Local News

Jury decides Starbucks not liable in hot coffee lawsuit

Posted May 11, 2015 11:36 a.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2015 2:29 p.m. EDT

— 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.