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Tim Hortons sued by woman over hot tea burns

Warning: This story contains graphic images that some readers may find disturbing.

An Ontario woman and her family have filed a civil lawsuit seeking $500,000 in damages from Tim Hortons after she allegedly suffered second-degree burns to her stomach, genitals and legs from a “overheated” tea.

“For what should have been an everyday occurrence, there were very serious consequences,” Gavin Tighe, Toronto lawyer for Gardiner Roberts LLP, told CTV News Toronto on 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 from a Huntsville, Ontario. Tim Hortons, according to a statement filed on behalf of Lansing and reviewed by CTV News Toronto.

It is alleged in the documents that Lansing received his tea at an “overheated and scalding hot” temperature in a “single cup” that “immediately collapsed in on itself.”

“As a result, approximately 14 ounces of scalding liquid spilled onto Ms. Lansing’s stomach and legs,” her statement read. “The tea provided was a hazard rather than a drink.”

The spill resulted in severe second-degree burns to much of his lower body, Tighe said. “To this day, significant scarring is a problem,” he added.

The cup that contained the “hot” tea was served to Lansing. (Gardiner Roberts LLP)

In December, Lansing and her daughter filed a lawsuit against Tim Hortons, accusing the chain of negligence. In her statement, Lansing claims that the mug provided to her was faulty, that the tea was heated to an unreasonable temperature, and that employees failed to take reasonable precautions and warn her of the flaws in the cup. cup.

Lansing’s daughter is seeking damages under Ontario’s Family Law Act, saying she was unable to maintain previous levels of care for her disabled child while supervising his mother’s recovery.

A defense filed in response on behalf of TDL Group Corp., Tim Hortons’ licensing company, and Greenwood Enterprises Inc., the franchise operator, denies any alleged negligence and argues that all duties of care have been met. met and that service standards were met. Instead, he blames Lansing and points to “alleged risk” when ordering a hot drink.

“She was the author of her own misfortune,” it read.

When reached for comment, a representative for Tim Hortons told CTV News Toronto the company was unable to provide further information while the case was before the courts.


After the spill, Lansing sought medical attention from Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare, Tighe said.

“She had to go to the emergency room immediately and suffered severe burns to her chest and legs,” he said.

The burns caused “significant damage” to his stomach and legs, according to court documents, and resulted in “fluid-filled blisters on the skin, buildup of pus and peeling of the skin.”

Tim Hortons sued by woman over hot tea burnsLansing’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 care and attention.

Documents allege that Lansing is “permanently and severely injured, scarred and disfigured” and will continue to suffer for the rest of her life.

Since the incident, her claim states that she suffers from ongoing issues such as hypersensitive skin that requires daily SPF, low tolerance to temperature, chemicals, sunlight and tight clothing, socket continued weight loss and a negative self-image.

“The wounds are gone and will leave severely disfiguring and visible scars,” the statement read.

She also alleges that her mental health has declined and that she is often “scared, anxious, gloomy, depressed and in tears”.


David Taub, a partner at Robins Appleby LLP in Toronto, said a successful negligence claim must establish five elements.

“The four basic elements are duty of care, breach of that duty, causation, and damages,” Taub told CTV News Toronto in an interview Sunday.

First, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant had some form of legal duty of care – in this case, that Tim Hortons should have provided Lansing with tea at a reasonable temperature and a well-structured cup.

Plaintiffs will also have to show that they have breached this obligation and that this breach has caused harm.

“The cup, which contained the superheated liquid” collapsed on itself – “I think that’s the language they use,” Taub said, referring to the alleged violation of Lansing’s claim. “SO, [they’re alleging] either the tea was so hot it broke the cup, or the cup itself was just plain faulty.

When serving thousands of hot drinks a day, it’s reasonable to expect Tim Hortons to experience spills on occasion, Taub said. In his case, Lansing will have to prove that the temperature of the tea was so hot that it exceeded a burn that could “reasonably” be expected in such settings.

“The plaintiff will have to prove more severe burns than would be expected when purchasing a hot drink,” Taub said. “You would probably need medical evidence.”

The fourth element, damages, is that the plaintiff must establish that the harm caused to him is recoverable in the form of damages, he said.

“You would expect, in any normal case, that your cup would be enough to hold the contents inside, and so if all of a sudden it spills on you, you will suffer some kind of because of the hot drink spilled on you,” Taub said.

According to his claim, Lansing seeks damages to cover the costs of ongoing medical treatment, psychotherapy, dieticians and future cosmetic treatments.


A lawyer representing TDL and Greenwood denied that Tim Horton’s tea service created a hazard or that the cup was defective in any way in a statement of defense filed in late February.

Instead, he blames Lansing for the incident, dubbing her “the author of her own misfortune”.

The defense argues that at the time of the incident, Lansing was not paying attention, distracted by her cell phone and, “despite her knowledge of the hot liquid”, moved hastily.

The defense argues that its parties “have fulfilled all duties of care with respect to the sale and delivery of hot beverages.”

The defense is asking the court to dismiss Lansing’s claim.


Taub said he hasn’t seen many similar successful cases during his time in the field.

“It’s not very common at all,” he said, “but it does happen.”

The lawyer said these cases often attract public attention.

In the now famous 1994 case, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck alleged she suffered third-degree burns after a McDonald’s coffee spilled into 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 ‘hot’ coffee as he pulled up to a drive-thru window. Just over a decade ago, a B.C. woman also sued the fast-food chain for burns from a hot drink spill.

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