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Cacin-Worthy v. Starbuck's Coffee Co.

United States District Court, Eastern District of New York

November 7, 2014


SACCO & FILLAS, LLP Attorneys for Plaintiff



Denis R. Hurley Unites States District Judge

Devrim Cacin-Worthy (“plaintiff”) commenced this action in Queens Supreme Court against Starbucks Coffee Company and Starbucks Corporation (“defendants”) alleging that defendants were negligent in their delivery of a cup of coffee to the plaintiff thereby causing the coffee to spill and resulting in personal injuries to plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 50.) The action was removed to this jurisdiction “by reason of diversity of citizenship” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Notice of Removal, DE 1, ¶ 7.) Presently before the Court is defendants’ motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, seeking dismissal of plaintiff's claims in their entirety. For the reasons that follow, defendants’ motion is denied.


The following material facts, drawn from the parties' Local Civil Rule 56.1 Statements and evidentiary submissions, are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

In November 2011, plaintiff was employed by Aldo, a retail store in the Sunrise Mall in Massapequa, New York. Prior to going to work on November 25, 2011, plaintiff stopped at the Starbucks kiosk in the center of the mall. Plaintiff ordered a medium-sized regular drip coffee at the cash register, where a Starbucks employee delivered her coffee to her. The Starbucks employee put a lid on the cup of coffee before providing it to plaintiff. Plaintiff then “grabbed the coffee” with her left hand and began to walk to the “milk area, ” which was approximately four to five feet from the register. After plaintiff took three or four steps toward the milk area, the coffee spilled. According to plaintiff, the coffee spilled because the lid came off as she “was making a motion to sit her cup down onto the condiment table.” As a result of the spill, plaintiff alleges she sustained severe burns.

Plaintiff asserts that defendants were negligent in serving coffee that was too hot and in failing to properly secure the lid of the coffee cup. Plaintiff admits, however, that she does not know the temperature of the coffee she was served, and that before the coffee spilled she did not have any trouble holding the cup in her hand as it was not too hot to hold. Additionally, plaintiff does not know at what temperature Starbucks typically brews or serves its coffee. Plaintiff also admits that when she picked up the coffee, the lid was on, however she contends that it was not properly affixed and/or secured to the cup, although she never checked to see if the lid was on securely.


I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is only appropriate where admissible evidence in the form of affidavits, deposition transcripts, or other documentation demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and one party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. See Viola v. Philips Med. Sys. of N. Am., 42 F.3d 712, 716 (2d Cir. 1994). The relevant governing law in each case determines which facts are material; “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). No genuinely triable factual issue exists when the moving party demonstrates, on the basis of the pleadings and submitted evidence, and after drawing all inferences and resolving all ambiguities in favor of the non-movant, that no rational jury could find in the non-movant's favor. Chertkova v. Conn. Gen. Life Ins. Co., 92 F.3d 81, 86 (2d Cir. 1996).

To defeat a summary judgment motion properly supported by affidavits, depositions, or other documentation, the non-movant must offer similar materials setting forth specific facts that show that there is a genuine issue of material fact to be tried. Rule v. Brine, Inc., 85 F.3d 1002, 1011 (2d Cir. 1996). The non-movant must present more than a Ascintilla of evidence, ” Del. & Hudson Ry. Co. v. Consol. Rail Corp., 902 F.2d 174, 178 (2d Cir. 1990) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252), or "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Aslanidis v. U.S. Lines, Inc., 7 F.3d 1067, 1072 (2d Cir. 1993) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)), and cannot rely on the allegations in his or her pleadings, on conclusory statements, or on Amere assertions that affidavits supporting the motion are not credible, ” Gottlieb v. Cnty. of Orange, 84 F.3d 511, 518 (2d Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). A When no rational jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party because the evidence to support its case is so slight, there is no genuine issue of material fact and a grant of summary judgment is proper." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994).

The district court, in considering a summary judgment motion, must also be mindful of the underlying burdens of proof because "the evidentiary burdens that the respective parties will bear at trial guide district courts in their determination of summary judgment motions." Brady v. Town of Colchester, 863 F.2d 205, 211 (2d Cir. 1988). Where the non-moving party will bear the ultimate burden of proof on an issue at trial, "the moving party's burden under Rule 56 will be satisfied if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the" non-movant's claim. Id. at 210-11. Where a movant without the underlying burden of proof offers evidence that the non-movant has failed to present sufficient evidence in support of his ...

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