The McDonald’s coffee cup case has become something of an urban legend as people continue to talk of the woman who supposedly made millions off the spilling of hot coffee. The case is wildly misrepresented and Stella Liebeck, 79, only walked away with an award of $640,000 — after eight days in the hospital for skin grafts and two years of medical recovery treatment. Starbucks is now facing a similar case, but the company is suggesting that Deanna Salas-Solano, 58, has misrepresented what actually occurred in a Denver drive through window.
In this case, Salas-Solano is arguing that she was not only severely burned but that the hot tea killed her dog. She says that she was given a cup of hot tea without a protective sleeve. She said that the lid was not on fully and that it spilled on her: “Once Plaintiff received the cup of tea into her hands, the hot temperature of the cup began to burn her hands . . . Hot tea began to spill out of the cup through the unsecured lid and onto Plaintiff’s body.”
She says that her dog then jumped into her lap as the was “writhing and moaning in pain.” As a result, the tea poured on the dog. After being taken to an animal hospital, the dog allegedly died from burns. She also alleges that she suffered second degree burns that required skin grafts on her thighs and stomach.
Starbucks however has a videotape that it says “clearly contradicts the claims made by the plaintiff.” Fox 31 Denver says that it saw the videotape and that the cup not only had what appears a sleeve but Salas-Solano is clearly speaking on a cellphone while jugging the driving, the dog, and the tea.
It shows Salas-Solano on her cellphone with her dog in her in her lap as she buys the tea.
The video also shows the hot tea did have a hot sleeve and it appears the lid was secure, though the video is not conclusive.
In the video, it’s hard to tell if Salas-Solano grabs the cup by the hot sleeve or by the lid when she accidentally spilled it.
It’s hard to determine if she spilled the tea because of the cup’s hot temperature or because she was distracted by her cellphone use or if perhaps her dog bumped into the cup while he stood in her lap.
Of course, she can certainly argue that such conduct is foreseeable in a drive through window and that the tea was clearly too hot when it can cause such burns with a spill. She is seeking over $100,000 in damages.