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Jury decides Starbucks not liable in hot coffee lawsuit

Posted May 11, 2015

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— A jury reached a majority decision Monday not to award damages to a Raleigh police officer who sued Starbucks after he was burned by a spilled cup of coffee.

The jury decided 10-2 after nearly two days of deliberation in the civil case filed by Matthew Kohr and his wife, Melonie Kohr. The couple was seeking up to $750,000 in damages.

Both parties agreed to accept the decision even though it was not unanimous. Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens pointed out that it is uncommon for 12 people to be unanimous on anything.

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

Starbucks attorneys declined to comment. In an email, the company said, “We are pleased with the jury's decision as we believe our partners (employees) did nothing wrong. The safety of our customers and partners will continue to be our top priority." 

Matthew Kohr said a faulty cup handed to him at the Starbucks on Peace Street in Raleigh collapsed, spilling the contents across his lap. He said the trauma of the burn set off his Crohn’s disease, and he needed surgery to remove a portion of his intestine. He spent months on sick leave and struggled to return to work at his job as a lieutenant with the special operations division.

Melanie Kohr, who sued for loss of consortium, said his recovery was a challenging time for the couple.

However, defense attorneys argued that Kohr was battling with illnesses and anxiety prior to the incident. They also said in closing arguments that the Kohrs failed to show that Starbucks was responsible for the spill.

Outside the courtroom, Matthew Kohr thanked his family and friends for their support and thanked jurors for "coming together and taking the matter seriously, like we felt it was. I really appreciate their time doing their civic duty and helping us with our dispute."

He said he and his wife and looking forward to putting the case behind them and moving on.

Jurors declined to comment after they were dismissed.

Per Starbucks' policy, Kohr received 50 cups of free coffee over two months for being in uniform. In order for Kohr to accept it under department guidelines, he placed the equivalent amount of the cost of the coffee in the tip jar on every occasion.


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  • Deb Rodgers May 12, 2015
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    Why would someone w/ Crohn's even be drinking coffee?

  • Miles Rogers May 11, 2015
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    James if you had been there you would understand. 3:30 he gets to store. Waits orders coffee and cake. Pays his bill, and waits for coffee. Gets burned, goes to bathroom, leaves store, talks to his boss in the parking lot. Drives to the station, gets his truck, and goes home which was 20 minutes away. Gets home gets his uniform off, gets into cool tub, didn't help, got dressed, and called the closest urgent care. Went to Urgent Care. The first photograph taken by his wife was stamped at 5:27. He was IN the doctors office when the first photo was taken. You people that believe the media are little sheep. Yes I know the Kohr Family. Yes I know what happened. You all are completely wrong calling them names and siding with corporate America. Thanks to this stupid 10 jurors they just made a big mistake. Walk into Starbucks and get hurt, you will be SOL.

  • Thomas White May 11, 2015
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    I wonder if Mr. Kohr is still stopping by for his free coffee.

  • James Kirby May 11, 2015
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    Actually I have. And just about everytime they immediately want medical care. It certainly doesn't take them 2 hours to come to that conclusion. You're argument doesn't make any sense whatsoever on that front. So how would the RPD handle that situation in the ER since you seem so knowledgeable? Could he not have stopped at one of the police stations in the area that are very close to Peace St. and had them stow the weapon? I doubt that he couldn't. And you still have yet to say anything about the fact that he is asking for money for the inflammation of his disease due to this "accident" when he was drinking coffee which is known to inflame Crohn's. That's just ridiculous

  • Sammy Macloud May 11, 2015
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    He went HOME to take the pics, he didn't stop the car and take them w/ his cell. But regardless of what he did the jury came back (10 of them anyway) with the CORRECT verdict.

  • John Tavolacci May 11, 2015
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    Let's lighten up a little on the kohr's.... they saw the possibility of getting some easy money and tried to take advantage of it... It was the wrong thing to do and ultimately i think he realized it... he was gracious in thanking the jurors for their consideration and time... Let's move on folks, we need to forgive and forget...

  • Rob Douglas May 11, 2015
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    He probable didn't realize how serious his injuries were until he got home. Burns get worse.

    And I guess you haven't been around very many people who have a serious injury, because most of them are not in their right mind.

    And as for the weapon in the ER. I know for a fact that is not how RPD would handle the firearm situation.

  • Sherrill Craig May 11, 2015
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    The CORRECT verdict. Now, get the "plaintiff" to pay the court costs for this frivolous lawsuit. Bet that would keep people from suiting for silly reasons.

  • Ronnie Reams May 11, 2015
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    Having been in the Wake Med ER with a weapon, the nurse just called the Hospital Security, they did not have a PD at that time, and the Security officer, took it for safe keeping. My supervisor recovered it from them for me, before I left.

  • James Kirby May 11, 2015
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    I totally disagree. I would say most people would be in their right minds with 3rd degree burns. Are you telling me your first instinct in that situation or with any injury you knew to be serious wouldn't be to seek medical help but would be to delay medical help for 2 hours while driving around and having pictures taken? His wife, or anyone really, could have taken those pictures at the hospital easily. He was off Peace St. right? There are a number of hospitals within 15 minutes driving distance. Also happen to be a number of police stations around that area also. So you're telling me he couldn't have found a way to store his firearm there while he went for medical help? Now how do explain a man who is using the inflammation of a disease as reason for compensation, because it cost him months of being able to work and function, drinking coffee which is know to inflame and aggravate his disease?