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Judge Says No to Hot Cocoa in Court

January 8, 2000

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ Steaming cocoa is too hot for federal court.

U.S. District Judge Jimm Hendren refused on Thursday to allow jurors to handle cups of hot cocoa as evidence in a lawsuit.

The lawyer for Ron Austin, who has filed a $1 million lawsuit over spilled hot chocolate, wanted to perform an in-court demonstration during which jurors in the lawsuit would be given a cup of 150-degree cocoa.

Attorney Charles Fuqua said the demonstration was necessary to show the temperature of the beverage that burned Austin’s foot last year when he spilled a cup in his van while pulling away from a restaurant’s drive-through window.

Austin, who suffered second-degree burns, claimed the van’s transmission was destroyed when he was unable to use the brake and had to throw the vehicle into reverse to keep from colliding with oncoming traffic.

``The proposed demonstration is nothing more than a Perry Mason tactic that has no place in the courtroom,″ argued Roger A. Glasgow, the restaurant’s lawyer.

He said Fuqua’s ``proposed experiment would not even accomplish its stated purpose unless he proposes pouring the hot chocolate on the jurors or asking them to insert their fingers into the hot beverage.″

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