A Lawsuit with Your Latte

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Photo courtesy of Pixabay


By Katherine Littlejohn, Staff Writer

Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Get Starbucks. Head to work. That is the daily schedule for many, whether in the business world or still in school. Starbucks, however, has been battling unruly customers in court over the amount of drink-product customers are given with their orders. Whether it be an iced-coffee with too much ice and not enough coffee or a latte that is not filled up all the way, Starbucks has been in constant battle within the court system.

There have been several lawsuits regarding the amount of ice included in “iced” drinks. For example, one woman in Chicago named Stacy Pincus filed a lawsuit in federal court over the ice-to-product ratio, accusing Starbucks of deceiving its customers.[1] She alleged “that by using large amounts of ice, Starbucks does not provide customers with the amount of tea or coffee that the company advertises.”[2]

A similar lawsuit was filed in a federal district court in California court by Alexander Forouzesh.[3] Forouzesh sued Starbucks for fraud, breach of warranty, and false advertising.[4] In doing so, he alleged that Starbucks “misled customers about the size of its iced drinks because it lists their sizes as the total liquid volume of drink and ice, not just the beverage itself.”[5] Regarding the case, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said “that a ‘reasonable consumer’ would know that the stated ounces for an iced drink [contain] ice.”[6] Needless to say, this claim was dismissed.[7]

“We are aware of the plaintiff’s claims, which we fully believe to be frivolous and without merit,” said Jaime Riley, a Starbucks representative, in response to the allegations. “Our customers understand and expect that ice is an essential component of any ‘iced’ beverage. If a customer is not satisfied with their beverage preparation, we will gladly remake it.”[8]

Many of us would agree that it is common knowledge that when a drink has ice, there is less of the actual drink product in it. The judge agreed and ridiculed the plaintiffs, as well as their attorneys, by stating that “[i]f children have figured out that including ice in a cold beverage decreases the amount of liquid they will receive, the Court has no difficulty concluding that a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into thinking that when they order an iced tea, that the drink they receive will include both ice and tea and that for a given size cup, some portion of the drink will be ice rather than whatever liquid beverage the consumer ordered.”[9]

Unlike these two lawsuits, which were struck down, a lawsuit claiming that Starbucks under-fills its lattes based on a standardized recipe survived the company’s motion to dismiss.[10] The Judge allowed plaintiffs Siera Strumlauf and Benjamin Robles to continue in their class action against Starbucks.[11] In their complaint, the plaintiffs stated, “For example, if a gallon of gas is advertised as costing three dollars, and a customer pays three dollars and pumps gas, that customer is expecting to receive a gallon of gas — not approximately half a gallon.”[12]

As Starbucks continues to grow as a company, it should be interesting to see what other lawsuits are brought against it in court.



[1] http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2016/05/04/woman-sues-starbucks-5-million-ice-chilled-coffee-tea/83920832/

[2] http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2016/05/04/woman-sues-starbucks-5-million-ice-chilled-coffee-tea/83920832/

[3] http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-starbucks-iced-coffee-lawsuit-0825-biz-20160824-story.html

[4] http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2016-08-24/federal-judge-puts-starbucks-lawsuit-on-ice-in-california

[5] http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-starbucks-iced-coffee-lawsuit-0825-biz-20160824-story.html

[6] http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-starbucks-iced-coffee-lawsuit-0825-biz-20160824-story.html

[7] http://www.marketwatch.com/story/starbucks-lawsuit-alleging-it-put-too-much-ice-in-drinks-gets-dismissed-2016-08-24

[8] http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2016/05/04/woman-sues-starbucks-5-million-ice-chilled-coffee-tea/83920832/

[9] http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2016/08/23/incredulous-judge-tosses-lawsuit-accusing-starbucks-of-putting-too-much-ice-in-cold-drinks/

[10] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/06/22/federal-judge-refused-to-dismiss-lawsuit-that-claims-starbucks-is-underfilling-latte-beverages/

[11] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/06/22/federal-judge-refused-to-dismiss-lawsuit-that-claims-starbucks-is-underfilling-latte-beverages/

[12] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/06/22/federal-judge-refused-to-dismiss-lawsuit-that-claims-starbucks-is-underfilling-latte-beverages/

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