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Can Restaurants Be Held Liable Through a New Hampshire Product Liability Lawsuit?

September 21, 2020

As cooler temperatures begin to move in, one of life’s simplest pleasures is sitting in a coffee shop with a warm, toasty beverage and catching up with a friend. However, no one expects to be injured by their favorite hot drink, especially when the injury was caused by a defective cup or negligence on the part of the coffee shop. When these unfortunate accidents happen, those responsible can be held accountable through a New Hampshire personal injury lawsuit.

In a recent appellate opinion, a plaintiff sued a major coffee retailer after spilling a cup of hot tea she purchased from the retailer’s store, suffering significant second-degree burns. Under a theory of product liability and negligence, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s cup was defective.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff ordered two cups of hot tea for herself and a friend on the day of the incident. When the drinks were ready, each drink had a lid and was “double-cupped,” meaning the cup containing the drink was inserted into a second empty cup. Neither drink had a sleeve around the outside cup. When the plaintiff picked up the drinks, she noticed that they were extremely hot, and attempted to drink from the cup while seated and leaning forward to take a sip. Unfortunately, her chair pushed forward unexpectedly, and she grabbed onto the table to maintain her balance, resulting in the drink spilling onto her thighs. The lower court ruled in favor of the defendant coffee retailer, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the court upheld the lower court decision and sided with the defendant. In considering the evidence, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant served her tea in a defective cup and sleeve. In addition, she asserted that the lack of a sleeve around the cup and tea filled to the brim was what made her attempt to sip it from the table in the manner she did. Had the cup had a sleeve and not been filled to the brim, the plaintiff claimed, she would not have lost her balance and spilled on herself because she would have lifted the cup to her mouth.

The court disagreed with the plaintiff, finding that the alleged defects were “too remotely connected with the plaintiff’s injuries” to truly be a direct cause. Although it could be foreseeable that a customer loses their balance while in the shop, the court concluded that the events leading up to the plaintiff’s injuries were “not within the scope of the risk” created by the defendant’s decision to serve the plaintiff a hot beverage filled to the brim. The connection was simply too attenuated to establish liability.

In New Hampshire, an individual asserting a products liability case must first prove that the product in question is defective. In addition, the potential plaintiff would have to demonstrate that the defect in the product was what caused the accident, there was no user error, and that the product was not significantly altered between the time it left the defendant and reached the plaintiff. Because product liability claims can often be extremely complex, and establishing causation can be difficult, potential plaintiffs are encouraged to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to help with the preparation and presentation of their case.

Contact a New Hampshire Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you or someone you know has recently been injured because of a defective product, you may be entitled to compensation through a New Hampshire product liability claim. To learn more about what you can do to pursue a claim, contact Peter Thompson & Associates today, risk-free, at 800-804-2004. Our team of experienced, compassionate attorneys will advocate tirelessly on your behalf at every step along the way. We also handle New Hampshire car accident claims, slip and falls, and more.