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Starbucks attorneys point finger at officer in spilled coffee case

Posted May 5, 2015

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— Attorneys for Starbucks, the defendants in a Raleigh civil suit, went on the offensive Tuesday in opening statements in the case of a police officer who spilled hot coffee on himself.

"How does someone who knows their coffee is hot, who has had 50 cups of free coffee in the last two months, how does that person spill their coffee?" asked defense attorney Tricia Derr.

Matthew Kohr, a lieutenant with Raleigh police's special operations division, and his wife, Melanie, are suing the coffee chain, for injuries he suffered and the emotional toll of his recovery. After Wake County Senior Resident Judge Donald Stephens agreed to allow for punitive damages as well, the case could be worth $750,000.

Kohr says he was given a faulty cup at the Starbucks on Peace Street in January 2012. He says the lid popped off and the cup folded in on itself.

"He jumped up. The pain was immediate and unbearable," Kohr's attorney Daniel Johnson told the court.

"What that burn did, the stress of that burn, the trauma of that burn set off his Crohn's Disease in a way that he had never experienced it before."

"It was horrendous. It was the most intense, extreme pain that I'd ever had in my life," Kohr said.

Derr argued that it was Kohr who was negligent and that it was his pre-existing condition the caused his problems.

"He had been in treatment for this for 20 years." she said. "He had ulcers all through his stomach. He had a lot of problems with what they refer to as flares."

Kohr claims he suffered burns and blisters and required surgery to remove a portion of his intestine. His wife is seeking compensation for a loss of companionship.

"As he withdrew, Melanie lost her husband," Johnson said. "He was somebody different than who she knew before. She was trying to help him, but he was just not there for her."

In his testimony, Kohr said he felt like he was not able to be a husband or a father during the 18 months of his healing process.

23 Comments

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  • John Tavolacci May 10, 2015
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    You are an EMBARRASSMENT to the Police Force!

  • Norman Lewis May 10, 2015
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    When Home Depot sells a saw, I bet they don't expect to be sued because someone cut their hand while cutting a tree limb and I bet Sears does not expect a lawsuit when someone cracks their knuckles with a wrench. This type of lawsuit is incredibly dumb. Any real adult assumes responsibility for the consequences of their actions. I know better than to put a cup of hot coffee between my legs and drive especially after the McDonalds rip-off lawsuit from recently. If I buy a gun from Smith & Wesson will I sue them if I use it inappropriately? This officer has got to be intellectually deficient to expect someone else to pay for his inexcusable lapse in judgement.

  • Nicolle Leney May 6, 2015
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    Except, the most recent article (http://www.wral.com/raleigh-police-officer-suing-starbucks-says-spilled-coffee-worth-10m/14627868/) says that Kohr actually TOLD the jury that he deserved more than the $750K that is allowed in the civil suit (I'm not sure why one places says $50K and another says $750K). I don't think WRAL is in the habit of making up quotes. Exact quote in the article: “We said, ‘Well, what’s our life worth? What’s a year and a half or two years of your life worth?’” Kohr said. “I thought it was worth $10 million.”

    Any shred of sympathy I had left for this guy is gone with that comment.

  • Terry Watts May 6, 2015
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    Burnt weeny sandwich...

  • Rob Douglas May 6, 2015
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    Haha Mr. Darookie, you so funny.

  • Rob Douglas May 6, 2015
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    haha I don't think I ever said anything about people not being able to talk about it. I wouldn't call $50k a money grab from multi-billion dollar company by any means. If he were trying to get a big payout, I would think that he would be asking to at least get more than he makes annually in salary.

    Maybe he is just trying to cover medical bills for a bowel resection and deep tissue burns.

    Starbucks has already admitted that this has happened 50+ times. So it has clearly happened before. Just because it's a small percentage doesn't mean that it didn't happen.

    It's easy to sit behind your computer and call him a money grabber when you weren't the one that spent over a month in the hospital.

  • Mike DaRookie May 6, 2015
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    which facts are you speaking of? just because a media outlet reports it doesn't make it fact. fox reported that a black suspect was shot in the back following a foot pursuit in baltimore. was that fact? commentors on this story say you shouldn't set coffee in your lap while driving causing it to spill in your lap (like this officer did). is that fact? i do know most of the facts of this case and can tell you have none of the facts with the exception that a lawsuit was filed. that last sentence is actually a fact.

  • Mike DaRookie May 6, 2015
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    oh yeah. 50k after attorney fees is definitely a lottery win there! maybe he'll buy his own island with his proceeds!

  • Mike DaRookie May 6, 2015
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    i am pretty sure that the attorney was execising hyperbole there. seeing as how officers in raleigh patrol division work 12 hr shifts, thats 14 working days a month. do the math. he would have to be getting 2 cups of free coffee per day every day, no missed work to get 50 cups a month. fyi it is against policy to accept gratuities while on duty in most departments but i ask you what should a cop do after offering to pay for the coffee and being refused by the business? argue with them? most cops i see will put money in the tip jar instead. they get a "free" cup of coffee and the barista and other employees get a tip. calm down lisa. take some meds

  • Sherrill Craig May 6, 2015
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    Yes, I do know people with Crohn's and caffeine ( coffee, sodas) are contraindicated in the treatment of Crohn's. Some people with Crohn's are able to tolerate caffeine.

    The facts, as presented, indicate that this case is spurious in nature and a money grab by the plaintiffs. They filed the case, it is of public record and the public is allowed to comment on it, in public forum.

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