Jury: Starbucks not liable in officer's spilled-coffee suit

AP News
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Posted: May 11, 2015 2:53 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A jury in North Carolina ruled Monday that Starbucks is not liable for damages after a Raleigh police officer said he suffered third-degree burns from a cup of coffee spilling in his lap three years ago.

Lt. Matt Kohr had sought damages of up to $750,000 from the coffee company, but the jury decided 10-2 that Starbucks owed him nothing.

"We are pleased with the jury's decision as we believe our partners (employees) did nothing wrong," Starbucks spokeswoman Laurel Harper said. "The safety of our customers and partners will continue to be our top priority."

Local media outlets report that both parties in the lawsuit agreed to accept the decision even though it wasn't unanimous.

"The parties agreed to less than 12, and I think that's the right thing to do," Judge Donald Stephens told jurors before dismissing them.

Kohr and his wife declined to comment after the decision.

"We're disappointed," said Daniel Johnson, Kohr's attorney. "We appreciate the jury's time and attention."

Kohr said the lid popped off his coffee, which was free to officers in uniform, and the cup collapsed in his lap. He said the incident caused severe stress, triggering his Crohn's disease and leading to surgery to remove part of his intestine.

During testimony last week, Kohr told jurors he drove home to have the injury photographed before he went to an urgent care facility. He said he left Starbucks in his police car, got his truck from the police garage, drove home and had his wife take pictures of the third-degree burns on his inner thigh.

Tricia Derr, an attorney for Starbucks, emphasized that it wasn't until more than two hours after the incident that Kohr sought treatment.

The jury adjourned after deliberating on Friday, with reports indicating it was deadlocked 11-1.