June 9, 2011
Last week, a Pennsylvania woman filed suit against Dunkin’ Donuts for putting sugar in her coffee.
The lawsuit isn’t actually as ridiculous as that, though, since the woman, Danielle Jordan, is diabetic and cannot consume sugar.
After Jordan drank the coffee, she claims she went into diabetic shock.
The coffee in question was actually served almost two years ago, and Jordan’s lawyer said it took so long to file because talks had been ongoing with the company, which had investigated the incident.
Pennsylvania’s two-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims may also have something to do with the timing of the filing, not to mention with how hastily written the complaint appears to be.
For example, the complaint asks for, but doesn’t specify any damages.
It also only makes a legal claim under one theory, that of products liability.
While a case could conceivably be made under that theory, it’s quite a long shot.
The complaint doesn’t really make the case, either.
It does cite to the Second Restatement of Torts section 402A, which has been adopted by Pennsylvania law, but several of the comments under that section directly contradict Jordan’s legal argument.
The section does not consider the product defective if it is safe for general consumer consumption, nor if it triggers some adverse medical reaction to a very small portion of the population that the seller can’t be expected to be aware of.
It’s plainly obvious here that sugar in coffee isn’t dangerous to the general populace, and even most diabetics can stand the small amount of sugar in their coffee.
Unfortunately for Jordan, she also has the burden of showing that the product was defective (i.e. contained sugar instead of the requested artificial sweetener).
Unless she actually saved and somehow preserved the cup of coffee from two years ago, this is a burden she will have a very difficult time meeting.
The point is moot, though, because the coffee doesn’t qualify as a defective product anyhow.
Really, the claim should have been made on a plain negligence theory.
Granted, the complaint does mention the word “negligence.”
But it doesn’t actually make a prima facie negligence claim, which would require listing the magic four elements of negligence at the very minimum.
As it stands now, a law student fresh out of first-year Torts could get this complaint dismissed for failure to state a claim.
And, with June 15 being the end of the statute of limitations, there isn’t much time to fix it before it dissipates forever.
Not that there really is much of a chance of success, even on a negligence basis.
To me, this claim seems to be a last-ditch effort by Jordan to get something from Dunkin’ Donuts, since it seems that two years of negotiations have gotten her nowhere.
It also looks like she isn’t a stranger to personal injury suits against corporations, since she tried suing Macy’s Department Stores in 2007 in a slip-and-fall case.
So take what you will about Jordan’s intentions; you can’t say that she isn’t persistent.