Judge Dismisses Hot Tea Lawsuit Against Starbucks

A judge in Illinois has thrown out a lawsuit filed against Starbucks by a customer who alleges she was burnt by some spilled hot tea. His reason: Just because tea is hot doesn’t mean you have a good reason to sue.

From news-gazette.com:

The facts of the suit were that [the plaintiff] went to the shop to study and purchased a large hot tea. According to her deposition, she wasn’t sure if the lid on the drink was securely in place. She took the drink to a table that she determined was wobbly. Getting up to change tables five to 10 minutes later, the table was jostled and the still-hot drink spilled on to her legs, burning them. She wasn’t certain if she or another customer bumped the table in the crowded business.

Her lawyer said the coffee company was negligent on four fronts — serving tea that was too hot; having wobbly tables that could cause a spill; not double-cupping the beverage; not securing the plastic lid.

But the judge asked the plaintiff’s lawyer a question he couldn’t answer: “What are they to do if people want hot tea? Not sell it in case somebody might spill it?”

He then moved on to dissect the plaintiff’s case, saying it was “pretty speculative” to assert that two cups versus one makes a drink less likely to tip over (especially since some lawsuits against Starbucks have alleged that the double cup throws off the center of gravity making it more likely to spill).

He also asked why, if the plaintiff was concerned about the security of the lid, did she just not remedy that situation herself.

“It seems to me if you’re aware of a condition and choose to do nothing for five to 10 minutes … that can’t be the proximate cause,” he said.

And since the plaintiff had no evidence showing how hot the tea was on that day or how hot the tea would have to be to cause the burns, the judge declared: “As a matter of law I find the fact that a hot beverage could burn you if you pour it on your skin does not stand for the proposition that it’s unreasonably and dangerously hot.”

The plaintiff had been seeking damages in excess of $50,000.

Earlier this month, a judge in NYC dismissed a similar lawsuit. However, in that case the plaintiff alleged that the double-cupping had been the cause of the spill.

Judge dismisses claim against Starbucks over hot tea spill [news-gazette.com]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.