Raleigh police officer burned by coffee takes stand in first day of trial

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The Raleigh police officer suing Starbucks after he spilled a free cup of coffee that burned him took the stand during the civil trial Tuesday at the Wake County Courthouse in Raleigh.

Officer Matt Kohr, who is now a lieutenant told jurors, "It was the most intense extreme pain I've ever had in my life."

Kohr and his wife are asking jurors to award them $750,000. His attorney told jurors that the worst part of the ordeal wasn't the serious burns to Kohr's abdomen, crotch, and thigh but that the stress from the injuries caused Kohr's dormant Crohn's disease to flare up.

In his opening statement, attorney Daniel Johnson said, "What that burn did, the stress of that burn, the trauma of that burn did is set off his Crohn's disease in a way that he had never experienced it before."

Johnson went on to say that Kohr who was a marathon runner prior to that fateful day at Starbucks in January 2012 had to be hospitalized for surgery.

"He spent a week in the hospital just getting nutrients, just strong enough so he could have this surgery. He had a foot of his small intestine removed and Dr. [Charles] Barish will testify that it was the stress of this burn that caused this flare in his Crohn's disease," Johnson told jurors.

However, Starbucks' attorney, Tricia Derr, said in her opening statement, "We're talking about an extensive disease and an extensive process. And, ladies and gentlemen, we don't believe it had anything to do with a free cup of coffee," indicating Starbucks thinks the Crohn's flare-up was a coincidence.

"I felt great prior to going to Starbucks in January 5, 2012," Kohr went on to tell jurors about his trip to the coffee shop on Peace Street in Raleigh.

He said he was running marathons and was in the best shape of his life. But when the Crohn's flared up his attorney said it hit so hard Kohr had to be hospitalized and have a foot of his small intestine removed.

"This strong, healthy, active, productive man became a shell of himself... crippling anxiety, crippling depression," Johnson told the jury.

Derr said, however, that Kohr's story about what happened had morphed and that another officer who was with him would testify to a different set of circumstances. She told jurors that in reality, "The lid popped off and scared him. And he jumped. And when he did something not so unusual happened. He knocked his coffee over."

Derr cited North Carolina law on contributory negligence and said people know if they spill hot coffee on themselves they can get burned.

Kohr noted in his testimony that even though Starbucks doesn't accept money from police officers for coffee he always put money equal to the price of a cup of coffee in Starbucks tip jar.

Kohr's testimony will continue Wednesday morning including cross-examination by Derr.

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