COFFEE POT SUPPLIER FIGHTS BACK AND WINS
(Trenton, New Jersey, January 13, 1999) “Since the multi-million dollar verdict won by a McDonalds patron burned by hot coffee, manufacturers, suppliers and sellers of coffee and coffee equipment have been deluged with lawsuits from those who claim coffee is served at such a hot temperature that it is unsafe” according to Ward S. Taggart, an attorney with Meredith, Chase & Taggart.
“Following that trend, Rhonda Cislo, of Berlin, New Jersey, filed a lawsuit alleging that a defective coffee pot full of coffee broke when she was working in a restaurant. Hot coffee spilled on her neck and chest, causing first and second degree burns that left permanent scars. Cislo claimed that Wilbur Curtis, Company, Inc., a California based supplier of commercial coffee pots and coffee making equipment, supplied the defective coffee pot” according to Mr. Taggart.
“Since the McDonalds verdict, Wilbur Curtis has experienced a large increase in claims against it seeking damages for burns from hot coffee. Seeking to stop the trend, Wilbur Curtis hired Ward S. Taggart of Pennington, NJ, an attorney with the law firm of Meredith Chase & Taggart, of Princeton and Trenton, NJ to defend the suit. After three days of trial, a Camden County jury returned a verdict finding that the coffee pot was not defective” according to Mr. Taggart. After Superior Court of New Jersey Judge, Raymond F. Drozdowski, JSC, upheld the verdict on December 19, 1998, Taggart said “Wilbur Curtis was successful because there was nothing wrong with the coffee pot. It was clear that someone abused the pot prior to the incident.” Sanford Schmidt, Esquire, of Medford, NJ, represented plaintiff.
Plaintiff’s liability expert, R. C. Ropp, Ph.D., of Warren New Jersey, testified that the pot broke in such a peculiar manner that the only possible cause of the break was a defect in the glass that occurred when it was manufactured. V. D. Frechette, Ph.D., a Professor of Ceramics at Alfred University, testified that the pot could not have broken in the manner described by the plaintiff. Dr. Frechette testified that it was more likely that the pot broke because it had been misused by restaurant personnel prior to the incident, not by defective manufacturing. The age of the pot was unknown.