A Jacksonville jury ruled this week that Starbucks must pay $100,000 to a local woman who suffered first- and second-degree burns after a cup of Starbucks coffee spilled on her.
Joanne Mogavero’s lawsuit said that she drove through the Starbucks at the River City Marketplace in July 2014. After an employee handed her a 20-ounce coffee, the lid popped off and 190-degree coffee spilled on her mid-section, according to the lawsuit. The coffee left permanent scarring, and she paid about $15,000 in medical costs, according to court documents.
Starbucks had earlier argued in court documents that a judge should dismiss the case, saying that it wasn’t the company’s fault that the coffee spilled because Mogavero was holding the cup when it spilled. The judge denied the company’s request and let the case go to trial, and a jury disagreed with Starbucks, finding that the company bore 80 percent of the responsibility for the spill.
A Starbucks spokesperson emailed, “As we said in trial, we stand behind our store partners (employees) in this case and maintain that they did nothing wrong. We’re considering an appeal.”
The lawsuit didn’t allege the coffee was too hot but that the cups were prone to popping off. Because the lids compress the cup, they pop off easily when someone grabs too high on the cup, said Steven Earle, one of Mogavero’s attorneys. Because of the compression, the coffee then spills out.
In Mogavero’s case, he said three-quarters of the coffee spilled out, and because she was sitting in a car, the coffee sat on her stomach, thighs and groin, scalding her skin.
A plastic surgeon said that Mogavero would have to live with the scars, Earle said.
A Starbucks representative testified that the company receives about 80 complaints a month about leaks and lids popping off, Earle said.
“Our hope with this is to raise people’s awareness that this is a real danger,” he said. “Starbucks kind of never took any responsibility.”