For some, Starbucks' decision to cancel a free-drink coupon last week was disappointing. For others, it was lawsuit material. A New York paralegal...

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For some, Starbucks’ decision to cancel a free-drink coupon last week was disappointing.


For others, it was lawsuit material.


A New York paralegal sued the Seattle-based coffee chain Friday, accusing it of deceptive advertising.


Last month, Starbucks e-mailed a coupon for a free iced beverage to some employees and encouraged them to forward it to friends and family. Starbucks stopped honoring the coupon last week, a month short of its Sept. 30 expiration date, saying it had been “redistributed beyond the original intent.”


The lawsuit, filed in New York County Supreme Court, seeks $114 million in damages for a class that attorney Peter Sullivan figures will include a million New Yorkers.


For now, though, the only named plaintiff is Kelly Coakley, a paralegal who does not work at Sullivan’s firm.


Starbucks said it has not received a copy of the lawsuit.


David Moore, director of quantitative research at The Hartman Group, a Bellevue-based marketing-research firm, likened the suit to an infamous case in which McDonald’s was sued by a customer who was burned after spilling hot coffee.


“The average consumer looks at [these lawsuits] as being somewhat frivolous and somewhat opportunistic things that lawyers get a bad reputation for,” Moore said.


Sullivan said he understands that reaction but disagrees.


“In New York, this is of great significance to many people day-to-day,” he said. “There were lines of people outside Starbucks. There are a lot of upset people.”


Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com