Apr 22, 2016 - 1:00pm

Lawsuit Alleging Under-filled Lattes Gives Starbucks a Caffeine Headache


Editor's note: This post originally ran on instituteforlegalreform.com.

America is addicted to the quick and customizable cups of coffee that Starbucks offers, but a recent class action lawsuit claims that the coffee chain under-fills their lattes.  

The California lawsuit alleges that Starbucks is violating consumer protection laws by under-filling their lattes by as much as 25%. The suit is asking for $5 million in damages. 

Starbucks responded to the claims, arguing that latte sizes can vary due to the human component of the barista preparing the drink and the customer’s ability to customize their beverage.

Starbucks also pointed out that, if a customer opens the lid and feels their drink is under-filled, the barista will make it for them again – free of charge. When a customer can simply speak up and walk away literally fulfilled, why waste time and money on a court case?

The real issue here isn’t customers’ under-filled cups of coffee, but the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ attempt to overflow their cash coffers.  They are taking advantage of the large class of loyal Starbucks latte drinkers and the fact that the bar for establishing a class action suit is lower in California state courts than in federal courts. Room for milk? Oh yes, they’ll milk the company for every last dollar they can.

Coffee lawsuits are nothing new. Perhaps the most famous ridiculous lawsuit in history was the Arizona woman who sued McDonald’s after she put a cup of coffee between her legs while sitting in a car.

Last year a cop from Raleigh, North Carolina brought a lawsuit against Starbucks for his hot coffee spilling in his lap. The cop sought $750,000 in damages even though he was given the coffee for free. Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and many other food chains have been sued over the years for selling allegedly too-hot beverages. But ironically, the hot coffee lawsuits infamous in the United States come from cups of coffee spilling over, not being under-filled.

So which is it, should the cups of coffee be full to the brim or under-filled?

It is hard to imagine any better example of America’s over-litigation problem than a class action lawsuit over how full the Starbucks barista fills the coffee cups. Especially when the remedy is so easy – just ask him or her to pour more in your cup.

Of course, the biggest problem with this simple solution is that everyone wins except for the plaintiffs’ lawyers, who, ever the optimistic bunch, see this Starbucks cup as a half-full opportunity to make some real bucks.  

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