On March 3, 2008, 54-year-old Roger Kreutz was ordering coffee at Starbucks when 19-year-old thief Aaron Poisson snatched the tip jar and took off. Instead of fully evaluating the situation – for example, the odds that a senior citizen could chase down a teenager, or whether such a chase would be worth the $5 contained within the tip jar – Kreutz took off in pursuit. As Poisson jumped in his car, Kreutz briefly struggled with the door and was knocked to the ground when Poisson drove away. He suffered fatal head injuries as a result of the fall, and Poisson later plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
While Poisson has evidently made amens with the Kreutz family, so far as to be asked to spread Roger Kreutz’s ashes on a memorial tree which now stands outside of the St. Louis Starbucks, the family still has a feud with Starbucks, arguing that they “did not employ security to prevent the perpetration of such crimes” and that the easily-snatched tip jar “invited the act of perpetration of said crime.” Now the Kreutz family is seeking unspecified damages from the coffee chain for failing to protect or inform Roger Kreutz of the obvious dangers which arise from chasing a thief.
Whether or not the Kreutz estate will collect is uncertain, since liability is scattered to the wind: Wasn’t it Kreutz’s decision, ultimately, to chase down and attempt to overpower a teenager for a paltry five dollars? And didn’t Kreutz die as a result of injuries inflicted by Poisson (who was not named in the lawsuit), not any Starbucks employee or customer? It seems to me that Kreutz was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.