PHILADELPHIA – Starbucks prevailed in a negligence lawsuit after a woman claimed the coffee chain served tea that was too hot.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District ruled in Starbucks' favor in Karen Maneri’s lawsuit. U.S Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart entered summary judgment in Starbucks' favor and dismissed the suit.
“Since the danger was obvious no liability exists as a result of plaintiff’s claim of negligence based upon the allegation that the tea was too hot to be served,” Hart determined.
Maneri sued over allegations of negligence, product liability and breach of warranty. She alleged that Starbucks handed her extremely hot tea as she rolled through the drive-thru window. She put the cup in her car’s cupholder and drove home. As she pulled into her driveway, the lid came off and caused tea to spill on her leg, resulting in severe burns.
Hart first granted Starbucks’ motion to exclude Maneri’s expert, Jeffrey C. Lolli. While Lolli had more than two decades of experience in the hospitality industry and has held management positions at major hotels and casinos, his report was nothing more than speculation, Hart ruled.
“Lolli does not set forth any materials which establish an industry standard in this case," Hart wrote. "He does not connect his opinions to any specialized training or knowledge regarding relevant standards. Therefore, his opinion that the tea was ‘too hot’ is based on his own personal opinion.”
Hart also disagreed with Lolli’s opinion that the Starbucks barista’s double-cupping stopped the lid from being properly secured.
“There is no indication that this standard is a safety precaution,” Hart wrote.
Lolli also said that Maneri’s conduct (turning in her driveway) didn’t play any part in the lid falling off of her cup and the tea spilling. Hart determined that there’s no way Lolli could come to this conclusion factually.
While Lolli went as far as performing a test to prove his theory, Hart wrote that he doesn’t have the “specialized skills” or “knowledge” to perform such a test.
After determining that Lolli wasn’t a suitable expert, Hart also granted Starbucks’ motion for summary judgment.