Premises Liability Lawsuit Filed After a Restaurant Patron Was Seriously Burned*



Case Summary:

This is a review of a premises liability lawsuit. The lawsuit originated when a young man was seriously burned while dining at a local restaurant. The young man was an invited guest at a friend's going away party which was being given by his parents in honor of their son's deployment with the United States Marines to his first tour in Afghanistan.

As a result of the burns the guest required a series of skin grafts for both his hand and arm. In an effort to recoup some of the outlay of medical costs, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering the family filed a claim with the restaurant's insurance company. When negotiations with the insurance company broke down, the injured guest's family filed a premises liability lawsuit against the restaurant.

Statement of Facts...

Edward Mclintock was a 23 year old member of the United States Marines. He recently graduated from boot camp and had received his orders to deploy with his unit to Afghanistan for his first tour. When his parents heard the news they decided to throw a party in his honor and to invite 15 of Edward's friends and colleagues.

Mclintock's parents often dined at the Bostiche Family Restaurant. They enjoyed their times there and decided to rent one of the restaurant's catering rooms to hold the party for their son. The family made an agreement with the restaurant where for the price of $500 the restaurant would provide the room, three serving staff and a buffet meal.

The party was set to begin at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, April 1st, 2011. Before the guests arrived the restaurant staff already had set up the food trays and placed underneath each one a self-igniting burner. As the guests moved down the serving line, they were talking and laughing with each other.

Suddenly, one of the guests, John Arriaga, inadvertently bumped into another guest. As he did, the plate he was holding made contact with one of the hot serving trays. The tray was filled with vegetables heated to over 300 degrees. Underneath it was a lit burner. The burner was self-igniting, and burned continuously, whether it stood straight up, or was on its side.

As Arriaga made contact with the hot food tray, it moved slightly and then fell off its metal perch and on to Arriaga's right hand. At the same time, the burner rolled from its place forward and into Arriaga's right forearm. Arriaga's right hand and forearm were singed by the heat. He cried out in pain. Several of the guests put their plates down and rushed to Arriaga's aid. They wrapped a linen around his right hand and forearm and helped him to sit down.

Realizing how serious the burns were and the extreme pain Arriaga was suffering, Mclintock's father called 911. Shortly thereafter Fire and Rescue arrived. They stabilized Arriaga and transported him to the local hospital's emergency burn unit. There he was sedated and prepped for surgery. Arriaga required skin grafting to his right hand and parts of his forearm. He was required to remain in the hospital's burn unit for 5 days.

Arriaga and his family incurred medical bills of $24,000. The out of pocket expenses for their son John's prescription medications and burn wound aids was another $2,200.

Prior to his injuries, John Arriaga was employed as a computer technician. Arriaga recently completed a two-year certification course in computer technical assistance. He had been hired by a national computer company and worked in their technical assistance department repairing computer hard drives.

Arriaga, who was right-handed, was ordered by doctors not to use his right hand or right forearm until all the skin grafts were completed. Arriaga was eventually told he wouldn't be able to use his right hand until the skin on his right hand and forearm completely healed. The physicians estimated this would take between 9 to 12 months.

In addition to his medical costs so far, Arriaga was to lose 9 to 12 months' wages. Because of bonuses, that amount could be anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000 a month. At 12 months, that could conceivably amount to over $40,000 in lost wages.

Arriaga and his family contacted the restaurant's insurance company and filed a premises liability claim requesting reimbursement for the damages Arriaga already incurred, and his probable future damages.

Their claim asked for:

  • Present Medical Bills ($24,000)
  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses ($2,200)
  • Lost Wages ($44,000)
  • Present and Future Pain and Suffering ($500,000)

When the Arriaga's and the restaurant's insurance company failed to come to an agreement, the Arriaga family filed a premises liability lawsuit against the restaurant.

The Premises Liability Lawsuit...

The legal basis of the lawsuit was the concept of Premises Liability. In this case, premises liability included an "Invitee" (Arriaga) who had a right to expect to enjoy his dining experience without being severely injured.

When a person is invited onto the premises of another, the owner of the premises has a "duty of care" to protect the invitee from undo harm and bodily injury. If the owner of the property breaches that duty of care and an invitee is injured, the invitee may take legal action against the property owner.

The restaurant's insurance company argued the restaurant took all reasonable care to assure Arriaga wouldn't be injured. The company argued that Arriaga was solely to blame for his injuries.

Outcome...

After the arguments of both sides, the Judge sent the jury out to deliberate on the following questions:

  1. Do you believe John Arriaga was an invitee to the Bostiche Family Restaurant?

  2. If he was, did the Bostiche Family Restaurant breach their duty to protect him?

  3. If they did breach their duty, was the restaurant negligent in their dereliction of their duty of care to him?

  4. What amount of money would fairly compensate John Arriaga for his medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and his pain and suffering?

The jury deliberated and returned an answer of "yes" to the first three questions. They awarded Arriaga the total amount of the claim, $570,200.

Important Points...

  • Premises liability lawsuits occur when guests, invitees, workers, and other third parties have a legal right to be on another's premises. The owner of the premises then has a duty to any of those people to protect them against undue harm or injury. A breach of that duty, especially when that breach is defined by the courts as negligence, can often result in jury verdicts of substantial amounts of money.

  • The calculation of damages for those injured as a result of premises liability can include, but not be limited to actual damages (medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses), lost wages, and present and future "Pain and Suffering."


*This case example is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.

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TYPE OF ACCIDENT
AUTO ACCIDENT
PERSONAL INJURY
WORKERS COMPENSATION
MEDICAL ERROR
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