A Raleigh police officer and his wife had hoped to get $750,000 in damages after a free cup of Starbucks coffee spilled in his lap and burned his inner thigh. But a North Carolina jury on Monday awarded Lt. Matthew Kohr nothing, finding that the company is not liable for his injuries in the 2012 incident, report local TV station, WTVD.
Kohr’s lawyer, Daniel Johnson, argued that the company had failed to comply with its own standards in serving the coffee, causing the lid to pop off and the cup to collapse. “Starbucks delivered coffee in an unsafe container. Starbucks delivered coffee in a 20-ounce cup with no sleeve — a cup with an improperly secured lid. (Really, there is a table where he could have gotten his own sleeve, but I guess police union rules forbade that.) Starbucks delivered coffee that failed to conform with their own security policy,” Johnson said.
According to The News & Observer he did not seek Urgent Care until two and a half hours after the accident, although his very first action after leaving work for the day was to get his wife to photograph and document the injury. With all due respect, it just doesn’t smell right. It certainly wouldn’t pass the “Straight Faith test.”
Speaking of which, this reminds me of a client of mine who was charged with fraud against the elderly. He solicited donations for this charity: Children’s Advocacy and Society for the Homeless, telling people to just make out the check to CASH! They did this to the tune of 120 thousand dollars. As we got closer to trial he brought in a picture of a Supremes cover band — three really attractive black women. The name of the group was Charidy. My associate said that he
would like to donate his body to Charidy. When my client said that is for whom he was soliciting donations, that was it. I told him that didn’t pass the straight face test. I could not look a jury in the eye and say that. I convinced him to plead guilty. He did.
Now for the rest of the story. He received five years probation and drove his probation officer (PO) nuts. The PO hated him. He showed up at his office at least three times per week. A PO’s usual complaint is that the probationers do not report in enough. They tried to violate his probation (and send him to prison) because he “disappeared three days over Easter.” I responded that so did Jesus and look what happened to him. The DA couldn’t stop laughing and backed off. He drove the PO so crazy that he told him if you pay the entire restitution of 120K, I will recommend termination of probation
(usually you need to wait until you have served 1/2 of the probationary period, in this case 2.5 years). He paid the 120k and was released from probation in less than 6 months. The squeaky wheel gets he grease and in this case the heave-ho. But I digress. Back to officer greedy-pants.
According to several articles, the guy did suffer some actual damage from the coffee, and had a witness, another cop (what are the odds?) who reported seeing the lid just pop off the cup “like a Jack-in-the-box” and the cup collapse. Maybe he just didn’t close it properly? I’ve had lids pop off my coffee. The jury said Starbucks should NOT have been liable for his injuries. “Nope.”
It probably didn’t help his case to have the publicity out there that he had originally valued his injuries at around 10 million. (His thigh is worth more than all the Kardashians’ thighs combined, including Bruce Jenner’s — or is it Brucina these days?) But, as he got closer to trial he was asking for ONLY $750,000. Bulls get fat, Bears get fat, pigs get slaughtered. By the way this is not the pejorative term for police officers that was popularized by SDS in the ‘60s. It is a description of this type of absurdly “hoggish” behavior. Karma is a bitch. —Mace
Mace J. Yampolsky is a Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist, 625 South Sixth St., Las Vegas, NV 89101; He can be reached at: Phone 702-385-9777 or fax 702-385-300. His website is located at: www.macelaw.com.