Philip Kozma v. Starbucks Coffee Company

Date: 03-19-2010

Case Style: Philip Kozma v. Starbucks Coffee Company

Court: Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division on appeal from the Superior Court of Monmouth County

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Drazin & Warshaw, attorneys for appellant (John Connelly, on the brief).

Defendant’s Attorney: Law Offices of John Tierney, LLC, attorneys for respondent Starbucks Corporation (John Tierney, on the brief).


On March 2, 2005, plaintiff kozma slipped and fell on ice outside of a Starbucks coffee shop in Matawan, allegedly suffering serious and permanent personal injuries. He proceeded to trial——utilizing a conventional theory of negligence——against the owner of the premises, Lionetti Enterprises, LLC; a maintenance contractor, Pavers Plus Landscaping, Inc.; and Starbucks Corporation. The jury allocated sixty percent of the negligence and proximate cause to Starbucks and the balance of forty percent to plaintiff. Lionetti and Pavers Plus were exonerated of fault for the happening of the incident. Notwithstanding that the liability scale had tipped in favor of plaintiff, the jury nevertheless unanimously declined to award plaintiff any compensatory damages.

After thirty minutes of deliberation, the jury at the Trial Court announced that it had reached a verdict, finding that negligence did occur but compensating plaintiff with “[n]o monetary award.”

Plaintiff’s appellate brief proposed that the “only issue on appeal is whether or not appellant is entitled to a new trial on damages in view of the jury’s disregard of the undisputed evidence that as a result of the accident appellant suffered [an] injury to his left knee.”

The Appellate Division, in Kozma v. Starbucks Corporation, disagreed with all of plaintiff’s contentions and recognized that because juries infuse community notions of justice into their verdicts, the refusal to award damages was justified.

The Appellate Division held : “…Following our methodical review of the record, we harbor no indecision in finding that the jury’s verdict did not cause a miscarriage of justice under the law. On the contrary, sufficient credible evidence in the record as a whole supported all aspects of the jury’s verdict. Crego v. Carp, 295 N.J. Super. 565, 577-579 (App. Div. 1996), certif. denied, 149 N.J. 34 (1997).

Here, the Appellate Division found, ‘…there was significant evidence calling into question the reliability of plaintiff’s expert witness’s evidence as well as that given by plaintiff. The jury could reasonably find that the impact of the fall was so insignificant that no additional injury beyond plaintiff’s preexisting condition was sustained. ‘

Outcome: Affirmed