Jordan Triplett went for a morning pick-me-up from Starbucks and wound up with first-degree burns.
Now, she's suing the Seattle-based coffee house empire for $250,000 in a Knox County Circuit Court lawsuit that blames Triplett's burns on a barista's lid snafu.
"This case involved real and significant injuries, unlike other cases where individuals have sought compensation from similar vendors," attorney Gregory P. Isaacs said. A lawsuit over McDonald's coffee that burned a woman in the 1990s spurred national debate over the need for tort reform.
"It's significant to note Ms. Triplett attempted to resolve this in a reasonable fashion without litigation and received no response," Isaacs said.
A Starbucks representative did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.
The lawsuit alleges that the 23-year-old Triplett drove to a Starbucks on Kingston Pike on July 13 and bought coffee via the store's drive-through window. The lawsuit is silent on what Triplett ordered.
Whatever she ordered, she knew right away it was hot, the lawsuit states.
"She experienced extreme heat radiating through the cup and protective cardboard sleeve," Isaacs wrote. "(She) balanced the extremely hot cup of coffee on her thigh with her hand on top of the cup as she pulled away from the window and negotiated a turn onto the roadway."
Once on Kingston Pike, Triplett noticed "the lid of the coffee container was loose and not affixed properly," the lawsuit states.
"Before Triplett could achieve a better grasp upon the cup, the lid dislodged from the cup, thereby causing scalding coffee to spill and splash onto (her) lap, right thigh and right hand," the lawsuit states.
The coffee soaked through her denim jeans, causing her to cry out in severe pain, according to the lawsuit.
She drove to a nearby friend's house and disrobed.
"She discovered that she had severe blisters and burns on her hand, inner thigh and vaginal area," the lawsuit states.
A doctor later classified the injuries as first- and second-degree burns, Isaacs wrote. She racked up hefty medical bills and suffered "severe and permanent injuries (and) cosmetic impairment, scarring and disfigurement" as a result of the burns, the lawsuit alleges.
"Triplett immediately contacted the Starbucks franchise where she purchased the scalding coffee to inform them of the incident and to request that the employees be more careful in attaching the lids to the container and monitor the temperature of the coffee," the lawsuit states. "The Starbucks agent was incredibly unresponsive."
She later filed a complaint with the firm's corporate headquarters that netted her a gift certificate offer instead of restitution for her medical bills, according to the lawsuit.