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2nd Circuit Tosses Elderly Woman’s Hot Tea Lawsuit

Posted Nov 5, 2010 9:40 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An elderly woman who was burned when she spilled her Starbucks tea as she tried to open the lid won’t be able to pursue her $3 million lawsuit due to a federal appeals court ruling.

Rachel Moltner had contended the tea was in a double cup that changed the center of gravity and made the beverage more likely to tip, Reuters reports. But the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld dismissal of the suit in an unpublished summary order (PDF).

“We reject Moltner’s theory of negligence as infirm as a matter of law,” the appeals court said. The order cited a 2003 opinion that found double cupping is a method well known in the industry to prevent hot tea burns.

The appeals court also upheld the trial court’s exclusion of reports by three expert witnesses who supported Moltner’s design defect claim.

Moltner, who was 76 when she was burned from the tea, had required skin grafts, the Reuters story says. During her hospital stay, she suffered from bed sores and fell out of her bed, causing herniated discs.

David Jaroslawicz, a lawyer for Moltner, told Reuters the ruling likely ends his client’s suit. "The case was really about that Starbucks has a directive to employees that you should not double-cup because it changes the center of gravity and can cause the cup to tip over,” he said.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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