Starbucks in $114m free drinks dispute

The Daily Telegraph

A Starbucks customer who was told her free drink voucher was worthless has launched a $114m lawsuit against the coffee giant. The company originally emailed the offer of a free large iced coffee to its employees in the south east of the US, inviting them to forward it to family and friends. But the offer snowballed and is reckoned to have been forwarded to millions of people around the country and posted on websites.

Starbucks’ stores in New York are reported to have been swamped with queues of people looking to redeem the offer. Realising what was happening, Starbucks pulled the free drink offer, saying it had been redistributed beyond its original intent.

The 23-year-old customer’s lawyer, Peter Sullivan, says $114m (£60m) equals the cost of drinks for all those turned away when the company decided to cancel its offer. Mr Sullivan accuses the company of fraud and is requesting class-action status for the lawsuit, hoping to sign-up countless others around the country who also missed out on their free drink. He said his client, Starbucks regular Kelly Coakley, feels “betrayed”.

However, legal experts do not think the case has much chance of winning. The case is being compared by some with the lawsuit in which fast-food chain McDonald’s was sued by a woman who claimed its coffee was too hot, sparking a wave of similar claims and the rise of the “frivolous lawsuit” which the government is attempting to rein in.

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