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Starbucks Wins Hot Tea Case, Not in Hot Water

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 04, 2010 6:58 AM

The largest coffee chain in the world just made a splash in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals -- over tea. The appellate court has agreed with a lower court ruling that Starbucks is not liable for burns suffered by a 76-year-old woman who spilled hot tea on her leg.

The hot food lawsuit, brought into popular culture by the Stella Liebeck suit against McDonald's back in 1994, refuses to die. Some cases are successful, many are not. According to a report by Reuters, this case began when Rachel Moltner brought her hot tea case against Starbucks after the cup she was drinking spilled onto her leg, causing burns that required a skin graft. While in the hospital, Moltner suffered additional complications and injuries.

One key component in this hot tea case was the fact that Moltner's drink was "double cupped." According to the plaintiff's argument, the double cup idea was defective, Reuters reports. In fact, Moltner's attorney, David Jaroslawicz, argued that the double cup actually changes the center of gravity and can cause the cup to tip over." Starbucks actually has a directive out to employees not to double cup for this very reason, Jaroslawicz told Reuters.

The court did not agree. Evidently, the use of the double cup "is a method well known in the industry as a way of preventing a cup of hot tea from burning one's hand." Jaroslawicz said the other side convincingly presented an "old lady knocking over her tea."

Don't be confused by a May hot tea case reported on this blog, that was actually another hot tea lawsuit against Starbucks. In that case, yet another Manhattan Starbucks was sued by plaintiff Zeynep Inanli who claimed that her tea caused her second degree burns. Clearly, the hot food lawsuit is still burning up American courts.

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