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Parents, Not Starbucks, Liable for Child's Lost Finger

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Sadly for the parents of a child in Illinois that lost his middle finger due to an injury at a Starbucks, the Seventh Circuit unanimously refused to overturn the lower district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing the claim over the child's lost finger.

The court found that Starbucks could not be held liable due to the fact that the child was being supervised by his parents at the time of the injury. Despite the danger inherent in the structure at the Starbucks that contributed or caused the injury, the appellate court agree that it was the parent's, and not Starbuck's, fault. The appellate opinion explains the seemingly harsh result:

" ... is because the responsibility for a child's safety lies primarily with its parents, whose duty it is to see that his behavior does not involve danger to himself."

What's This Case About?

Briefly, the Roh family went to a Starbucks. While on their way out, the parents were not watching as their children allegedly were using the line stanchions as a jungle gym. When one fell, it crushed one of the Roh child's fingers, requiring amputation.

The Roh family filed suit against Starbucks asserting that the stanchions were a danger and the cause of their child's injury.

Illinois Parents: Watch Your Kids, or Else!

Under Illinois law, the Circuit Court explained in Roh v. Starbucks, "a parent's duty to supervise absolves a defendant of liability where an injury is not foreseeable unless a parent or caretaker fails to properly supervise a minor child." Basically, if an injury befalls a child due to their own conduct while the child is with their parents, it's a parent's fault if the parent could have prevented it.

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