When people are injured by defective products while using them in a reasonably foreseeable manner, they may have the right to recover compensation to cover their losses. However, the alleged defect must have been the direct or proximate cause of an injury for liability to attach. In Shih v. Starbucks Corp., Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B299329, the court considered a case in which the plaintiff’s injury was fairly attenuated from the alleged product defect to determine whether liability should attach.[1]

Factual and procedural background

Tina Shih when to a Starbucks restaurant with a friend. Both ordered cups of tea, and Shih went to retrieve them from the pickup counter when they were ready. Shih noticed that the restaurant had placed the teas inside of double cups instead of using sleeves around the cups. She stated that while they were hot, she carried both drinks back to the table where her friend was seated. After placing the cups of tea on the table, Shih sat down. She took the lid off of her drink and bent forward to take a sip instead of picking it up to take a drink. As she leaned forward, her chair moved backward beneath her, causing her to lose her balance. Shih grabbed the edge of the table to regain her balance, which caused her cup of tea to spill. Shih suffered second-degree burns from the beverage spill and filed a lawsuit against Starbucks for negligence and product liability.