Ontario Court of Appeal Ruling
A Starbucks employee has landed in hot water in a lawsuit after a recent ruling of th
e Ontario Court of Appeal allowing a Brampton, Ontario teenager to proceed with her lawsuit against Starbucks, the store manager and the barista for negligence over a scalding incident that took place in 2015. In the suit, the Plaintiff alleges that the employee negligently poured hot water on her hands, causing impairment and permanent injuries.
Coffee chain lawsuits
While the latest scalding lawsuit against a coffee chain is not news, this decision is quite significant for Ontario workers and their employees. The decision makes it very clear that when someone is injured as a result of employee negligence, that employee can be held liable.
In the December 22, 208 ruling, the three-judge panel offered a ruling in the lawsuit that Starbucks and its employees, “failed to take re
asonable or any care at all to ensure that the Plaintiff would be reasonably safe while attending Starbucks,” and to “prevent injury… which they knew or ought to have known.” It stated further that Starbucks employed, “incompetent servants or agents and/or staff to ensure the safety of the Plaintiff,” and failed to “instruct properly… their employees in proper methods and procedures to be used to regulate water temperatures and handle hot beverages. “
This new ruling rejects an earlier agreement to strike the statement of claim against the barista and store manager. At that time, the lower court judge wrote, “The general rule remains that the employees are not liable for what they do within in the scope of their authority on behalf of their corporation.”
In the 2015 incident, The Plaintiff asked the barista to fill a baby bottle with warm water. According to the Plaintiff’s statement, the employee filled the bottle with scalding hot water and spilled water on her hands causing severe and permanent injuries.
It remains to be seen whether or not any judgement will be enforced against the employee herself since Starbucks is such a large corporation that was likely insured at the time of the alleged incident.
Lawsuits against coffee shops
Nonetheless, scalding suits continue to emerge; sometimes legitimate cases and sometime urban lore partly on account of the now famous 1994 case against McDonalds in New Mexico. The case, which was examined in a 2011 documentary, awarded a woman close to $3 million in damages after she spilled hot coffee on herself.
If you have been injured by the carelessness of a store employee or due to another person’s negligence, please take the time to call us to learn about your rights. We understand, we care and we are here to help.