Local News

Starbucks attorneys point finger at officer in spilled coffee case

Posted May 5, 2015 5:03 p.m. EDT
Updated May 5, 2015 5:44 p.m. EDT

— 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.