Drinking, Lawsuit of the Day, Ted Frank, Tort Reform

Lawsuit of Fifteen Years Ago a Few Days Ago: Inanli v. Starbucks

Exciting news. Starbucks has just launched its new However-You-Want-It Frappuccino® product, “allowing customers to create a blended beverage that is uniquely their own…. the same way they customize their favorite Starbucks espresso beverage.”

Sounds delicious! But if you order your Frappuccino with extra ice, and then experience brain freeze, don’t turn around and sue Starbucks.

Or maybe do turn around and sue Starbucks? Even though lawsuits based on allegedly unreasonable beverage temperatures have become national jokes, memorialized in popular culture (e.g., Seinfeld episodes), they still keep getting filed — and, presumably, settled.

The latest lawsuit has been filed against Starbucks, for excessively hot tea….

This lawsuit gave us flashbacks to Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, the 1994 lawsuit by a woman who sued McDonald’s after she got burned by coffee that was “defective,” i.e., too hot. From Reuters (via Gothamist):

Starbucks Corp has been sued by a customer who allegedly suffered second-degree burns after being served tea that was too hot.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff Zeynep Inanli was served tea that was “unreasonably hot, in containers which were not safe,” at a Starbucks store at 685 Third Avenue in Manhattan.

Third Avenue, between 43rd and 44th Streets. To our friends at Davis Polk and Simpson Thacher, consider yourselves warned….

As a result of Starbucks’ negligence, the plaintiff suffered “great physical pain and mental anguish,” including the burns, the complaint said.

The plaintiff seeks unspecified damages.

But she will happily settle for a lifetime supply of Starbucks pumpkin loaf, which is unspeakably delicious. We eat it for breakfast every day, along with a venti coffee.

Some advice for Tea Party people: don’t get your supply at Starbucks. Unless you’re just using it for hurling over the White House fence.

P.S. We surfed over to Overlawyered, to see whether they might have an indignantly funny take on the case, but Ted Frank’s reaction was surprisingly muted. C’mon, Ted — where’s the outrage?

UPDATE: Eric Turkewitz has a different take on this case. The plaintiff is claiming that the lid to her tea was improperly secured.

Personally speaking — I think Elie disagrees with me (we’re chatting about it here in the office) — I’m not terribly sympathetic to this whole “loose lid” argument.

I’ve received coffee at Starbucks with a loose lid on countless occasions. What did I do upon noticing this? I secured the lid…..

Yes, tea is hot, too: Zeynep Inanli v. Starbucks [Overlawyered]
Starbucks Sued by Woman Burned by Hot Tea [Gothamist]
Starbucks sued over hot tea alleged to cause burns [Reuters]
Starbucks Launches However-You-Want-It Frappuccino® Blended Beverage [Starbucks]

(hidden for your protection)

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