Cup of Woe: Starbucks Ordered to Pay $7.5M

Anthony Zaccaglin and his wife awarded in verdict for slip and fall case

By Joseph M.D. Young and Lea Sutton
|  Saturday, Dec 24, 2011  |  Updated 2:11 PM PDT
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A San Diego superior court jury awarded Anthony Zaccaglin and his wife nearly $7.5 million on Thursday. Lea Sutton reports.

A San Diego superior court jury awarded Anthony Zaccaglin and his wife nearly $7.5 million on Thursday. Lea Sutton reports.

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A San Diego jury awarded a man and his wife nearly $7.5 million Friday in their civil suit against Starbucks after the man fell inside a North County business in 2008.

The case, which was filed in 2009, centered on Anthony Zaccaglin, who reportedly sustained a concussion after falling inside a Starbucks located on Melrose in Vista.

Zaccaglin slipped and hit his head on a cash register as he was walking from the cashier to the pickup counter, according to Zaccaglin's attorneys, who added that witnesses at the scene said a manager had just mopped the area where Zaccaglin slipped and also said that that employee later apologized for not "dry mopping."

According to Zaccaglin's wife, Lisa Zaccaglin, there was one cone behind the spill and it wasn't right next to it. She claimed that Zaccaglin didn't remember anything after he slipped.

Zaccaglin alleged that he suffered complications stemming from the fall and was unable to return to work as a chiropractor. He said he suffers extreme fatigue, bad headaches, and side effects from medication.

"He's nothing like he used to be and he will never be the same," said Zaccaglin's wife, Lisa.

Starbucks initially offered a $100,000 settlement to Zaccaglin; he declined to accept that proposal, however, said Zaccaglin's attorney John Gomez.

After two and a half weeks in court, a jury returned a verdict against Starbucks on Friday, awarding $6,456,230.50 to Zaccaglin. His wife was awarded $1 million for loss of consortium, or the loss of her husband’s love, companionship, comfort and care.

The total amount could grow to as much as $8.5 million, including added costs, Gomez said.

Starbucks spokesman Jim Oslo said the company was disappointed with the size of verdict:

Providing a safe environment for our customers is always a top priority for us at Starbucks. We are sorry that Mr. Zaccaglin was injured at our Vista, Calif., store. However, we are disappointed with the size of the verdict as we made every effort to reach a mutually agreeable and reasonable settlement with Mr. Zaccaglin. We are reviewing the decision to determine what, if any, steps we may take in response.

If Starbucks appeals, it could take up to two more years for the case to be settled, according to Gomez.

"For a national chain, Starbuck's safety policies were shockingly inadequate and inconsistently applied," Gomez said. "The family hopes that today's verdict will cause Starbucks to take safety as seriously as it does sales."

Gomez added that he and Zaccaglin were hoping to work it out with Starbucks to avoid an appeal.

Lisa Zaccaglin said the it's been a long road for Anthony with doctor's appointments and therapy, and that the legal fight with Starbucks was emotionally exhausting.

She said, though she was relieved by Thursday's outcome, her husband's struggle will continue.

"My husband went into their store to have a cup of coffee to visit with a few of his friends and when he walked out he was a completely different person."

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