The Raleigh police officer suing Starbucks over a hot cup of coffee spilled in his lap drove home to have the injury photographed before seeking medical care, he testified Wednesday.
On the second day of the trial, in which he is seeking a minimum of $50,000, Matthew Kohr told jurors that he was frozen in pain after the spill in January 2012. He left the Peace Street Starbucks in his police car, drove to the police garage to get his truck, then went home, where his wife took pictures of the burns on his inner thigh.
It was nearly 2.5 hours later when he was treated at an urgent care center — a point emphasized by the attorney representing the coffee chain.
“You didn’t go the emergency room,” Tricia Derr said. “You didn’t go to urgent care. You went to get your truck.”
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Kohr, an officer for more than 20 years, said he knew he would have to document his injury to show his employers.
“Lawsuit never crossed my mind that day,” he said. “Did it later? Yes.”
Kohr has argued that he suffered third-degree burns from the spill, which aggravated his Crohn’s disease and triggered severe anxiety and sleeplessness. He also contends that he has suffered a loss of intimacy with his wife over the injury, along with medical costs, attorneys fees, and physical and emotional damage.
From the witness stand Wednesday, Kohr said he took the coffee — free to officers in uniform — knowing it was hot, but not “that hot.”
“I wanted to beat my chest and scream,” he said. “But the place was full of people.”
A fellow officer, Sgt. Thomas Silluzio, testified he saw the lid pop off Kohr’s cup as he was sitting down. “The best way to describe it is like a jack-in-the-box,” Silluzio said. “It surprised me, and I wasn’t even holding the cup.”
Throughout Wednesday morning, Raleigh psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Newberg testified about Kohr’s extensive medical history, starting with their first visit in May 2012. The officer had difficulty controlling his anxiety, had the shakes, felt uncomfortable going back to work, experienced depression, had surgery related to his Crohn’s disease and had trouble sleeping. In the months after his his injury, he struggled to wean himself off Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug.
On cross-examination, Newberg said that steroids, which Kohr had long taken, can also affect a patient’s mental state. Defense attorneys also questioned him about the frequency of references to the coffee injury, which came up less often than the death of Kohr’s father and stress over his appointment to lieutenant. Newberg said the burn was the starting point of those problems.
Throughout the day, defense attorneys questioned Kohr about his activities after the injury, which included long-distance running.
Later Wednesday, jurors heard from Mitchell Kouba, the former Starbucks manager, who said he learned about the accident when a barista asked for cold water. He said he had never heard of a cup’s lid popping off, but sometimes Starbucks cups that arrive in a case won’t match up to the lid.
“You can feel it,” he said.
The case continues Thursday.