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Father blames Starbucks in son’s death

A Starbucks’ tip jar invited a theft that led to the death of a man who intervened, claims a wrongful death lawsuit brought against the coffee company.

Roger Kreutz was a customer at a Crestwood Starbucks in 2008 when he tried to stop Aaron Poisson from stealing a tip jar, according to the suit. Kreutz chased Poisson into the parking lot, where Poisson hit him with his car. Kreutz died from his injuries.

A tip jar is still in use at a Starbucks on Watson Road in Crestwood. A lawsuit filed over the death of a man struck in the store’s parking lot says the jar “invited criminal behavior.” Photo by Karen Elshout

Kreutz’s estate and his father, Edward Kreutz Sr., are plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed Monday in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

They claim Starbucks knew or should have known that “facilitating a policy to leave ‘tip jars’ filled with money within reach of customers invited criminal behavior and situations that endanger the safety of Defendant Starbucks’ business guests.”

And, if the store were going to have a tip jar, it should have provided security as well, they claim, or at least have warned Kreutz that a “potentially dangerous situation existed.”

William Green, of The Green Law Firm in Clayton, represents the plaintiffs. He did not respond to a reporter’s request for comment by press time. Neither did anyone at a number listed for Edward Kreutz Sr.

A Starbucks spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit and sent a written statement via e-mail.

“Our thoughts remain with Roger Kreutz’s family and friends,” the statement said. “This is a tragic incident that has had a significant impact on the many people, including Starbucks employees, who knew Mr. Kreutz and had a personal connection with him.”

Media reports detailing tip jar robberies at Starbucks locations around the country over the last few years quickly pop up in a Google search. In one report out of Austin, Texas, an employee was reprimanded by her store in 2009 after she chased down a 19-year-old who stole tip money. Starbucks said in an e-mail that the company does not discuss internal protocol, according to the article, which appeared in the Statesman newspaper.

Poisson, who was a teenager when he hit Kreutz, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, misdemeanor theft and leaving the scene of an accident, according to media reports. He was sentenced to one year in jail in March 2009. Less than $5 was in the jar he stole.

Kreutz Sr. and the estate settled a separate lawsuit against Poisson and two insurance companies in October. Poisson’s attorney in that case, Dave Simkins of Wuestling & James in St. Louis, said he believed the settlement was confidential.

The suit is The Estate of Roger Kreutz, et al. v. Starbucks Corp., 11SL-CC00899.

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