Starbucks Pays $100,000 for Woman’s Hot Coffee Burns

Everyone likes a cup of hot coffee, especially healthy organic coffee. But be careful when you prepare or drink very hot coffee. A warning from WHO is that very hot beverages are associated with a higher incidence of esophageal cancer. It’s not what you drink but how hot it is served that increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus.

In reviewing the most recent scientific evidence over the past 25 years since its last analysis on the matter, the WHO concluded that coffee should no longer be considered a carcinogen and that it may actually have positive effects for your body when it comes to two types of cancers – liver and uterine cancers.

There was another significant finding: “Very hot” beverages “probably” cause cancer. This is mostly based on studies related to the consumption of a traditional drink called mate or cimarrón in South America where the tea can be taken at temperatures around 158 degrees Fahrenheit (or 70 degrees Celsius). That’s significantly hotter than people in North America or Europe usually consume their drinks.

So, if you are used to drinking your boiling hot coffee before it cools think again.

And when buying coffee house coffee you should also be aware of how hot it might be and if the lid is on tight when you buy for takeout.

In 1994 there was a famous lawsuit against McDonald’s brought by a 79-year-old woman who suffered 3rd degree burns when coffee she had just purchased at a McDonald’s drive through. She asked McDonald’s to pay her $20,000 which was the amount for medical expenses which included hospitalization and skin grafting as well as other expenses related to the injury. McDonald’s offered $800. When the woman engaged an attorney and sued her lawyer asked for $300,000 in damages and McDonald’s offered $90,000. Settlement was not reached and the case went to trial where the jury awarded the woman $160,000 for medical expenses and $2,700,000 in punitive damages.

One would have thought that the McDonald’s experience would have taught large restaurant and coffee house chains to be careful of how hot their coffee is. But apparently Starbucks has not caught on. USA Today reports a Florida woman severely burned by Starbucks coffee received a $100,000 award from a jury at trial.

A Florida woman who was severely burned after the lid popped off a cup of Starbucks coffee and spilled on her lap was awarded $100,000 for her injuries Thursday.

Joanne Mogavero, a mother of three, sustained first and second degree burns on her mid-section after the lid popped off a 20-ounce cup of coffee in 2014, pouring 190-degree liquid in her lap.

A Starbucks representative testified during the trial that the coffee company receives 80 complaints a month about issues with lids popping off or leaking.

In our article how, How Hot Is Starbucks Coffee, we cited expert opinion about hot coffee and burns.The Burn Foundation discusses hot liquid burns.

When tap water reaches 140º F, it can cause a third degree (full thickness) burn in just five seconds.

Hot Water Causes Third Degree Burns…

  • in 1 second at 156º
  • in 2 seconds at 149º
  • in 5 seconds at 140º
  • in 15 seconds at 133º.

How hot is Starbucks coffee? If the lady actually suffered 3rd degree burns the coffee was probably at least 140 degrees and more likely 150 or above.

Be careful with hot coffee and before you leave the takeout window make sure that your coffee is securely in the drink holder with the lid firmly attached. Then let your coffee cool just a bit before drinking.

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