Vol. 1, Issue 12, August 5, 2003
Seven-Eleven Sued Over "Big Gulp" Coffee Burns
The convenience store chain Seven-Eleven, Inc. is being sued for $45 million dollars in medical costs and punitive damages by a customer who alleges that he received severe burns from a cup of coffee served at a St. Louis, Missouri branch of the store.
"My client has sustained third-degree burns over ten percent of his body. And in a very sensitive area, if you know what I mean," said attorney Mark Offman, representing the anonymous client. "We are accusing the Seven-Eleven corporation of deliberately producing an unsafe product which puts thousands of customers at risk every day."
Spokesmen for the company denied the validity of the charges.
"We consider this to be an entirely frivolous lawsuit," Seven-Eleven said in a press release last Friday. "Everyone knows that coffee is hot, and our delicious Café Select blends provide a gourmet experience to millions of satisfied customers every year. Also, everyone knows that lawsuits about coffee are frivolous. Did I say frivolous? Because that's the word to use."
The best known such case took place in 1994, when an 81-year old woman sued McDonald's for damages sustained from a cup of scalding coffee. Despite the woman's genuine injuries, and the fact that McDonald's was indeed shown to serve coffee at a temperature which causes third degree burns in two to seven seconds, the lawsuit has been widely held up as an example of a frivolous lawsuit.
In this instance, there are some differences.
"For one thing, Seven-Eleven is selling Big Gulp coffee cups with 64 fluid ounces of scalding hot coffee," said legal analyst Mira Schomm. "In addition, like McDonald's, they sell the coffee at a temperature which exceeds industry standards by at least 20 degrees and which can cause serious injury in seconds." The industry allegedly uses asbestos fiber cups to prevent them from burning or melting, but independent analyses of cup composition have been foiled by a mysterious series of accidents.
What is somewhat unusual about this case is the fact that the coffee did not in fact spill, but burned the plaintiff when he set the cup down between his legs while driving. The cup apparently melted a hole in the seat as well, a particularly damaging piece of corroborating evidence.
"Actually, my client is almost lucky this happened," said Offman. "Sixty-four ounces of coffee is enough to kill a man, especially that nasty Cherry Crème blend. Imagine what would have happened if he'd drunk it."
"Frivolous," said Seven-Eleven spokespeople, "that's with two O's. Write that down."