California man who slipped, fell at Starbucks gets $7.5 million

Posted on in Premises Liability

An accident at a Southern California coffee shop four years ago continues to serve as a reminder that life can change dramatically in the time it takes a barista to whip up your morning latte. All it takes is a serious slip and fall.

That's what happened to a chiropractor who visited a Starbucks store in March 2008. He was picking up his order when he slipped on a floor that had just been mopped, according to his lawyer. Although the manager of the coffee shop testified she put out three cones warning customers that the floor was wet, witnesses claimed to have seen only one.

After the fall, the chiropractor said he suffered from persistent head pain, nausea and a concussion, among other symptoms. He was later diagnosed with mild brain trauma and told he would need a year of therapy for his brain injury. The man, who said he has been unable to return to work since the accident, sued Starbucks for loss of income, medical expenses and the loss of enjoyment of life.

A Vista, California, Superior Court jury ordered Starbucks to pay the man $7.5 million in damages. Starbucks said through a spokesman that although it was sorry the man had suffered injuries at the coffee shop, it was disappointed with the amount it had to pay. Although the company said it made every effort to reach a reasonable settlement, the chiropractor's lawyer contends Starbucks never offered more than $100,000 to settle.

Lawsuits that hold companies liable for injuries on their premises can be controversial because they require a dollar amount to be put on a person's pain and suffering -- not just in the past, but for the rest of their lives. While the large settlement in this case may seem excessive to some, it must account for a potential lifetime of the chiropractor's inability to work and live the way he used to.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Man awarded $7.5 million after slip-and-fall at Starbucks," Associated Press, Dec. 23, 2011

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