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A Florida woman was awarded $100,000 by a jury in her case against Starbucks stemming from a 2014 hot coffee spill injury. Joanne Mogavero, a 43-year-old mother of three, filed suit after the lid to her coffee popped off while it was being handed to her from the Starbucks drive-thru window. The 20-oz.190 degree coffee spilled in her lap, resulting in first and second degree burns.
Of the $100,000 jury verdict, a little over $15,000 was awarded for the actual medical expenses, while the remainder was awarded for pain and suffering. Starbucks has stated that the company is considering appealing the verdict.
Hot Coffee Hubbub
Over the years, there have been numerous hot coffee spill and burn lawsuits. One of the more common claims in these cases involves the lids popping off to-go coffee cups. Quite often there is public backlash against these cases, with commentators calling these cases frivolous before understanding the facts. The famous 1994 McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit that resulted in $2.8 million dollar verdict is the perfect example of a case often cited as frivolous by those that don't know the facts. The plaintiff in the McDonald's case suffered severe burns not just to her legs, but also to her genitalia.
Not all coffee spill and burn incidents result in legal liability, and frequently, these cases do lose. However, severe burns can take several weeks, or longer, to heal and cause immense amounts of pain. When a company is negligent, and that negligence is what causes the spill and burn, it is only right for a company to be held liable for their negligence in court.
In Mogavero's case, it was revealed that Starbucks receives approximately 80 complaints per month that coffee cup lids popped off. Shockingly, the company's attorney argued that despite that statistic, the number of complaints was not significant enough to warrant employees providing warnings to consumers. It would seem that with all the complaints per month, a reasonable company would implement policies to not only warn consumers, but also require employees to test a lid's security before handing it through a drive-thru window.