Arkansas Man Sues Starbucks for Causing Anaphylactic Reaction


On September 12, 2023, a man from Little Rock ordered two drinks at a local Starbucks location including an Apple Crisp Oatmilk Frappucino.

According to a lawsuit filed on April 5, the man consumed the drink at home and realized something was wrong: instead of oat milk, the drink was made with cow’s milk to which the man was severely allergic.

in “respiratory distress”, the man administered an epinephrine auto-injector and called emergency services.

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The complaint states:

The emergency medical responders reported he was hypotensive [low blood pressure], stridorous [restricted airway], and hypoxic [low blood oxygen]. He was diagnosed with anaphylaxis at the emergency room.

Plaintiff has a severe allergy to milk. This negligent mistake is life threatening to a person with severe allergies.

Responding to a request from McClatchy News, a spokesperson for Starbucks said the company has “not yet been served with this suit and cannot comment on claims.”

The company responded via e-mail:

Our baristas take great care in crafting beverages and maintaining a safe experience for our customers. This is an obligation we take very seriously and move quickly to thoroughly investigate any allegations otherwise.

The lawsuit claims Starbucks is guilty of “negligent and careless acts” and seeks damages, as the plaintiff “has endured pain and suffering in the past and will experience pain and suffering in the future.” The suit also seeks reimbursement for medical fees and lost wages.

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Kudos to the man who followed protocol by administering his epinephrine and calling EMS. His prompt action may very well have saved his life.

This type of mixup should never happen, but people being fallible, it does.

We encourage you to avoid establishments where your allergen of concern is served, especially busy coffee shops where workers are in close proximity and the opportunity for mistakes and cross-contact abounds. Instead, consider purchasing a safe drink in a sealed bottle if available.

We also encourage everyone who has been prescribed epinephrine to always take two auto-injectors along everywhere, every time, and to administer the first when you first suspect anaphylaxis. If symptoms don’t resolve after a few minutes, administer the second and wait for emergency services to arrive.

Has something similar happened to you at a cafe or eatery? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of

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  1. As a food allergy parent, I’m sad to see this happened to this man. In reality, he took the chance by going to a coffee shop (Starbucks of all places). He was playing his own form or Russian roulette. While the barista messed up, this is not sue-worthy. This is excessive & greedy in my opinion.

    • I agree with you to an extent, but at the same time, letting things slide is dangerous not just in this arena, but in life in general. Accountability and awareness are everything and consequences for negligence are necessary. If a loss is caused because of an employee’s negligence to do a task and adhere to policy/orders/instructions, etc. — if they fail to perform per the terms of their employment contract, then then the liability is on them and the company who hired them. If a doctor uses the wrong anesthesia when an allergy to particular anesthetics was noted on the orders, is that dismissible because the patient was “taking a chance” or is that malpractice on the doctor’s part? If a door flies open on an airplane, and a passenger is sucked out of the cabin, is that the passenger’s fault for taking a flight? If a building undeservingly passes inspection and then collapses on the tenants, is that the tenants’ fault for being in that building? If a person is texting and driving and collides with another vehicle, is that the innocent driver’s fault for being on the road? In all these cases, a loss is incurred due to someone’s negligence. Restitution and payment for damages (in other words, the consequence) is what brings awareness, caution, and accountability.

      • Totally get that but a barista is employed at will – no contract nor are most restaurants. There’s no contract violation in this case.

        Just as my son avoids all Asian restaurants due to potential peanut issues, a milk allergic adult should reconsider taking to the coffee shop unless they’re pouring their own drip coffee.

        Accountability goes both ways & leaning towards the side of self-preservation would’ve been a better option for this man.

  2. Yes, this happened when I ordered a gluten free pizza at a restaurant. I had asked for sausage topping and someone mixed it up and put a meatball topping on the pizza, the meatballs had bread crumbs in it. My son had a severe allergic reaction which needed a trip to the ER. The restaurant compensated with $1000. I’m glad my son recovered but it took a huge toll mentally for awhile.

  3. He has as much of a right as anyone else and his safety should have been a top priority regardless of how ‘busy’ they were. I’m thankful he was ok and hope there are consequences for Starbucks being so neglectful.

  4. It’s not surprising to me. I was at the airport in Seattle and the gentleman in front of me went to pour cow’s milk into his drink and he stopped her and reminded her he needed oat milk. He said careful, a mistake like that could kill someone. He walked away and she ranted about what an idiot he was and that she couldn’t kill someone with milk. I said you could if they’re ALLERGIC to milk on my way out of the store. Was very upsetting as a mom of a child who has a tree nut allergy.

  5. My son & his family went to a sit-down restaurant and my son & grandson shared a hamburger. Since my grandson is allergic to peanuts & tree nuts, they first discussed that with the waitress to make sure it would be safe for him. She checked & came back and said yes, it’s safe. When the burger was brought out (already cut in half, split between the both of them), my son took one bite and tasted peanut butter. He told his son to stop eating before running to the kitchen to ask what they put on the burger. PEANUT BUTTER!! They quick administered his epi and ran out and headed to the hospital. Fortunately their quick reaction saved his life!

    We live in an area of many hispanics. I think it was a matter of communication and, instead of them understanding NO peanuts, they thought he wanted peanut butter on his burger (who orders peanut butter on a burger anyway?!!)


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