A teenage girl, Abigail Sataur from Ontario has sued Starbucks claiming that the company and its employees have failed to take reasonable care to ensure her safety. It has also been held by the plaintiff that the company has failed to take measures to prevent the injury, which was foreseeable. The plaintiff claimed general and special damages of $1 million from the defendant (Adriano, 2019).
In such case, the court in general evaluate the essential elements of negligence that comprise of the duty of care of the defendant and its breach of such duty which has given rise to an injury which was foreseeable. The court also takes into account the active risk management strategy of the company that is meant to prevent the risks that the company may face (Luntz et al., 2017).
Under common law, negligence is established when a person who has a duty of care towards another and he has failed to carry out such duty and it has caused a severe injury or loss to the other person. It is also considered that whether the injury or loss was foreseeable by the tortfeasor or not. In this case:
- Starbucks had a duty of caretowards its customer, Abigail for ensuring her safety in the store while she was in the store.
- The company certainly breached its duty of care as the employee did not take precaution while serving her scalding hot water.
- The scalding hot water was spilled on Abigail’s hand and caused her permanent injury.
- It can be assessed that the causation of the damage or injury was foreseeableas the employee was serving scalding hot water and should have adopted necessary precautions while doing so as it is quite reasonable that it was risky to handle such hot water which may cause injury if spilled.
Therefore, it can be opined that this constitutes an act of negligence on the Starbucks employee’s part, which makes the company vicariously liable for the negligence of its employee (Adriano, 2019).
Risk Management Plan Assessment
In this context, the company does not seem to have a Risk management assessment plan and therefore an appropriate plan needs to be implemented (Doherty, 2000). Following the four step risk management process:
- Identification of legal risk: failure to carry out precautionary measures while serving hot beverages to customers lead to legal consequences.
- Evaluation of risk: Different risks needs to be evaluated differently. In this context, the brand image of the company would be affected due to the severe accident.
- Risk Management Plan: the company must:
- Learn from its past crisis
- Deploy strategic plan to avoid such accident of spilling scalding water on a customer.
- Give proper training to the employees
- Embrace social media and promote customer safety plans
- Implementation: the above-stated risk assessment plans should be incorporated in their policy and lay down certain guidelines for the customers and to the employees for avoiding future accidents.
Adriano, L. (2019). Ontario’s top court approves lawsuit against Starbucks. Retrieved from https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/ca/news/professional-liability/ontarios-top-court-approves-lawsuit-against-starbucks-88951.aspx
Doherty, N. A. (2000). Integrated risk management: Techniques and strategies for managing corporate risk. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Luntz, H., Hambly, D., Burns, K., Dietrich, J., Foster, N., Grant, G., & Harder, S. (2017). Torts: cases and commentary. LexisNexis Butterworths.