A Nassau County jury has awarded almost $9 million to an injured Starbucks customer who walked from the coffee shop into the path of an SUV leaving its drive-thru lane.
The jurors decided design flaws in the shop at 1453 Sadler Road in Fernandina Beach led to 72-year-old Sherry Gold incurring injuries that require her to use a walker or cane.
She’ll face an expected $970,000 in future medical expenses alone, said the jury, which heard about her need for knee replacement and damage to areas including the woman’s left foot, right ankle, abdomen and left elbow.
In addition to that cost, the jury awarded $1.5 million for pain and suffering since the July 2019 accident and $6.5 million for future suffering.
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The lawsuit Gold brought revolved around arguments that the store’s layout steered walk-in customers like her into drive-thru traffic because of a decision to maximize outside seating at the expense of space for foot traffic.
“A corporate decision was made that literally pushed walk-in customers off the curb right into the path of exiting drive-thru traffic,” Gold’s attorney, Curry Pajcic, said after the Monday night verdict that ended a week-long trial in front of Circuit Judge Eric Roberson.
A Starbucks spokesperson said the company doesn’t plan to accept the jury’s decision as final.
“We take seriously our obligation to provide a safe store experience for our customers. We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict,” the spokesperson said by email. “We believe these allegations against Starbucks are without merit and we will be seeking a new trial.”
Although Gold had sued both Starbucks and the driver who struck her, jurors assigned all responsibility to the store, not to Gold or driver Christine Mazzanti Ward.
The store has added yellow paint striping and signage telling people to watch for pedestrians since the accident.
Jurors were shown examples of other Starbucks that assigned more space for pedestrians and were told a decision like that could have made a difference for Gold, who issued a statement praising the jury’s decision.
“I am thankful to the jury for holding Starbucks Corporation accountable and responsible for their carelessness,” she said. “I hope this sends a message to Starbucks Corporation. This should never happen to anyone else.”