Jury in coffee burn case to reconvene Monday in Raleigh

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- So far, there's a hung jury in the case of the Raleigh police officer suing Starbucks after being scalded when he spilled their coffee on his lap.

The judge instructed jurors to go home for the weekend and return Monday to try to "work out their differences."

Lawyers for the two sides wrapped up their closing arguments Friday morning and painted the contours of the case clearly for the jury.

Lt. Matt Kohr's attorney told jurors, "In this case, Starbucks delivered coffee in an unsafe container. Starbucks delivered coffee in a 20 ounce cup with no sleeve - a cup with an improperly secured lid. Starbucks delivered coffee that failed to conform with their own security policy."

Starbucks does have a policy that so-called "Venti" coffees (large coffees) should be served with a "sleeve" and Kohr contends his coffee did not have the cardboard holding device.

"Starbucks delivered a cup of coffee that severely injured Matt Kohr," said Kohr's attorney, Daniel Johnson. "Starbucks delivered a cup of coffee that robbed Matt Kohr of control over his life. Starbucks delivered a cup of coffee that robbed Matt Kohr of control over his disease. Starbucks delivered a cup of coffee that robbed Matt Kohr of a golden year of an admirable life."

Click here to see some of the evidence photos from the trial.

Johnson summed up for the jury what they'd heard in testimony for the past week: that Kohr's life went into a deep slide after the burn. His wife and doctors told jurors that the burn aggravated Kohr's existing Crohn's Disease, ultimately requiring surgery, and eventually psychological counseling.

"When you've heard about Matt's life and his career," his lawyer asked jurors, "what words have been used to describe him? Strong, proud, determined, a hard-working cop, a leader, a loving husband, an involved father. What words have we heard used to describe Matt after he suffered this injury? Pitiful, a mess, crying like a little girl, acting like he's got a few days to live."

Starbucks attorney, Tricia Derr, pushed back on every point, questioning the connection between the burn and what happened to Kohr after, questioning the motivations, diagnoses, and treatments of Kohr's doctor, and questioning the basic premise that Starbucks was at fault.

"We think you should send them home with nothing," said Derr.

"Starbucks was not negligent," Derr told jurors. "Starbucks served a product the way they always do and it did what it was supposed to do; it was a good cup of coffee. If the dots don't connect and you don't have the cause and effect relationship between what Starbucks did or didn't do and what actually happened to Mr. Kohr, then they haven't met their burden."

Derr stressed the law and reminded the jury of the same thing the judge would remind them of minutes later.

"The greater weight of the evidence," Derr posed to jurors. "What does that mean? It means more likely than not, what he told you - the story he gave you - you find to be true. There are some questions there."

"If the sleeve wasn't on the cup that day, did that cause the spill," asked Derr. "If the sleeve had been on the cup that day, as they claim it was not, would this not have happened? Somebody needed to tell you that. I think the whole case, to a large degree, has been based on hoping that you will not follow the judge's instructions when it comes to the injury. That you will assume that there is negligence based solely on the fact that he received a burn and passed out pictures of the burn to you."

Kohr and his wife are suing Starbucks for $750,000.

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