The case of the Raleigh police officer burned by a cup of free coffee will last at least until Monday, giving jurors more time to decide whether Starbucks acted recklessly and owes him $750,000.
The panel of 12 left Wake County court stuck at 11-1 Friday after four hours of discussion, though the direction they are leaning is unknown.
The men and women who have spent a week immersed in Matthew Kohr’s groin injury, his subsequent surgery over aggravated Crohn’s disease and his descent into deep depression will have to shield themselves from international coverage that has swamped social media. They cannot discuss the case even with their families.
For the first half of Friday, jurors heard attorneys give a last recap of details surrounding the closely watched case, painting him as either a traumatized victim or a man with preexisting health problems who kept working weeks after the coffee spill.
In his closing arguments Friday morning, Kohr’s attorney Daniel Johnson argued that Starbucks handed his client an unsafe cup, larger than he ordered, without a sleeve, in violation of its own safety policy, leaving his thighs and genitalia burned, triggering surgery and months of despondency.
“Starbucks delivered a cup of coffee that robbed Matt Kohr of control of his life,” Johnson said.
He asked jurors to consider the monetary value of a lost year, in which Kohr basically stopped interacting with his wife and children. He further asked jurors to consider a long list of customers’ complaints to Starbucks nationwide over popped lid accidents: burn cream applied in New York, a red hand in Connecticut, coffee spilled on a customer’s mother.
“Starbucks is going to blame Matt for getting burned,” Johnson said. “He’s supposed to have the knowledge that a sleeve is part of the structural integrity of a venti cup.”
But jurors heard this summary countered by Starbucks attorneys, who argue against any negligence. They have argued throughout the week that Kohr’s longtime steroid use as Crohn’s treatment can produce side effects including depression, and that Kohr would have eventually needed the surgery his lawyers argue the coffee spill brought on.
Starbucks attorney Tricia Derr told jurors that Starbucks employees did nothing wrong, reminding them that Kohr drove home to Garner to photograph his burn before seeking medical attention.
“We think Mr. Kohr should leave here with a full refund of what he paid,” she said.
Derr characterized Kohr’s case as “a bunch of dots” thrown at a wall, none of which connect. Kohr’s legal team failed to prove that Starbucks caused the spill, either by the lack of a sleeve or a faulty lid, she said.
“I’ve been here a week, and I’m still trying to figure out what Starbucks did with the lid,” she said, noting a lack of testimony from witnesses knowledgeable about coffee cups. “Where’s the engineer? Where’s the manufacturer?”
If the burn injured him so severely, Derr asked, why didn’t Kohr call or write Starbucks to complain, much like the customers whose spills were entered into evidence?
On Monday, the jury again takes up the fight between the $74 billion coffee giant and the dissatisfied customer.