N.J. woman sues Dunkin' Donuts over hot-cider burns
A New Jersey woman has sued Dunkin’ Donuts after she claims a cup of the coffee chain’s hot apple cider spilled into her lap and scalded her thighs, leaving her with disfiguring scars.
Jennifer Fragoso filed the suit Feb. 11 against Dunkin’ Brands, Inc. and Belleville, N.J. franchise owner Anju Donuts, Inc.
Fragoso visited her local Dunkin’ Donuts store Sept. 24, 2012 and ordered a cup of hot apple cider, according to the complaint.
But, the suit claims, the cider “had been heated beyond industry standards to the point where patrons could not safely consume it.” So when Fragoso spilled the beverage, she says she suffered injuries so severe, she required medical attention.
Fragoso for nearly a year received treatment at the Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, according to her attorney, Amos Gern, of Starr, Gern, Davison & Rubin.
“She had third-degree burns to her upper thighs and has hypertrophic scars that can no longer be repaired,” Gern said. “They cannot be eliminated through surgery and will be with her, through the age of 24, for the rest of her life. She cannot wear a bikini or any other revealing undergarment that will not allow them to be seen.”
The suit further alleges the cider “failed to have adequate warnings or instructions on the lid and container in which it was served” and was “sold in a dangerous fashion,” with the lid not properly secured to the Styrofoam cup.
The incident constitutes negligence because Dunkin’ Donuts should have known that the liquid was “unreasonably hot” and that, were a spill to occur, a consumer could be injured, according to Gern.
A public relations manager for Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Brands said in an email the company is unable to comment on the suit at this time.
The case has drawn parallels to a lawsuit filed in 1992 against McDonald’s by a woman who suffered third-degree burns to her groin after spilling hot coffee purchased from the fast-food giant. Though a New Mexico jury awarded the woman nearly $2.9 million in damages, the case was widely mocked and branded by some as the poster child for frivolous lawsuits.
Still, Gern contends Fragoso’s claims are “far from frivolous.”
“The lawsuit is not really about the fact that hot drinks are hot and that they are in containers like Styrofoam cups with lids,” Gern said. “What the lawsuit is about is the fact that the temperature of the liquid was sufficiently hot to give her third-degree burns. Try to imagine drinking that, let alone spilling it in your crotch.”