The Shocking Reason A Connecticut Customer Is Suing Starbucks

Is it reasonable to expect that restaurant coffee should be made in a clean machine? Absolutely. In fact, filthy coffee makers is one of the reasons Mashed has previously shared for why you shouldn't order coffee from McDonald's. By the same token, it's also reasonable to expect that if a restaurant uses a liquid cleaning solution to clean those machines, it would be stored separately from liquids intended to be consumed. To wit, a Cracker Barrel customer was awarded over $9 million for having been served water from a pitcher that actually held a quantity of toxic cleaning solution. And yet, recent events suggest some restaurants aren't taking the necessary precautions to keep customers from mistakenly ingesting poison.

On Tuesday, March 22, 2022, a man by the name of Matthew Tyler Mitchell filed a personal injury lawsuit in a federal trial court in the state of Connecticut against Starbucks. Allegedly, Mitchell was served a cup of coffee at a Greenwich, Connecticut Starbucks location last summer and claims that it was tainted with toxic chemicals from a cleaning solution. There's a lot to unpack here in connection with this Starbucks brew-haha (granted, if Mitchell's claims prove to be true, then there is certainly nothing to laugh at), including a shocking allegation that the coffee in question was made in a machine that was actually being cleaned at the time the employee began using it to make Mitchell's coffee order (via Complex).

The plaintiff found blue cleaning solution in his coffee

According to Radar, Matthew Tyler Mitchell has filed a personal injury suit against Starbucks alleging that "instead of coffee," he was served a "chemical cleaning solution" in a coffee cup with a lid on it that obscured its contents. This occurred on August 30, 2021, per New York Post, at a Starbucks location in Greenwich, Connecticut. Immediately after he was finished drinking some quantity of the liquid, Mitchell experienced a "caustic, burning sensation" in his mouth, throat, and stomach, causing him to cough and otherwise feel ill. Upon opening the lid, Mitchell discovered that the cup contained, not coffee, but rather some quantity of a "blue solution" at which point Mitchell began to experience additional symptoms, including severe dizziness and nausea. 

TMZ reports that Mitchell received medical attention at the time but continues to suffer emotional distress related to these events, including anxiety about the "long-term effects" that ingesting the cleaning solution could ultimately have on his health. The exact dollar amount of damages that Mitchell seeks doesn't appear to be a matter of public record but is believed to be more than $75,000, which is the minimum amount required for a case of this particular nature.

Starbucks could be found liable

If your fast food coffee made you gag, and you opened the lid to discover blue liquid in the cup, it would be shocking, no doubt. Now imagine learning this was not the first time this happened at the same restaurant? And further, that the establishment is doing little to prevent it from happening again? Indeed, that is what the plaintiff alleges in the lawsuit filed against Starbucks. 

As TMZ reports, Mitchell's court filing claims a Starbucks manager admitted that a mistake had been made. The manager went on to offer that the person who made the mistake probably didn't even realize the machine contained a cleaning solution because Starbucks has no procedure for flagging that a machine is in the process of being cleaned beyond involving "an upside-down plastic cup." Moreover, the court docs allege that two others have been previously poisoned at Starbucks in a similar fashion. 

Accordingly, the lawsuit is claiming not mere negligence, but the aggravated tort of recklessness, which carries with it the possibility of punitive damages, according to the legal professionals at Hecht Kleeger Damashek. Mitchell is represented by Manhattan law firm Tacopina Seigel & DeOreo (via Radar), which boasts on its website that it has earned a reputation for delivering "aggressive advocacy."