The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Family says they — and their toddler — drank blood from a Starbucks barista. Now they’re suing.

A Starbucks barista reaches for a paper cup. (Elaine Thompson/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

A California family is suing Starbucks after they say they found a barista’s blood smeared on the cups containing their beverages.

Amanda Vice and her then 2-year-old daughter had been sharing a Java Chip Frappuccino one Saturday in 2016 when family members say they made a gross discovery, according to a complaint filed last month in San Bernardino County Superior Court.

The lawsuit states that after Vice’s mother-in-law noticed traces of blood and an “odd, metallic smell” on her own cup, “Amanda rushed to the kitchen and saw blood smeared on her cup as well.”

“The blood was smeared on the inside and outside rim of the cup,” according to the lawsuit, released by the Frish Law Group. It added that the family “anxiously examined their hands for blood,” but “nobody was bleeding.”

“The thought of ingesting a stranger’s blood was disturbing, distressing, and nauseating,” the suit said.

The family, from San Bernardino, is suing for negligence, emotional distress, battery and assault.

Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges told The Washington Post on Thursday the company is “incredibly surprised” by the lawsuit and a news release put out by the family’s attorney, “especially since we’ve been working with the family over the past two years” to figure out what took place.

He said Starbucks is “fully prepared” to present its case in court.

A Starbucks briefly closed after a hoax about a barista defiling white people’s food went viral

The lawsuit alleges that following the incident Feb. 6, the family spoke several times with supervisors at the Starbucks location where they purchased the beverages.

The lawsuit states that a store manager apologized and told the family she had “located the bleeding employee and removed the employee from the sales floor.”

Days later, Vice’s husband “realized that he left his cup inside of his car, so he went to this car and discovered that there was blood on the side of the Starbucks label affixed to the cup,” according to the suit.

“My wife and my baby just drank someone’s blood,” Vice’s husband, Louis, recently told CW affiliate KTLA. “It was bad.”

“We felt sick to our stomachs,” Vice told the station. “We shouldn’t have to worry about going to get something to drink and there being blood in our drink where we could get sick. It’s very stressful.”

The family says they rejected repeated offers for free drinks, instead asking for the barista to undergo a blood test. After one manager agreed, the family claims, they were told the company could not force the employee to have the test.

Throughout the year, according to the suit, the family underwent tests to monitor for HIV and other diseases, “which created further stress, anxiety and worry.”

“Mrs. Vice is primarily concerned about her toddler,” Stan Pekler, the family’s attorney, said in a phone interview Thursday with The Post. “They were very worried for her safety, as well as their own.”

“They had to get tested and retested, and that traumatic event continued to replay in their minds because they simply could not move on from it,” Pekler added.

Ultimately, the tests came back negative, according to the law firm.

Pekler said Starbucks offered each member of the family $1,000 for compensation. “In the beginning, they really were not sympathetic at all,” he said about the company. “They offered gift cards and free drinks — but that’s not what the family was looking for.”

Asked why they are just now filing a lawsuit, Pekler, who said he has been representing the family for the majority of the past two years, explained that they wanted to first try to work with the company.

“We didn’t want to race to the courthouse,” Pekler said. But, he added, there is a two-year statute of limitations on personal-injury cases in California.

Scalding Starbucks tea disfigured a woman and killed her dog, lawsuit says

Over the years, Starbucks has been the target of numerous lawsuits. It’s been accused of underfilling lattes, serving coffee drinks too hot and serving them at all (without cancer warnings, that is).

Many have been thrown out of court.

Earlier this year, a location near Atlanta had to close after false statements went viral on social media, claiming a black employee had been defiling white customers’ food and drinks.

As for the California case, Borges, the Starbucks spokesman, did not acknowledge whether the family’s claims were true but said, “We take a great deal of pride in our customers’ having a great experience.”

“In this instance, we’ve been working with the family directly since almost immediately after they informed us of their experience,” he said.

This story has been updated.

Read more:

Another country has banned boiling live lobsters. Some scientists wonder why.