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Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Salt restaurant owner Emma Downling sued by diner over coffee burns in Canterbury eaterie

16 May 2014
by Lowri Stafford

A restaurant owner has been left stunned after discovering she is being sued by a customer who says she burned herself on coffee.

Chef Emma Dowling, who runs Salt in Palace Street with her partner Lee, 37, has branded the legal action “ridiculous”.

The complainant, a woman from Whitstable, claims she hurt her arm due to a faulty cafetiere while dining there last year.

Chef Emma Dowling who runs Salt in Canterbury

But Miss Dowling, 26, says she received no complaint at the time, and is still using the same cafetieres, none of which are broken.

She says: “We got a solicitors’ letter asking who our insurer is so they can make a claim. It says they didn’t seek medical attention for the burn.

“It’s really upsetting. If someone sued a place like McDonald’s it wouldn’t affect them too much but we’re a small, independent business.

Salt's customer was said to have burnt herself on a coffee. Library image

Salt's customer was said to have burnt herself on a coffee. Library image

"Luckily we have insurance, but if we didn’t and the claim was successful, it would close us down.

“It’s really upsetting. If someone sued a place like McDonald’s it wouldn’t affect them too much but we’re a small, independent business" - Emma Dowling

“You hear about these ridiculous no win, no fee lawsuits in America. It’s a shame it’s now happening over here.”

The claim echoes the famous Hot Coffee Case in 1994, when 79-year-old Stella Liebeck successfully sued McDonald’s for $2.7 million after she spilled coffee on her lap.

Liebeck versus McDonald’s Restaurants is often used as an example of frivolous litigation. It led to a HBO documentary called Hot Coffee, which explored how the case prompted reforms in civil law.

Miss Dowling, who celebrated Salt’s one year anniversary on Tuesday, is to seek legal advice.

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