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Judge Allows Lawsuit Claiming Starbucks Underfills Lattes

Two people who accused Starbucks of deliberately underfilling lattes can continue their lawsuit after a federal judge in California dismissed three counts against the beverage retailer but allowed five to remain.

The plaintiffs, Siera Strumlauf and Benjamin Robles, contended in a class-action complaint filed in March that the popular drinks were underfilled by about 25 percent of their advertised sizes: 12, 16 and 20 ounces.

Starbucks had argued that a “reasonable consumer” would not have been misled.

But Judge Thelton Henderson of United States District Court in San Francisco said in his ruling on Friday, “This is not a case where the alleged deception is simply implausible as a matter of law.”

“The court finds it probable that a significant portion of the latte-consuming public could believe that a ‘Grande’ contains 16 ounces of fluid, measured without milk foam or in its cooled state,”he wrote. “If nothing else, it is probable enough that the issue should be decided by a trier of fact, not on a motion to dismiss.”

In their complaint, the plaintiffs said Starbucks used cups that held the advertised amounts only when filled to the brim, but that the drinks were not filled that high. They said that in 2009, Starbucks made a “conscious decision” to save money on milk by using pitchers with etched-in “fill to” lines that were too low, and the recipe required baristas to fill a quarter-inch below the brim of the cups, the lawsuit says.

In a statement, Starbucks said the lawsuit was “without merit.”

“All of our handcrafted beverages are made in accordance with our customers’ preferences,” the company said. “If a customer is not satisfied with their beverage preparation, we will gladly remake it. We will be prepared to defend our case in court.”

It’s not the first time that Starbucks has been sued over its drinks. A separate class-action lawsuit in April by Stacey Pincus of Chicago accused the company of putting too much ice in cold drinks, leaving consumers with just over half the amount they paid for, according to Courthouse News.

Starbucks called that lawsuit “without merit,” as well.

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