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Could a Starbucks tip jar have been the catalyst for a patron's death? On March 3, 2008, Roger Kreutz, 54, of Missouri was ordering up some caffeine when Aaron Poisson, 19, grabbed the barista tip jar and tried to escape the store, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports.
Kreutz caught up with Poisson and a fight occurred near Poisson's car. In the altercation, Kreutz was thrown to the ground when Poisson hit him with his car. Kreutz would later die from the injuries he suffered in the incident.
Poisson was apprehended and charged with involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to one year in prison. He had made away with less than $5 in the theft.
However, Kreutz's family believes that there was a second culprit besides Poisson: Starbucks.
Kreutz's family is suing Starbucks for wrongful death, claiming that Starbucks "invited criminal activity" by leaving tip jars out in the open around customers. Starbucks "did not employ security to prevent the perpetration of such crimes ... [which] invited the act of perpetration of said crime," the Dispatch reports.
Wrongful death claims are typically brought by the estate of a person who was killed due to fault of another. The laws differ from state to state though the elements are the same: the death of a human being which was caused either by negligence or the intent to harm.
Poisson is not named in the Starbucks tip jar lawsuit. It is not uncommon to sue a party for wrongful death even when another party is more directly culpable for the death. Most of the time, that's because one party actually has the means to satisfy a judgment (like Starbucks), while the other does not (Roger Kreutz).