Woman suing Tim Hortons for $500K after hot tea spill left her 'disfigured'
Warning: This story contains graphic images that some readers may find disturbing.
An Ontario woman and her family have launched a civil lawsuit seeking $500,000 in damages from Tim Hortons after she allegedly suffered second-degree burns across her stomach, genitals, and legs from a “superheated" tea.
“For what should’ve been an everyday occurrence, there have been very severe consequences,” Toronto lawyer with Gardiner Roberts LLP, Gavin Tighe, told CTV News Toronto Saturday.
Tighe is representing 73-year-old Jackie Lansing – who, on May 18, 2022, ordered a 14-ounce hot black tea using the drive-thru of a Huntsville, Ont. Tim Hortons, according to a statement of claim filed on behalf of Lansing and reviewed by CTV News Toronto.
It is alleged within the documents that Lansing was handed her tea at a “superheated, scalding” temperature in a “single cup” that “immediately collapsed in on itself.”
“As a result, approximately 14 ounces of scalding hot liquid spilled on Ms. Lansing’s stomach and legs,” her claim reads. “The tea provided was a hazard rather than a beverage.”
The spill resulted in severe, second-degree burns across much of her lower body, Tighe said. “To this day, heavy scarring is an issue,” he added.
The cup that held the 'scalding' tea served to Lansing. (Gardiner Roberts LLP)
In December, Lansing and her daughter launched a lawsuit against Tim Hortons, accusing the chain of negligence. Within her statement of claim, Lansing claims that the cup she was provided with was faulty, that the tea was heated to an unreasonable temperature, and that the employees failed to take reasonable care and warn her of the cup’s deficiencies.
Lansing's daughter is seeking damages under Ontario's Family Law Act, claiming she hasn't been able to sustain prior levels of care for her disabled child while also overseeing her mother's recovery.
A statement of defence filed in response on behalf of TDL Group Corp., the licensing company of Tim Hortons, and Greenwood Enterprises Inc., the operator of the franchise, denies any alleged negligence and argues that all duties of care were fulfilled and service standards were met. Instead, it blames Lansing and underlines an "assumed risk" when ordering a hot beverage.
"She was the author of her own misfortune," it reads.
When reached for comment, a representative for Tim Hortons told CTV News Toronto the company was unable to provide further information while the matter was in front of the courts.
Following the spill, Lansing sought medical attention at Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare, Tighe said.
“She immediately had to go to the emergency department and suffered serious burns to her torso and legs,” he said.
The burns did “extensive damage” to her stomach and legs, court documents allege, and resulted in “fluid-filled blistering of the skin, pus accumulation, and skin sloughing.”
Lansing's burns can be seen above. (Tighe)
In the months following the incident, Tighe said Lansing was at "serious risk of infection" and required frequent medical treatment and attention.
Documents allege that Lansing is “permanently and seriously injured, scarred, and disfigured,” and will continue to suffer pain for the remainder of her life.
Since the incident, her claim states she suffers from ongoing issues such as hypersensitive skin that requires daily SPF, low tolerance to temperature, chemicals, sunlight, and form-fitting clothes, ongoing weight gain, and a negative self-image.
“The injuries have left and will leave severely disfiguring and visible scars,” the claim reads.
She also alleges her mental health has declined and that she frequently is “afraid, anxious, gloomy, depressed, and tearful.”
WHAT IS A NEGLIGENCE CLAIM?
David Taub, partner at Robins Appleby LLP in Toronto, said that a successful negligence claim needs to establish five elements.
“The four basic elements are a duty of care, a breach of that duty, causation, and damages,” Taub told CTV News Toronto in an interview Sunday.
First, the plaintiff has to establish the defendant had some form of a legal duty of care – in this case, that Tim Hortons should have been expected to provide Lansing with tea of a reasonable temperature and a well-structured cup.
The plaintiffs will also be expected to show a breach of that duty, and that the breach caused harm.
“The cup, which held the superheated liquid ‘collapsed in on itself –’ I think is the language they use,” Taub said, referring to the alleged breach in Lansing’s claim. “So, [they’re alleging] either the tea was so hot that it busted the cup, or the cup itself was just wholly defective.”
When serving thousands of hot beverages a day, Tim Hortons can be reasonably expected to experience spills on occasion, Taub said. Within her case, Lansing will need to prove that the temperature of the tea was so hot that it exceeded a burn that could be “reasonably” expected in such settings.
“The plaintiff will need to prove more serious burns than one would expect to possibly suffer when purchasing a hot beverage,” Taub said. “You would likely need medical evidence.”
The fourth element, damages, is that the plaintiff must establish that the harm caused to them can be compensated in the form of damages, he said.
“You would expect, in any normal case, that your cup would be adequate to hold the contents inside, and so, if it all of a sudden it dumps out onto you, you'll have some sort of harm suffered from the hot drinking spilled on you,” Taub said.
According to her claim, Lansing is seeking damages to cover the costs of ongoing medical treatment, psychotherapy, dieticians, and future cosmetic treatment.
DEFENDENT DENIES ALLEGATIONS
A lawyer representing TDL and Greenwood denied that Tim Horton’s service of the tea created a hazard or that the cup was in any way faulty in a statement of defence filed in late February.
Instead, it blames Lansing for the incident, dubbing her the “author of her own misfortune.”
The defence argues that, at the time of the incident, Lansing was not paying attention, distracted by her cellphone, and, “despite her knowledge of the hot liquid,” moved hastily.
The statement of defence argues its parties "fulfilled all duties of care in regards to the sale and delivery of hot beverages.”
The defence is requesting the court dismiss Lansing’s claim.
‘NOT TERRIBLY COMMON’
Taub said he hasn’t seen many successful similar cases within his time in the field.
“It's not terribly common at all,” he said, “but it does happen.”
The litigator said these cases often draw a significant amount of public attention.
In the now-famous 1994 litigation case, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck alleged she suffered third-degree burns after spilling a McDonald's coffee in her lap while parked outside the restaurant. The legal proceedings made international news.
Earlier this year, a British Columbia man filed a lawsuit against McDonald's alleging he was injured by a "scalding hot" coffee while stopped at a drive-thru window. Just over a decade prior, a B.C. woman also sued the fastfood chain over burns sustained by a hot drink spill.
Toronto Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Travellers from 13 more countries now eligible to visit Canada without a visa
Canada is expanding the list of countries whose residents are eligible to visit this country without a travel visa.
Johnston to launch foreign interference hearings in July, calls allegations of bias 'quite simply false'
Canada's special rapporteur on foreign interference David Johnston calls the allegations swirling around his objectivity 'quite simply false,' and said Tuesday he plans to push ahead with his work, launching public hearings next month
'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure': Experts say a national fire service could help battle wildfires
During a record-setting wildfire season, experts say prevention of more disasters is important, citing a Canada-wide fire service could help mitigate blazes.
Environment minister says he could accelerate action on climate change if he didn’t have to 'fight' the Conservative Party
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told Power Play host Vassy Kapelos it would 'greatly help' Canada's capacity to accelerate the fight against climate change if he didn't have to 'fight the Conservative Party of Canada.'
Sex harassment case involving Trudeau Foundation should be heard in N.L., lawyer says
The lawyer representing a woman who alleges she was sexually harassed by a former Northwest Territories premier says her client would likely have to end her lawsuit if a judge determines the trial should be moved to Quebec.
Ford calls for ouster, Poilievre decries Liberal response to Bernardo prison transfer
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is calling on the Liberals to keep "multiple murderers" in maximum-security prison, as fallout continues over the transfer of convicted killer Paul Bernardo to a medium-security institution in Quebec.
Canadian military joined recent U.S. forum on UFOs; Pentagon trying to identify 'metallic' orbs
The Canadian military has confirmed it participated in a May 2023 forum for Five Eyes intelligence partners that was held by the director of the Pentagon's UFO research program.
Global News defends reporting in face of Han Dong lawsuit
Global News and its parent company Corus Entertainment say in response to a lawsuit filed by Han Dong that their reporting about the Toronto MP was based on a detailed investigation involving multiple sources.
A killer rabbit, jousting bear and Robin Hood walk into a bar: Ancient manuscript reveals new details on medieval comedy
A rare manuscript detailing comedy shows and drinking songs from the 15th century revealed what medieval audiences found funny more than 500 years ago.
Quebec wildfires: Town of Chibougamau declares state of emergency, orders immediate evacuation
The entire town of Chibougamau, in central Quebec, was told to evacuate Tuesday evening as wildfires prompted officials to declare a state of emergency.
Quebec politicians pass bill that will give themselves a $30K raise
Quebec MNAs are about to get a significant pay raise. The National Assembly adopted Bill 24 on Tuesday afternoon, which will increase the politicians' base salaries by $30,000 per year.
'A situation that's unprecedented': Quebec confronted with more than 150 wildfires
As one Quebec city that had been threatened by wildfires lifted an evacuation order Tuesday, authorities turned their attention to communities in the northern and northwestern parts of the province where firefighters worked to beat back threats from out-of-control blazes.
VIDEO | Londoners remember the Afzaal family
Marking the two year anniversary of the alleged terror attack that took the lives of four members of the same family, the board has announced an Anti-Islamophobia Strategy.
VIDEO | Muslim community seeks healing and safety amid lingering shadows of alleged terrorist attack
On this day in 2021, four out of five members of a London, Ont. family were killed while they were out for a walk and struck by a vehicle, in an apparently deliberate attack.
Special air quality statement in effect for Forest City
As wildfires continue to burn in Northern Ontario and Quebec, a special air quality statement has been issued for London and neighbouring counties as of Tuesday evening.
Wildfire smoke from Quebec, northern Ontario lingers in K-W
A haze is lingering in the air and there’s a faint smell of smoke in areas across southwestern Ontario as wildfires continue to burn in Quebec and northern Ontario.
Trustee brings school board to court over temporary suspension for alleged breach of conduct
A trustee with the Waterloo Region District School Board brought the board to court on Tuesday, arguing that a suspension handed to him in 2022 was unfair and unreasonable.
OPP turn to Six Nations residence in search for Amber Ellis
The search for Amber Ellis, a Hagersville woman reported missing in March 2021, is returning to the community where she was last seen.
Emergency orders expanded in northeast Ont. due to forest fires
While firefighters get more forest fires under control in northern Ontario, travel restrictions declared under an emergency order are being expanded in several communities.
Northern Ont. teen, 13, facing new sexual assault charge, 10 total
A 13-year-old male from Elliot Lake in northern Ontario has been charged with sexual assault again, bringing the total to 10, after another survivor came forward.
3 people attacked by dog in Burlington, animal shot dead by police
A dog has been shot dead by police after three people were attacked in Burlington Tuesday afternoon, police say.
Air quality risk in Ottawa high as wildfire smoke blankets the city
A special air quality statement remains in effect for the National Capital Region because of wildfire smoke blowing across the region. Environment Canada's air quality health index is at a high level of risk.
How to take care of yourself and your pets in smoky conditions
The wildfire smoke blanketing Ottawa can cause a variety of health problems for people and animals. Ottawa has already seen an increase in emergency room visits for respiratory issues as thick smoke hangs over the region.
Centennial Lake fire 'greatly suppressed', area mayor says; evacuation order still in effect
The wildfire burning at Centennial Lake, about 150 km west of Ottawa, has been significantly reduced and is being held with a burnt area.
Active police investigation on Northway Ave
Windsor police are on the scene of an active investigation near a new housing development in the city’s west end.
Estranged husband charged with first-degree murder of missing woman
Windsor police say they have arrested a Michigan man for the murder of his estranged wife, who was reported missing last month.
Windsor's air quality impacted by wildfires across the country
Smoke from wildfires burning across Canada is beginning to cause poor air quality in Windsor.
No injuries after potential firearm-related incident in Innisfil
No injuries were reported after an incident in Innisfil Tuesday evening.
Air quality concerns mount as the smell of smoke fills the air in Simcoe County and Muskoka
Residents in Simcoe County and Muskoka are advised to be cautious as forest fires in Quebec impact the air quality, prompting a special statement from Environment Canada.
YMCA teams up with County to help Ukrainian refugees find permanent housing
The YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka is continuing its efforts to provide support to Ukrainian refugees looking for permanent housing in Simcoe County.
Barrington Lake wildfire 'being held,' not expected to move weather permitting
A record-size wildfire in Shelburne County, N.S., isn’t likely to move if conditions don't change, officials say.
New N.S. Health website shares estimated ER wait times
A new website created by Nova Scotia’s health authority shares hourly estimated wait times for many emergency departments across the province.
'They lost everything': Halifax evacuees grapple with new normal
Officials gave the outside world its first look inside the destruction from the Halifax-area wildfires Tuesday.
Proposal to increase number of city councillors in Calgary stalls out, but will see further consideration
Tuesday night, councillors debated a proposal that could have seen their numbers grow by as many as six before the end of the decade.
Expected hot, dry summer means more fire, smoke coming to Alberta
As the definition of a typical Canadian summer evolves, experts say 'hot' and 'dry' could be the buzzwords of the season.
Calgary's Ukrainian community holds rally in response to dam destruction
Calgary's Ukrainian community held an emergency rally on Tuesday night in response to the destruction of a dam in southern Ukraine.
Religious teachings at St. James school to be allowed next year following vote by board of trustees
Some students at an elementary school in the St. James-Assiniboia School Division will be receiving 30 minutes of religious teaching next year after the board of trustees passed a bylaw Tuesday evening.
RCMP investigating abandoned home in connection with disappearance of woman in 2020
The search for a Manitoba woman reported missing three years ago has lead RCMP to an abandoned home in western Manitoba for an investigation.
'Something we need to prepare for': ECCC says warm summer expected in Winnipeg
The heat in the city of Winnipeg will moderate in the next few days, but Environment Canada says residents should expect a hot summer this year.
B.C. prepares for fire evacuations, displacements amid healthcare staffing crisis
The officials tasked with preparing for and responding to natural disasters in the province are bracing for widespread evacuations of B.C. communities amid tinder-dry conditions that are already prompting dire wildfire predictions.
Drinking alcohol will be allowed in some Burnaby parks this summer
Visitors will be able to legally drink booze in some Burnaby parks starting June 23, as city councillors voted in favour of an alcohol in parks pilot project on Monday.
Vancouver lifeguard shortage not to blame for reduced West End pool hours, park board says
The chair of the Vancouver Park Board says he has received several complaints since expanded hours at Second Beach Pool went away.
'We never give up': RCMP helicopter joins search for 14-year-old boy in North Saskatchewan River
An RCMP helicopter is assisting with the search for the 14-year-old boy who went missing in the North Saskatchewan River nearly 48 hours ago.
Michael White, convicted of killing pregnant wife, gets full parole
An Edmonton man convicted of killing his pregnant wife and dumping her body in a ditch has been granted full parole.
'Exciting to see him in person': Alphonso Davies hosts soccer camp in Edmonton
Edmontonian and Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies held a soccer camp for children at Victoria Soccer Club on Tuesday.