Starbucks-hurling woman who sued city now on the hook for enough cash to buy 5,000 lattes.
By Joe Eskenazi
Take a deep breath. Relax. And be forewarned – this is going to be a bit complicated. Yet this story does prominently involve a man having scalding-hot coffee maliciously poured into his groin in a scene worthy of a “3 Ninjas” movie, so it’s got that going for it. Which is nice.
In a decision handed down on New Year’s Eve, Superior Court Judge Paul Alvarado ruled that Jill Karen Schaffer – who concluded a 2005 traffic tête - à - tête by pouring a liter of scalding Starbucks into the lap of Chris Daniels (then a butler for the Getty family) and subsequently sued the city alleging the Gettys, the District Attorney’s office and two S.F. cops conspired to improperly arrest her months later – was not entitled to any money for “emotional distress and harm to her reputation.”
In fact, Alvarado decided Schaffer owes the city and, specifically, cops Ofc. John Fewer and Sgt. John Hagget, the “reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in bringing this motion in the amount of $15,000.”
Schaffer’s attorneys filed an appeal earlier this month.
Confused? That’s OK. Just remember what we said about the coffee in the crotch and let us fill you in on the backstory (which, like a Starbucks French roast, is dark, rich and complicated).
It all started in 2005, when Daniels (on an errand for the Gettys in the Marina) and Schaffer (supposedly running late for a manicure) saw fit to criticize one another’s driving skills. Harsh words were allegedly exchanged leading to Schaffer pouring the aforementioned java ...
onto Daniels’ lap as he sat in his ’81 Volvo. Daniels, who was wearing shorts at the time, was hospitalized with second-degree burns. And then things got ugly:
Following the traffic altercation that led to butler Chris Daniels allegedly calling Schaffer "a miserable fucking cunt" and subsequently nursing first- and second-degree coffee burns, District Attorney Kamala Harris opted not to file charges, despite a personal call from Ann Getty herself. Months later, however, a pair of policemen, Officer John Fewer and Sgt. John Haggett, allegedly leaned on Assistant District Attorney Reve Bautista to file charges against Schaffer, who was subsequently arrested. But here's the kicker: Fewer was, at the time, working his off-hours as a Getty family security guard and his pal, Haggett, was close friends with Bautista. Anyhow, the charges were subsequently dropped and Bautista was disciplined for filing the case.
After we wrote the above passage in an SF Weekly article, Daniels pointed out that, in May of last year, a Small Claims Court judge demanded Schaffer pay Daniels nearly $2,300 in damages stemming from his java bath.
And wait – it gets weirder. The now-former Getty butler has his own take on Schaffer’s legal action, and it’s no less Byzantine than the coffee-tosser’s:
While some have portrayed the labyrinthine case as an example of one of the world’s most powerful families using its associates and influence to harass an enemy, Daniels has a different – and equally conspiratorial – reading of the situation. While it’s not a wholly implausible scenario, Daniels’ theory is also just the sort of thing libel laws don’t allow newspapers to reproduce.
Though we can tell you this: The butler thinks it’s highly intriguing that the work phone number and address of alleged eyewitness Janelle Cahill listed on the initial police report turn out to be those of the office of Jim Collins – one of San Francisco’s most feared and effective lawyers.
In any event, Judge Alvarado wasn’t enthralled with Schaffer’s case.
“Plaintiff offers very little admissible evidence to support her claims. Instead, Plaintiff submits declarations that offer inadmissible hearsay, irrelevant speculation, evidence without any foundation, legal conclusion and other inadmissible statements,” reads a portion of his ruling (you can read the whole thing here).
Depending upon the Appeals Court’s ruling, this bizarre affair may not end up costing San Francisco taxpayers a cent. As for Daniels, he claims he, too, hasn’t received a cent of his judgment from Schaffer. He plans on taking further action next month.
Finally, while Schaffer’s attorney, Randy Daar, was unable to prevail in court, he does win points for diplomacy. He described his client to me as a “thirtysomething.”
Court records indicate she was born in 1957. Does a liter of coffee a day keep Father Time away?
Photo | Courtesy of http://www.tonybunker.info/