so hot that most people won’t be able to pick it up, then perhaps the lady has a case. If its near impossible to hold it, Starbucks should double cup, put sleeves on, or whatever it takes.

    Starbucks may not be at fault, doesn’t mean they aren’t liable (not saying they are either). If a person slipped on the spilled tea, they probably could sue Starbucks too, even if it happened so quickly that they didn’t have time to clean up the spill. Granted, it may only be worth whatever the hospital bills cost, but it is a cost of business.

  39. Roart says:

    Maybe companies like starbucks, Mcdonalds, Dunkin Donuts, should all just have people sign wavers at the door, or when they order. Would probably help keep the lawsuits down.

  40. physics2010 says:

    “To put the annual social cost of the U.S. tort system in perspective, it is equivalent to an eight-percent tax on consumption, a 13-percent tax on wages, the combined annual output of all six New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), or the total annual sales of the U.S. restaurant industry.” (KRC: Pacific Research Institute, “JACKPOT JUSTICE…” p. 28)

  41. Blious says:

    I wish more Judges would look at these people and order them to pay ALL court costs for both sides.

    Ridiculous court case that needs to be acted on by the law to ensure that future ridiculous lawsuits like this are NOT brought forth

  42. MikeVx says:

    It’s that time again.

    The following are the real-world rules for dealing with served food, ignore them at your peril:

    Until you have tested it to be otherwise:

    Hot liquids were delivered to you at 211F/99C degrees.
    Cold liquids were delivered at 33F/1C degrees.
    Hot foods were transported from the cooking point with no cooling time.
    Cold foods are one degree above the condensation point of nitrogen.

    While seldom literally true, using the above as assumptions will protect you from a few classes of injuries. You test the items until they fall within your consumption tolerances.

  43. DustingWhale says:

    Sounds like my mosted hated customer type, the “I’m self important, require $4 beverages, drive an SUV and put my baby on the floor in their car seat during all this.” Its a fucking human being, take them out of car seat and carry them with your hands.

    I’d argue this “mother” should get charged with reckless endagerment – putting a baby under an area that always has hot drinks over it is stupid.

  44. Anaxamenes says:

    That’s it!! I demand the Government make a “Do Not Drink Hot Beverages List” to go along with the “Do Not Fly” and “Do Not Call” lists. Who in their right mind grabs a cup of hot tea without testing how hot it is? She can put on her own sleeve if it’s too hot, and it’s Starbucks, the tea is HOT.

  45. PAZ002 says:

    If you don’t know that HOT tea is going to be HOT….you really shouldn’t be allowed out in the general public. You are just trying to get money for your own stupid act. So next time stick with the Iced frappaccinos and shut the hell up.

    and PLEASE have only one child, we don’t need more of your genes in this world.

  46. physics2010 says:

    I love it in restaurants where the waiter says “The plate is hot. Be careful the plate is hot.” Inevitably the customers all touch the plate. “Oh, ow. The plate IS hot.”

    • jenjenjen says:

      I always touch it. After the waiter has left. I have to know if they’re lying to me.

  47. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    Wow, another frivolous lawsuit. Isn’t that special. I was about to say that usually never happens here in Canada. Until I remembered this:

    I’m guessing the same mentality that sparked this woman suing Starbucks over her clumsiness was apparent in this suit: my precious child was hurt, and IT’S NOT MY FAULT, IT’S YOURS!

  48. Moosenogger says:

    Unless the cup was hot enough to give her 1st or second degree burns on her fingers, there wasn’t any reason to drop it like a hot potato. What probably happened was she grabbed it and dropped it because she’s a clutz, and now wants to get money from Starbucks. I’d love it if Starbucks happened to have video evidence of the scene – then they can prove she’s a lying sack of shit.

  49. Baelzar says:

    Oh sweet Christ on a CRUTCH, here we go again.

  50. COBBCITY says:

    “It’s not surprising that a parent who accidentally scalds their child with hot tea would end up in a courtroom.”

    Did you just say that a parent who ACCIDENTALLY scalds their baby NORMALLY ends up in court so this story is not surprising?

    Yes, you did.

    Who writes these openings? While a horrible event, I would like to see where parents who ACCIDENTALLY injure their child are arrested and hauled into court as the norm.

    (eye roll)

  51. UrIt says:

    i say child protective services should take the kid from a negligible mother who doesn’t understand what “hot” means

  52. UrIt says:

    i say child protective services should take the kid from a negligible mother who doesn’t understand what “hot” means and therefore endangering the child with her stupidity

  53. PupJet says:

    Seriously, if you go into a COFFEE shop, you can automatically expect the drink you get to be *gasp* HOT unless you order it cold, in which she didn’t do. And as many have stated, the following concepts come to most people:

    1) Item = Hot = Request Sleeve OR obtain sleeve for said beverage
    2) Item = Hot = Don’t hold above child
    3) Sip = Handling of Item = Hot = DUH!

  54. ajlei says:

    Well, I think she’s stupid anyway but it is company policy to put a sleeve or double cup a drink above 150F, ideally before the drink is even made. Much easier to slide a sleeve onto an empty cup than to try to grip it by the top trying not to burn yourself while you lift it and put a sleeve on.