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Woman Files Lawsuit After Coffee Burn, Mockery By Employees


A woman in the passenger seat of her friend’s vehicle was handed a tray full of hot coffee. The coffee slipped from the tray, fell into her seat, and caused burn injuries to her thigh and buttocks. The woman was in so much pain at the time of the injury, that she immediately got out of the car and began ripping off her leggings in full view of other customers and employees. Meanwhile, the employees could not contain their laughter as the woman jumped around the parking lot trying to rip off her scalding leggings.

While that may sound funny, like the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a slapstick comedy movie, the woman sustained nerve damage to burned areas and now has permanent scarring on her buttocks and thighs. Mutilation and deformity injuries do not go away. She will now have to live with the scarring in her private areas for the rest of her life. She is suing the doughnut shop for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Elements of emotional distress 

If you are not injured by someone physically, but only emotionally, you can file a personal injury lawsuit but the court must hold that the conduct is so egregious and contrary to public ideas concerning decency, that it occupies a rare place next to Pol Pot on the list of very bad things. In other words, the allegations must include conduct that is so cruel that it triggers a physical injury exception under the law.

However, in cases where physical injuries do occur, it is much easier to make an argument alleging the intentional infliction of emotional distress. In this case, the employees quite literally added insult to injury. However, is laughing at a woman who is jumping around a parking lot really so egregious that it constitutes extreme cruelty? Probably not. The standards in these cases are so high, that most emotional distress lawsuits are dismissed.

So, while a rider’s claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress can work in a lawsuit, as a separate claim, it is very difficult to make. In this case, the employees burst out laughing based on the reaction of the woman. If they openly mocked her or joined her in jumping around the parking lot, that would be one thing. But laughter is hard to control, even when it’s inappropriate, so the plaintiff will need to prove that the employees intended to cause more pain to the victim by laughing, not as a nervous reaction to an unexpected situation.

The rest of the allegations 

Coffee shops field these types of lawsuits all the time. They usually settle them. Mistakes happen. When the lid is not secured properly, the coffee can tip and spill. The employee committed the negligence, so the company is responsible. Unless the plaintiff poured the coffee on their own crotch or was otherwise reckless when accepting the coffee, the coffee shops won’t have much of a defense.

Talk to a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer Today 

If you’ve been burned by a hot cup of coffee through a drive-thru, chances are very good that you are entitled to compensation. Likely, the lid wasn’t fastened properly or the employee was careless when they handed the cup or tray over. The Miami personal injury attorneys at Payer Law can help litigate your claim and negotiate a fair settlement for your injuries and pain and suffering.


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