Woman sues Starbucks claiming hot tea killed her dog, badly burned her

Posted at 3:32 PM, Sep 12, 2017

DENVER – A Denver woman is suing Starbucks over hot tea that she claims caused second-degree burns and killed her dog, according to KDVR.

Deanna Salas-Solano, 58, claims the lid of the tea was not secured onto her cup when she bought a 20-ounce hot tea at the drive-thru Starbucks at 5835 Leetsdale Drive in Denver on Sept. 26, 2015.

The lawsuit, filed in Denver District Federal Court on Friday, states hot tea spilled out of the cup through an unsecured lid and onto Salas-Solano's body.

The tea was so hot that Solas-Solando said it melted through her clothes and caused severe pain to her stomach, legs, and lap.

The lawsuit claims the tea did not have a hot cup sleeve and was not double-cupped. It was so hot, the temperature of the cup began to burn her hands, according to the lawsuit.

As Salas-Salano was screaming in pain, she claims her dog Alexander jumped onto her lap, causing the hot tea to spill onto him.

According to the lawsuit, Alexander was taken to an emergency veterinarian hospital but "ultimately succumbed to the injuries caused by the tea, dying a short time later."

Salas-Solano was taken to Rose Medical Center for severe burns and underwent surgery the next day at the Swedish Medical Center Burn and Reconstructive Unit.

The lawsuit states she was diagnosed with "Two percent total body surface area second-degree burn injury to the abdomen and bilateral thighs."

She would later need skin grafts.

The lawsuit claims Starbucks had received previous complaints about failing to provide hot cup sleeves and securing cup lids when serving customers with hot coffee or tea.

The complaint states Starbucks had a written policy to "double-cup" hot tea.

The lawsuit seeks claims that exceed $100,000.

"We have video evidence that clearly contradicts the claims made by the plaintiff and believe they are without merit," Starbucks said in a statement. "We look forward to presenting our case in court.

"While we are sympathetic to Ms. Salas-Solano and the injuries she sustained, we don’t have any reason to believe our partner (employee) was at fault."

Starbucks' legal team would not provide a copy of the video, but it did allow it to be reviewed.

It shows Salas-Solano on her cellphone with her dog in her in her lap as she buys the tea.

The video also shows the hot tea did have a hot sleeve and it appears the lid was secure, though the video is not conclusive.

In the video, it's hard to tell if Salas-Solano grabs the cup by the hot sleeve or by the lid when she accidentally spilled it.

It's hard to determine if she spilled the tea because of the cup's hot temperature or because she was distracted by her cellphone use or if perhaps her dog bumped into the cup while he stood in her lap.

The lawsuit might sound similar to a famous 1994 case involving McDonald's and hot coffee.

In that case, a New Mexico jury awarded $2.86 million to Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman who suffered third-degree burns across her pelvic region when she accidentally spilled hot coffee in her lap.

Ultimately, the judge reduced the final verdict to $640,000.

McDonald's appealed and the two sides settled for a confidential amount before the appeal was decided.