Matthew Kohr’s lawsuit against Starbucks has gone to the jury. The lieutenant in the Raleigh North Carolina Police Department is suing the company for $750, 000 after he spilled a free cup of coffee in his lap and burned himself in 2012.
Sound familiar? It should. Remember the woman who won millions in a lawsuit against McDonalds back in the 90s after she spilled a hot cup of coffee in her lap. That woman suffered horrible burns all over her legs and the jury in that case found that McDonalds gave her a cup of coffee that was way over the temperature limit that any reasonable person should expect.
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Kohr also spilled a cup of coffee in his lap after getting it for free from a Starbucks. The police lieutenant maintains that he suffered third degree burns which aggravated his Crohn’s disease and that the incident has left him sleepless and caused him to suffer from anxiety. He also claims that the incident has led to a disruption in his marital relations with his wife.
In his testimony Kohr said, “I didn’t know it was that hot.”
His wife Melanie testified, “There was this black cloud hanging over him, and he would try so hard to get out of that and go back to work. It was the most challenging year of my whole life.”
Kohr’s doctor testified, “Nothing was making him better. He was deteriorating. He wasn’t eating. He was losing weight. He was malnourished and ended up in the hospital.”
Starbucks’ lawyers counter that Lieutenant Kohr’s problems result from his ongoing illness and not from spilling the coffee. Tricia Derr, a Starbucks attorney, told the jury, “We’re talking about an extensive disease and an extensive process. And, ladies and gentlemen, we don’t believe it had anything to do with a free cup of coffee.”
She also pointed out that Kohr waited 2 ½ hours after the incident before seeking help. “You didn’t go the emergency room, ” Derr grilled Kohr. “You didn’t go to urgent care. You went to get your truck.”
So why did the cop get the free coffee? It was part of a Starbucks promotion in which a police officer received 50 free cups of coffee over two months. Kohr put the value of each cup into the tip jar to abide by department rules against accepting gratuities.