I am a huge advocate of personal responsibility. Take responsibility for the decisions and choices you make before you expect anyone to take responsibility for you. Simple really. You would think that is all that needs to be said but read on about the woman who is suing Starbucks and you will see why more on this subject needs to be stated.
There is a woman in New York that is suing Starbucks because she dropped hot tea on her baby and it scalded her baby. Since I haven’t seen the official lawsuit, I can only go by what is written in the paper on the subject. There are plenty of articles and her lawyer has commented so I am going by the comments her lawyer has made only and leaving the editorial stuff alone.
The lawyer has stated, this woman has a lawsuit due to the following:
1. Starbucks served her hot tea improperly
2. Starbucks failed to put her cup of tea in a drink tray when it was served
3. Starbucks failed to put a protective sleeve on the hot cup of tea when it was served.
There is debate over the length of time between the incident, which occurred in October 2009, and the filing of the lawsuit, which occurred in July 2010. Really though the time frame is irrelevant. The only relevant issue is, did Starbucks do something wrong that caused this woman to spill hot tea on her baby?
I say no. Ha there it is case over cause I said so. I wish it were that simple but it isn’t. Anyone can file a lawsuit. The woman probably wrote letters to Starbucks or called Starbucks and wanted or demanded payment and Starbucks said no, and rightfully so in my opinion, so she filed a lawsuit.
By the way, that probably is the explanation for the time frame between the incident occurring and the lawsuit being filed. Most people first try to get the company to pay without having to go to court. They then use court and the media to try and pressure them into settling. It cost companies money to go to court and there are a lot of companies who have to weigh the cost and sometimes they settle even when they are not in the wrong. It is unfortunate that the courts and media are used in this way but it happens. In this case, I pray Starbucks finds it more practical to go to court than to give into this woman and settle with her.
Now this is where personal responsibility comes into play. I am aware of how hot the tea and coffee beverages are from Starbucks because I go to Starbucks. I am also aware that Starbucks has sleeves that go on the cups because some people find the cups too hot to handle without the sleeves on them. I, for one, can take the sleeve or leave the sleeve. I have yet to find a cup that was so hot that I “had” to have a sleeve and I have ordered both tea and coffee.
The only way this woman should win her lawsuit is if she can prove the following:
1. Starbucks is responsible for her personal safety and her babies personal safety in all instances while in their store even beyond the woman herself.
2. The woman has never had a cup of tea before and therefore unaware that tea is made with extremely hot water
3. The woman was unable to see the cup didn’t have a sleeve on it
4. The woman was unable to communicate in any fashion that she wanted a sleeve for the cup
5. Starbucks refused to provide her with a sleeve for the cup after she requested one.
If she can’t prove all of the above she should lose and here is why.
1. No company should be held more responsible for your personal safety than you are held responsible. Do you understand what that means? If you walk into any business you must first be responsible for yourself. If you have taken every precaution to ensure your own personal safety and you still get hurt then you can question the actions of the business. So to determine the answer to number one, all we have to do is ask, did the woman take every reasonable precaution to ensure the safety of her and her baby? The answer is NO see #2-4 below.
2. Nowhere does it state whether this was the first time this woman has ever had tea before or not. I am going to assume though for the sake of this argument that this was not the first time. Most adults and even a great deal of children know that tea is made with hot water. Even ice tea is made with hot water first and then poured over ice. So it is reasonable to assume that she knew the beverage was indeed hot even if Starbucks didn’t specifically have it printed on the cup. Any cup I have gotten from Starbucks says, “Careful, the beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot.” But that might just be my Starbucks.
3. Was the woman blind? Was she unable to see the cup the tea was in? I am not being funny here it is a legitimate question. If she couldn’t see the sleeve was not on the cup then maybe she has a case. However, we do know that she isn’t blind and she could very well see the cup did not have a sleeve.
4. Was the woman able to communicate? Apparently she can because she managed to communicate to her lawyer that she wants to sue. She was able to order the tea so there wasn’t a communication barrier between her and the employee either.
I am going to stop right here for a second. At this point the woman should not have a case because she did not take precautions to ensure her own safety or that of her baby. All she had to do was ask for a sleeve. Now her lawyer will argue that all Starbucks had to do was put the sleeve on the cup and put the cup in a tray. But wait, why should Starbucks be more responsible for her safety than she is? She wasn’t concerned enough about there not being a sleeve or the cup not being in a tray to even ask for those things but yet Starbucks should be concerned for her? People make mistakes, the Starbucks employee did not put the sleeve on the cup or the cup in the tray but the woman didn’t question it or ask that it be done either. Again, no company should be more responsible for your safety than you are willing to be responsible.
5. Did Starbucks refuse to provide a sleeve or a tray to this woman upon request? Now if that occurred then I would say Starbucks is liable. At that point, it would have been a case of the woman ensuring her own safety and Starbucks refusing to provide her with the reasonable means available to do so. But that is not what happened.
This all boils down to personal responsibility. This woman was not responsible for herself first and foremost and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to make Starbucks liable.
The second person at fault here is her lawyer. Why do lawyers encourage these kinds of lawsuits? Why do lawyers want to make everyone else responsible except for the person themselves? I am sorry the Starbucks employee forgot to put the sleeve on the cup and the baby got burned. However, the woman didn’t mention it at all nor ask for a sleeve, making her more responsible in my book. The employee is serving people all day long and some people want sleeves and some people don’t. The employee is trying to provide the customer with their order in a timely fashion. The employee is doing their job of serving beverages. Personal safety comes from the person not the employee.
I am tired of businesses getting sued over things like this. There are juries who are awarding these people tons of money because they either believe the company can pay for it or has insurance or they truly believe that businesses should be responsible for a person personal safety no matter what.
Businesses need to take precautions, if they provide a service that could cause harm, but those precautions should be secondary to your own personal responsibility. If you can’t prove that you took every precaution first to ensure your safety then you shouldn’t be able to sue a business if they miss a precaution. Mistakes happen that is a fact of life. Being able to sue someone over a mistake that you yourself failed to catch or mention or care about in the moment is wrong.
Judges and juries need to first ask, did you take responsibility for yourself, your choices and your actions upon entering the businesses and using their services? If the answer is no, then lawsuit dismissed immediately. No one should be able to hold some business more responsible for their safety than they took themselves.