Tommy Piluyev is suing Starbucks as he says he was severely burned after a lid on his cup had popped off, spilling hot tea on his stomach, hands and genitals

By Gabrielle Chung
September 19, 2020 12:14 AM
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Tommy Piluyev
| Credit: courtesy Whitney Davis

A California man has filed a lawsuit against Starbucks in which he claims that his body was severely burned after a lid on his cup had popped off, spilling scalding hot tea on his stomach, hands and genitals.

The incident occurred on Oct. 5, 2018 when Tommy Piluyev, then 22, pulled up to a Starbucks drive-thru in Roseville, California, and ordered two grande Honey Citrus Mint teas, The Sacramento Bee reported.

"As the window associate reached to the SUV’s window sill to deliver the second sleeved and lidded cup to Mr. Piluyev, the lid lost its seal with the cup lip and dislodged from the top of the cup," the lawsuit read, according to the outlet. "Hot tea spilled on Mr. Piluyev’s left hand during the transfer, the cup overturned on the window sill and hot tea poured onto Mr. Piluyev’s hands, stomach and pelvic area."

"Covered in scalding tea, and unable to open his door to escape because he was near the drive-through window, Mr. Piluyev quickly put the SUV into gear and accelerated from the window. He pulled into an adjacent parking lot, hastily exited the vehicle stripped off his sweat pants," the suit continued.

The lawsuit said that Piluyev had suffered "partial-thickness burns with blistering across the lower left abdomen, thighs, penis, scrotum, peritoneum and buttocks" by the time he got to the hospital.

Starbucks cup
| Credit: WEIFANG, SHANDONG PROVINCE, CHINA - 2016/08/31: Paper cup in a Starbucks coffee shop. During the third quarter 2016, Starbucks China had $768.2 million in sales, a growth of 17% compared to the prior period. (Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In photos reviewed by PEOPLE, Piluyev also suffered horrific-looking burns on his palms and fingers.

The lawsuit said that Piluyev can no longer play the piano due to the injury on his hands, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Piluyev spent a total of 11 days at UC Davis Medical Center’s burn unit, where "he required intravenous pain control along with intensive and invasive wound care," the suit said, according to the outlet.

“Upon discharge, Mr. Piluyev’s wife performed her husband’s wound and personal care. Mr. Piluyev transitioned from IV narcotics to gabapentin, oxycodone, Tylenol and ibuprofen. In the five months post-discharge Mr. Piluyev gradually regained the ability to walk, the ability to sense touch in some of his fingers, the ability to hold his young child, and eventually, to use a computer keyboard. Mr. Piluyev remained unable to play the piano," the lawsuit said.

The suit also said that the "sensitivity and permanent skin discoloration and disfigurement of Mr. Piluyev’s genitals and inner thighs made eventual intimacy awkward and painful."

In addition to Starbucks, Piluyev and his wife are now suing Pactiv Packaging Inc., the company the suit said had supplied the cups and lids.

Piluyev's attorney, Whitney Davis, alleged in the lawsuit the defendants were aware of 80 complaints per day of lids slipping off cups, and they "had knowledge of additional complaints and burn incidents from employees, managers and associates concerning defective cups and lids."

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"We make companies such as Starbucks part of our daily life. In return, they must remedy known dangers to their staff and customers," Davis tells PEOPLE in a statement.

"Mr. Piluyev’s burns resulted from lid defects known to Starbucks management for several years. Spilling 180-200 degree tea on a customer is ordinarily an accident. However, when you know how many times per day it will occur at a drive-thru because your lid is defective, harm is not an accident, it is a certainty," Davis says.

A spokesperson for Starbucks tells PEOPLE that the company is currently evaluating the claim.

"Our partners take great pride in ensuring that our beverages are crafted with care and delivered to customers in a safe manner," the representative said. "And we do take our responsibility to provide a safe environment very seriously and will continue to do so moving forward."

The spokesperson added of Piluyev, "It's clear that his injuries did cause him a great deal of pain and suffering. We wish him well in his continuing recovery."

A representative for Pactiv did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.