A badly burned patron files a premises liability lawsuit against a negligent restaurant. Follow along as the victim fights for compensation.
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.
Here we review the case of a young man who was injured while attending a private party held in a restaurant dining room.
We’ll cover how the injury occurred, the victim’s damages, the restaurant’s liability, and the final resolution of the premises liability lawsuit.
Finally, we’ll provide you with a list of important points you should know about premises liability claims.
How the Injury Occurred
Edward McLintock was a member of the United States Marines. He recently graduated from boot camp and received orders to deploy with his unit for his first tour. When his parents heard the news, they decided to throw a party in his honor and to invite Edward’s friends and family.
McLintock’s parents often dined at the Bostiche Family Restaurant. They enjoyed their times there and decided to rent one of the restaurant’s dining rooms to hold the party for their son. The catering agreement with the restaurant included the dining room, three serving staff, and a buffet meal.
The night of the party, the restaurant staff set up the hot buffet food dishes and placed underneath each one a self-igniting burner, then announced the guests could come through the buffet line.
As the guests moved down the serving line, they were talking and laughing with each other.
Suddenly, one of the guests, John Anderson, accidentally bumped into another guest. As he did, the plate he was holding knocked into one of the hot serving dishes. The dish was filled with bubbling gravy. Underneath it was a burner that stayed lit whether it stood straight up or was on its side.
The hot food dish tipped, spilling the boiling gravy on to Anderson’s right hand. At the same time, the burner rolled from its place into Anderson’s right forearm, catching his shirt sleeve on fire.
Anderson’s right hand and forearm were scalded and burned. He cried out in pain. Several of the guests rushed to Anderson’s aid. They wrapped cloth napkins around his right hand and forearm and helped him to sit down.
Realizing how severe the burns were and the extreme pain Anderson was suffering, McLintock’s father called 911. Paramedics stabilized Anderson and transported him to the nearest emergency burn unit.
Burn Injuries and Damages
John Anderson suffered second and third-degree burns to his right hand and right arm. He was in excruciating pain. Anderson was kept in the hospital burn unit for two weeks to manage his pain and treat his wounds.
On the second day of his hospitalization, Anderson underwent surgical debridement (removing dead tissue) of his hand and arm. At that time, the deepest burns on his wrist and forearm were treated with skin grafts.
Anderson incurred medical bills of $24,000. His out-of-pocket expenses for prescription medications and burn wound aids were another $2,200.
Before his injuries, John Anderson was employed by a national software company as a senior-level computer technician.
Anderson, who was right-handed, was ordered by doctors not to use his right hand or right forearm until the skin grafts healed. To treat and prevent burn scar contractures, Anderson required months of dedicated burn rehabilitation. The goal was for Anderson to recover full range of motion to his burned fingers, hand, wrist, and arm.
Anderson was 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, Anderson was to lose 9 to 12 months’ wages. Based on his base pay rate and average bonuses, Anderson’s total lost wages were expected to range from $60,000 to $75,000.
Anderson’s personal injury attorney made a formal demand for compensation to the restaurant’s insurance company.
The demand for compensation included:
- Present Medical Bills ($24,000)
- Out-of-Pocket Expenses ($2,200)
- Lost Wages ($75,000)
- Present and Future Pain and Suffering ($500,000)
When settlement negotiations with the restaurant’s insurance company failed, Anderson’s attorney filed a premises liability lawsuit against the restaurant on his behalf.
The Premises Liability Lawsuit
Anderson’s lawsuit was based on the legal concept of Premises Liability. Anderson’s attorney alleged the restaurant failed to protect Anderson by allowing staff to crowd hot serving dishes and open flame burners unreasonably close to the edge of the buffet table.
When a person is invited onto another’s premises, the property owner has a duty of care to protect the invitee from harm. If the owner of the property breaches that duty of care and an invitee is injured, the property owner is liable for the injured person’s damages.
In this case, the restaurant had a legal duty to protect Anderson, who had a right to expect to enjoy his dining experience without being severely injured.
The restaurant’s insurance company insisted the restaurant had no liability because they took all reasonable care to assure Anderson wouldn’t be injured. The insurance company argued that Anderson was solely to blame for his injuries.
At trial, the jury determined:
- John Anderson was an invitee to the Bostiche Family Restaurant.
- Bostiche Family Restaurant breached its duty to protect Anderson.
- The restaurant was negligent in their dereliction of duty to protect Anderson.
- The restaurant’s negligence caused Anderson’s injuries.
- Bostiche Family Restaurant was liable for Anderson’s damages.
Anderson was awarded $550,000 for his medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Important Points About Premises Liability Claims
- Owners of business and residential properties are responsible for the safety of guests, invitees, workers, and other third parties who have a legitimate reason to be on the property.
- Property owners must make reasonable efforts to prevent harm to visitors but are not automatically liable for anyone who gets hurt on the property.
- The injured person had the burden of proving the property owner knew or should have known about a hazard in time to protect others from danger.
- A successful injury claim for premises liability requires measurable damages. For example, you won’t get far with a slip and fall claim without medical proof of an injury.
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