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Can I Sue a Company After Spilling Hot Coffee on Myself?

Joanow Legal Group Nov. 12, 2019

Under Pennsylvania Tort Law, companies are strictly liable for injuries and damages that occur to customers while they are on their premises or when using defective products. Whether you spilled a steaming hot cup of coffee at a restaurant or purchased it to consume at home, you may file a legal action for injuries if the cup was defective.

Drips and spills are not uncommon, but a cup of coffee that is far too hot for its container reflects negligence on the part of the brewer, seller and cup manufacturer. When a defective cup collapsed in the hands of a Wawa customer, the excessively hot coffee it contained spilled onto his lap. According to the Pennsylvania Record, the scalding-hot coffee burned the man severely enough to cause permanent disfigurement and scarring to his groin, legs and body. The disfigurement left him with severe emotional distress, anxiety and mental anguish to the point that it affected his self-esteem.

The customer sued the Wawa corporation and the manufacturer of its coffee cups alleging that the companies knew the cup was too “flimsy” to hold hot coffee. Accordingly, he claimed that the manufacturer was aware that its Model 24 HDC Cup’s substandard production materials could easily cause it to buckle in the hands of a customer. The manufacturer, however, failed to correct its dangerous design to create a cup safe enough for customers to hold while consuming hot beverages.

Wawa allegedly continued to use the manufacturer’s cups when it should have stopped after receiving numerous complaints from its customers. Wawa was aware of the model’s defect, yet continued to use the cups to sell coffee that the company served at excessively hot temperatures. The parties settled the case, which included the plaintiff’s legal costs, interest and damages.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and not intended as legal advice.