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Scalding Hot Coffee Obviously No Cause For Claim (PA)

April 13, 2016

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A patron enters a convenience store.  She brews a cup of cappuccino at a self-serve machine and properly covers it with a lid.  Wallet in hand, she grabs the cup of hot cappuccino and walks to the refrigerated cooler to make further selections.  She extracts a Gatorade and a bottle of iced Starbucks coffee.  She tucks the hot coffee between her forearm and chest while cradling the ice coffee and Gatorade and holding her wallet as she bends down to pick a pack of gum.  What could go wrong?  Of course, as she reaches for the gum, the cappuccino slips and scalds her arm and breast.
In <a href="" rel="">Soohey v. Sheetz, Inc.</a>., the plaintiff alleged that the store was liable for her mishap for failing to provide a shopping basket, for “making customers carry hot beverages,” and for failing to warn of the risks inherent in carrying a hot beverage.  She claimed that the store had a duty to her to protect her from danger.
In summarily dismissing the claim, the court disagreed.  While a landowner owes a duty to use reasonable care to protect against a known danger that a user might not appreciate, a store is not an insurer of its patrons for conditions whose danger is obvious.  Both the trial court and affirming appellate court found that the lack of shopping baskets was clearly known and obvious and the plaintiff could easily have avoided harm by taking reasonable care, by not attempting to carry too many items, and certainly by not tucking a hot cup of coffee between her forearm and breast.  These were all open and obvious conditions.
Thanks to Erin Connolly for her contribution.
For more information, contact Denise Fontana Ricci at <a href=""><u></u></a>.

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