The $5M Lawsuit Against Starbucks for Shorting Cold Drinks

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: May 17, 2016

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Starbucks A new class action lawsuit asks Starbucks to pay $5 million to consumers who have purchased cold beverages there over the past 10 years.  The lawsuit claims that Starbucks advertises all of its drinks by the fluid ounce, but misrepresents the true amount of liquid contained within each drink.

Ice or No Ice — That Is the Question

The complaint alleges that Starbucks drinks are created according to a standardized practice that causes drinks to contain significantly less product than advertised. Starbucks uses cups pre-marked with black lines.  For cold liquid drinks, a cup is filled to the top of a specific line with the cold liquid beverage.  An employee then adds ice to fill the rest of the cup.  The complaint alleges that ice is not a fluid and should not be included within the fluid ounces that it advertises its products to contain. 

The plaintiff claims that she and other similarly situated customers “relied on Starbucks’ misrepresentations in purchasing Cold Drinks, and would not have paid as much if anything, for the Cold Drinks had the true facts regarding the true amount of fluid ounces they were getting been disclosed.”

Responding to the lawsuit, Starbucks spokesperson Jaime Riley stated, “We are aware of the plaintiff’s claims, which we fully believe to be without merit. 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.”

Subway Footlong Lawsuit

This lawsuit calls to mind a similar fast food case where plaintiffs sued the popular sandwich chain, Subway, over the size of its “Footlong” sub.  In that case, plaintiffs sought compensation based on their allegation that the subs that were advertised as 12-inch subs, were consistently only 11 inches long.

The Subway suit settled out of court, with the sandwich chain agreeing to pay $500 to each of the 10 people who led the class action and $520,000 in attorney fees.  The settlement further required that Subway franchisees use a tool to measure bread to ensure that the sandwich length is correct.  The franchisor is also required to include sandwich length as part of its inspections. 

In the final approval of the settlement, Lynn Adelman, of the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin, indicated that plaintiffs’ attorneys realized that their claims were “weak” after the initial mediation session.  Accordingly, the plaintiffs decided to focus on injunctive relief rather than monetary damages.


(Photo Credit: “Starbucks” by Faye is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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