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Starbuck’s Hot Tea Lawsuit Equals McDonald’s Hot Coffee?

Starbus Hot Tea


I know you have heard of the McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case which has been twisted by the insurance industry into the mantra in the debate over tort reform.  The movie talks about how Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants is misused to describe a frivolous lawsuit and referenced in conjunction with tort reform efforts.  Whether it is McDonald’s, the insurance industry, or the United States Chamber of Commerce (which is not a government agency, the members are large corporations). They have distorted the facts of Liebeck’s case to the point that what the public believes is nowhere close to the actual facts.


The true facts about this case was finally given justice when the HBO documentary film titled “Hot Coffee” was released.  Most people believe Ms. Liebeck’s (the victim) burn severity was minimal. This is not the case. Look at the burns when you watch the movie and your stomach will turn. Another misconception is that this was a get rich scheme. She originally only asked McDonald’s to pay her medical expenses and lost wages.  When they didn’t she was forced to file a law suit to get payment for the $160,000.00 in medical bills. I bet you didn’t know the injuries were that significant. The most disturbing fact is that McDonald’s required coffee to be served at 180º – 190º even though they knew there was a strong possibility of severe burns.


This time, Starbucks is the main character in this drama. Christina Sturgees suffered second-degree burns after being scalded by a cup of Starbuck’s hot tea.  In August 2009 she bought a Venti green tea at a drive-thru at a Seattle Starbucks.  After taking her first sip, the lid came off and hot tea poured over her immediately blistering her skin.  She filed the lawsuit in King County Superior Court and Sturgees attorneys claimed that a barista didn’t seal the lid atop her cup of hot tea.  This cleared the way for her injuries.  It is alleged that Starbucks was aware of the defects in its cups and that other customers have been burned.  Sturgees later obtained skin grafts and underwent other surgeries due to her injuries, according to the lawsuit filed.


Attorneys Kristin Houser and Rebecca Roe of the Seattle firm Schroeter, Goldmark & Bender are writing the court claiming that Sturgees should be compensated for her medical expenses and lost earnings, as well as her pain and suffering.   They added that Starbucks was negligent and the tea cup was dangerously poorly designed.  According to her attorneys, “Starbucks was aware of incidents involving serious burns from its tea and coffee throughout the country and failed to take appropriate steps to remedy the danger.”


Starbucks has not yet responded in the court and according to their spokeswoman Maggie Jantzen, the company is reviewing the lawsuit and stated that Starbucks takes the safety of its customers and workers seriously, and asserted the company is “confident the tea is brewed to industry standards.”  They have until mid-September to make an initial response to the lawsuit.  Let’s wait and see to what will happen to this case.  How will this lawsuit end? Whatever the result I pray that the true facts will be made known to the public and not distorted as they were in the Hot Coffee case.


About the author: Mike Schafer

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