Colbert v. Sonic Restaurants, Inc. 741 F.Supp.2d 764 (W.D. La. 2010)

Gerald Colbert purchased a cup of coffee at a Sonic Restaurant drive-thru. He ordered a coffee with added cream and artificial sweetener. However, on that occasion, the Sonic employee handed Colbert the cup of coffee with the cream and sweetener to put in the cup himself, instead of adding it beforehand. Colbert put his car in park, took the lid off the coffee to put in the creamer, when the hot coffee spilled on his hand, making him react, spilling coffee on his lap. Colbert sustained second-degree burns through his jeans on his groin, stomach, and thigh.

Colbert filed a lawsuit against Sonic alleging negligence, failure to warn, failure to keep the coffee at a proper temperature, and failing to make sure the cups were safe. Sonic filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss Colbert’s claims.

The court found that Colbert did not meet his burden of proof on his claim for construction or composition defect, and Sonic had introduced evidence that the temperature of the coffee was within the accepted industry range. They found that the defendant did not need to issue a warning because the dangers of hot coffee should be obvious to the ordinary user, and Sonic did not breach any duty to Colbert. The motions for summary judgment were granted, and all claims made by Colbert against Sonic were dismissed.

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