Published on 21/05/16
The Mock Trial trip to a Costa Coffee branch not only provided students with delicious frappe lattes, but also gave us the opportunity to investigate how the law applies in a real life situation, in a stimulating and interactive way. Before our trip, we had considered the famous Liebeck vs. McDonald's Restaurants product liability law case (also known as the ‘hot coffee lawsuit’), in which an elderly woman was awarded $2.86 million after suffering third-degree burns as a result of accidentally spilling a cup of McDonald’s coffee in her lap. This thought-provoking case about the issues of negligence under tort law gave inspiration to our challenge to identify any examples of Costa’s compliance with its legal obligations that were evident within its premises.
Our observations included the application of contract law in relation to the displaying of the different products’ prices: this is an example of “offer and acceptance”, which is the basis of a legally binding contract. We also noted several examples of satisfying health and safety laws. For example, we spotted information about the contents of products with regard to allergy information, which is in compliance with the 2014 EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation. The “please wash your hands” sign by the sink indicated that the company was instructing its staff to be responsible in complying with appropriate hygiene standards, and the fire exit signs placed above the door followed the 1992 EU directive that identified the need for all workplaces to have easily recognisable signs and symbols relating to safety matters. Finally, we considered how Costa met its duty of care to its customers. We saw “wet floor hazards”, put in place with the intention of limiting the company’s liability for any injury that might be sustained by the customer as the result of a slippage, and finally, “caution, hot!” labels on coffee cups, which were perhaps a direct response to the Liebeck vs. McDonald'scase, in order for Costa to avoid claims of negligence.
Overall, the Costa trip was a fantastic way to engage in the world of law, and it made me contemplate the numerous ways in which legal requirements apply to everyday life.