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Java World? Starbucks Sued Over Hot Tea

By Jason Beahm | Last updated on

Starbucks has been sued by a customer who alleges she suffered second degree burns after being served tea that was too hot.  Plaintiff Zeynep Inanli claims that she ordered a tea at a New York Starbucks that was "unreasonably hot in containers that were unsafe," causing her the injures, which also let to pain and mental anguish.  Inanli ordered her drink at the Starbucks at 685 3rd Avenue in Manhattan.


The Huffington Post interviewed New Yorkers on the street to get their feelings on the Inanli case, and their opinions were split.  They certainly expressed a degree of skepticism, but said that it would depend upon the entire situation and how hot the tea was.

Perhaps you remember a conversation between Kramer and his high profile attorney, Jackie Chiles on the TV sitcom Seinfeld. In the case of plaintiff Zeynep Inanli, it appears that life imitates art. First, a small refresher course:

JACKIE: Yeah that's going to be a problem. It's gonna be a problem for them. This is a clear violation of your rights as a consumer. It's an infringement on your constitutional rights. It's outrageous, egregious, preposterous ...

JACKIE: Now did you put the top on or did they put the top on for you?

KRAMER: No. They put the top on.

JACKIE: And they made the top. You didn't make the top did you?

Retailers periodically face lawsuits for serving beverages at temperatures which customers say are too high. However, this does not mean that they are liable for every injury caused by a hot beverage. In order to find liability, the jury must find that the retailer was negligent and violated its standard of care. Examples include beverage tops that are faulty, or beverages that are served at scalding hot temperatures. 

In 1994, McDonald's was sued by Stella Liebeck, an Albuquerque, New Mexico woman who was scalded with the restaurant's coffee. A jury awarded Liebeck $2.86 million dollars, after it was revealed that McDonald's had been keeping coffee at dangerously hot temperatures and already knew of a series of burn injuries. Liebeck and McDonald's later settled the case. The case became one of the biggest legal urban legends; many people still associate the case with frivolous lawsuits, despite evidence to the contrary. 

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