Pennsylvania Record

Friday, December 13, 2019

Philly man gets settlement in hot coffee lawsuit against Wawa; Cup was defective, he said

State Court

By Nicholas Malfitano | Sep 2, 2019

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Wawa

PHILADELPHIA – A local man who sued Wawa over a cup of hot coffee that allegedly scalded and injured him has settled his claim with the popular and prominent convenience store chain.

On July 10, counsel for defendant Wawa filed a praecipe to mark the case as settled, with terms not being disclosed.

James Hall of Philadelphia initially filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on March 15, 2018 versus Wawa Beverage Company and Wawa, Inc., both of Wawa, Penn., and RPC Letica Corporation of Rochester Hills, Mich.

The main thrust of the litigation is that the defendants allegedly knew the model cup manufactured by RPC Letica and used by Wawa, the Model 24 HDC Cup, was defective, but took no action to correct the cup’s design and make it safe for consumers.

The suit stated on Feb. 25, 2017, Hall purchased coffee from a Wawa store and when holding the cup in his hand, the sides of the cup buckled, causing the cup's contents of scalding hot coffee to spill onto his lap, resulting in severe injuries.

Allegedly, Hall sustained serious, permanent, and painful injuries which include but are not limited to the following: “Severe burns on his groin, legs, and body including severe and permanent scarring, and disfigurement. These injuries have caused him severe emotional distress, mental anguish, anxiety, and have substantially impacted his self-esteem and confidence due to the disfigurement.”

Hall accused the defendants of being directly and collectively negligent and liable for his serious injuries.

“Defendant [RPC Letica] has known, and knew at the time of manufacture of the ‘cup’, that the paper cup used for scalding hot coffee posed a serious and imminent danger to the safety of persons using the cup for coffee,” the suit said.

Hall claimed RPC Letica was aware that the 24 HDC Model Cup was a type of cup that was likely to buckle and collapse when containing scalding hot liquid and when gripped, but nonetheless chose to market it as a safe cup for use by consumers.

“The cup is defective, because it lacks sufficient rigidity to prevent its collapse when being used in a foreseeable manner. The cup lacks sufficient rigidity because of the combination of its height, width, wall thickness, and the composition of its materials. This design causes the sides to buckle when normal pressure is applied to it. Defendant is thus strictly liable to plaintiff, pursuant to Pennsylvania Tort Law.”

From there, the suit alleged RPC Letica delivered the defective cups to Wawa, which then placed the defective HDC Model 24 Cup into the stream of public commerce and, according to the lawsuit, now became subject to strict liability for the cup’s defective design and manufacture.

The suit further maintained that Wawa had received previous complaints from customers of the HDC Model 24 Cups collapsing and burning them with hot coffee in the process, but continued to use the cup in its stores regardless. It also takes aim at the process by which Wawa brews and sells its coffee to customers.

“Defendant had a policy and system in place for brewing coffee at extremely high temperatures. The temperature of the brewed coffee at Wawa was unreasonably and excessively high when brewed. It is believed and therefore averred that Wawa brews its coffee at extremely high temperatures so that it could place the coffee into coffee urns for extended periods of time so that when customers pour a cup from the urns, the coffee would remain hot as though recently brewed even though it was not necessarily the case,” per the lawsuit.

Before settlement and for multiple counts of product liability and negligence against each individual defendant, the plaintiff was seeking damages in excess of $50,000, plus punitive damages, costs and interest.

The plaintiff was represented by Mark C. Schultz of Schultz Law, in Conshohocken.

The defendants were represented by Gerard X. Smith of Naulty Scaricamazza & McDevitt in Philadelphia, and Elizabeth E. Deemer of Levicoff Law Firm in Pittsburgh.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180301765

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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