Personal injury lawyers for an Ottawa man have filed a suit against Starbucks. Hot coffee is brewing a Venti-sized problem for Starbucks after an Ottawa man alleged he was burned by a bumbling barista.
Gamal Elbanna seeks a cool $1 million in a lawsuit filed against the Seattle-based coffee company last week that claims he was — “either intentionally or accidentally” — pushed by a Starbucks employee.
The blow sent lava-hot java sloshing over Elbanna, who “sustained serious personal injuries,” his statement of claim says.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
It was St. Patrick’s Day when Elbanna made his allegedly ill-fated purchase at the South Keys Starbucks.
The catastrophic cuppa left him scarred and scared, he claims.
Elbanna suffered injuries to his left hand “as well as a severe shock to his system, together with a general wearing and tearing of all the muscles and ligaments of his body,” the statement of claim alleges.
He is also traumatized, depressed and haunted by “a diminished sense of body image, embarrassment and self-consciousness as a result of his scarring,” it’s alleged.
Starbucks failed, Elbanna claims, to warn him “of the danger posed by the hot coffee” and he alleges the company knew or should have known that the coffee was being served at dangerously high temperatures.
Those temperatures, he claims, are “far in excess of any reasonable temperature at which the coffee … could be suitable for immediate consumption.”
(A Starbucks coffee purchased by the Sun said “Caution hot” in block capital letters and in both official languages on the lid. The cardboard sleeve said, “Caution: Very Hot” while the cup itself said: “Careful, the beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot.”)
Elbanna also alleges the company staffed its store with improperly trained or incompetent baristas and that the store was too cluttered with tables and chairs.
Elbanna is being represented by Mississauga injury lawyer Sunish Uppal of UL Injury & Disability Law, the phone number of which is given as 1-8-444-IN-PAIN.
Uppal said he would seek Elbanna’s permission to speak about the matter, but he could not immediately reach his client.
Attempts to reach Elbanna directly were unsuccessful.
A Starbucks spokeswoman said the company had not yet been served with the lawsuit but was “very concerned.”
Starbucks promised to “thoroughly investigate the allegations once we have additional information.”
“The safety of our customers is our top priority,” the company said.
A HILL OF BEANS
Gamal Elbanna’s $1-million damages claim is a far cry from the infamous $2.9-million award an American jury gave to New Mexican senior Stella Liebeck, who burned herself on McDonald’s coffee in 1992.
(That award, however, was substantially reduced by the judge and the case was ultimately settled privately before an appeal could be heard.)
In Canada the damages claim seems wildly optimistic.
A Brantford, Ont. judge awarded just $8,000 to Melanie Lamky after a cup of Tim Hortons coffee scalded her in 2003.
Lamky had sued after the fifth cup jammed in the centre of a four-cup cardboard tray lost its lid and exploded in a moving Ford Explorer.
In his 2004 decision, the judge called it a “defensible lawsuit” and noted that all would likely have been well “had the Plaintiff placed the fifth beverage in the beverage holder.”
But Tim Hortons didn’t attempt to defend itself and Lamky won a default judgement against the coffee chain. She also got over $4,000 in costs.