Starbucks intentionally underfills its lattes by 25 percent, saving the coffee giant millions while ripping-off customers at the same time, a putative class action states.
Latte drinkers Siera Strumlauf and Benjamin Robles claim that Starbucks baristas follow a standardized recipe when it comes to making lattes. According to the plaintiffs, latte-makers are instructed to fill a pitcher with steamed milk up to an etched “fill to” line, then pour shots of espresso into a serving cup, pour the steamed milk into the serving cup, top the latte with milk foam and leave 1/4 inch of free space at the top.
However, the Starbucks class action alleges that the “fill to” lines don’t measure up to the supposed 12, 16, and 20 fluid ounce cup sizes offered to customers.
“Tall Lattes are not 12 fluid ounces, Grande Lattes are not 16 fluid ounces, and Venti Lattes are not 20 fluid ounces,” the class action states. “Starbucks cheats purchasers by providing less fluid ounces in their Lattes than represented.”
The plaintiffs say Starbucks made a conscious decision to underfill its lattes in 2009 in order to save on the cost of milk, which is one of its most expensive ingredients.
By giving baristas a “fill to” line, there is no room for deviation making every latte short by several ounces, the plaintiffs claim.
“Moreover, Starbucks refuses to fill any hot beverage up to the brim of the cup. Thus, under no circumstances will Starbucks ever serve a Grande Latte that actually meets the fluid ounces represented on the menu,” the Starbucks lawsuit states.
Strumlauf says she visits her local Starbucks in San Francisco one or two times each week spending $3.95 on a grande-size (16 fl. oz.) latte. She claims that the representation on Starbucks’ menu informs customers that the grande-sized latte would in fact contain 16 ounces. Strumlauf states that had she known the coffee drink would be less than 16 ounces she would have either paid less for it or not bought it at all.
Robles claims he too was cheated when he purchased an underfilled 16 ounce, grande-sized Starbucks Latte. The plaintiff says he relied on the representation of ounces offered by Starbucks when deciding to make his purchase not knowing the product was misrepresented.
The Starbucks lawsuit alleges that by underfilling lattes, the coffee company is in breach of express and implied warranties as well as liable for unjust enrichment.
If the class action lawsuit is approved, it will be open to all U.S. Class Members who purchased a Starbucks Latte. The plaintiffs also seek to represent a subclass of California residents who bought a latte from Starbucks.
Strumlauf and Robles are represented by L. Timothy Fisher, Julia A. Luster and Scott A. Bursor of Bursor & Fisher PA, and Gerald Healy and John Hafemann of Military Justice Attorneys PLLC.
The Starbucks Underfilled Latte Class Action Lawsuit is Siera Strumlauf, et al. v. Starbucks Corp., Case No. 3:16-cv-01306, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
UPDATE: On April 25, 2016, plaintiffs urged a California federal judge not to dismiss a class action lawsuit that accuses Starbucks Corp. of uniformly underfilling its lattes by 25 percent.
UPDATE 2: On May 26, 2016, Starbucks filed a motion with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to transfer all underfilled drinks class action lawsuits to Washington, arguing that it would be more convenient for depositions.
UPDATE 3: On June 17, 2016, this Starbucks class action lawsuit over underfilled lattes will continue, but with fewer claims and limitations on the available relief.
UPDATE 4: On Aug. 5, 2016, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ruled that the class action lawsuits alleging Starbucks intentionally underfills lattes and other coffee drinks will not be merged into one centralized case.
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LEGAL INFORMATION IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE
©2008 – 2016 Top Class Actions® LLC
Various Trademarks held by their respective owners
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