Dawn Samperisi has been awarded US$3.5m by a Manhattan jury after her right hand was burned by steam and coffee from a Starbucks espresso machine.

The Long Island woman was burned on 25 February 1999, when she asked to see an espresso machine she was considering buying as a gift. An employee at the Glen Cove Starbucks coffee shop offered to demonstrate the machine, but steam caused it to blow apart, and scald Samperisi’s hand.

She suffered first- and second-degree burns resulting in reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a nervous system disorder that rendered her hand virtually useless.

“She has a clawed, ugly, horrible, painful hand, and she’s going to have it for the rest of her life,” her lawyer, Seth Harris, told the state Supreme Court jury of six women yesterday [Monday]. He alleged that the accident would not have happened had Starbucks not been negligent in instructing its employees how to use the espresso machine.

Ray Slattery, Starbucks’ lawyer, told the jury however that Samperisi “is just as responsible for the accident as Starbucks is”.

The jury actually awarded Samperisi US$4.6m but held her 25% liable for the accident and thus reduced the amount she actually received.