Starbucks Not Liable To Pay For Hot Coffee Spill, Court Declares

Starbucks Not Liable To Pay For Hot Coffee Spill, Court Declares
Starbucks Coffee Rudolf Schuba / Flickr CC BY 2.0

On Monday, a jury decided that Starbucks was not responsible for the burns endured by a Raleigh police officer after he accidentally spilled hot coffee on his lap.


The coffee chain was exempted from paying for Lt. Matt Kohr’s medical fees and emotional suffering, with damages amounting up to $750,000. The decision came after 10 jurors said that Starbucks was not liable to pay for Kohr’s injury.

Both parties had agreed they would be willing to accept the verdict, which was read in the North Carolina court, even if it was agreed upon by majority of the jurors instead of a unanimous decision, according to ABC News affiliate WTVD.

Superior Court Donald Stephens stated that a unanimous hearing was improbable, since it was unlikely that 12 people would agree on the same verdict.

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He said, “In a democracy, we normally resolve matters of dispute or important matters by majority vote, frankly. We pass legislation, we elect presidents and governors, rule the people by majority vote. When things are really important we require a super-majority to make those decisions. The only place we require a unanimous decision is in the courthouse and courtroom.”

Kohr testified last week that the lid of his cup came off as he was sitting down, and the contents of the cup spilled on his legs and thighs. He froze in pain, and received urgent care for third-degree burns.

Kohr claimed the accident aggravated his Crohn’s disease, because of which a part of his intestine was removed, causing him and his wife great emotional suffering. Due to the burns he received, he was forced to work on and off as he had to make regular trips to the hospital.

Kohr has been a member of the police force for 20 years.

As reported by local TV station WNCN, the Raleigh, N.C., the jury announced that the burns were not a result of the hot coffee.

According to USA Today, Kohr’s psychiatrist testified that Kohr was suffering from difficulties controlling his anxiety, his depression and use of anti-anxiety drug Xanax.

A manager from the coffee shop said hot beverages served in venti cups should always be given to the customer with either a protective sleeve or a secondary cup. Although this practice wasn’t followed when Kohr was handed his coffee, it wasn’t enough to convince the jury to make the coffee chain liable.

According to ABC News, Daniel Johnson, Kohr’s attorney, said, “We’re disappointed.

“We appreciate the jury’s time and attention.”

After the verdict was announced, Kohr said, “I really appreciate their time, doing their civic duty, and helping us with our dispute.

“We thank everybody for the support and we’re looking forward to moving on and putting this behind us and moving forward.”

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