My girlfriend and I were out at a local Mexican chain resturant and she bit into a grilled, shredded, chicken taco and bit right into a large piece of chicken bone. It chipped two of her teeth, she couldn’t even finish eating her mouth was in so much pain.
We notified the cashier that checked us out, a teen girl who was probably working after school. She talked to her manager and we got the response “that happens sometimes, we can make you another taco if you want.”
Later my girlfriend called back and asked to speak to either the manager or the owner, left her information, and the owner called back this evening stating that they do not make the shredded chicken in the restaurant, they use an outside wholesaler for their food.
Does she have any grounds to at least get the dental bills covered? What can she do? She chipped one bottom and one top tooth biting into bone. We didn’t keep the bone but we notified the restaurant when it happened. I’m just scared we wont have money for the dental work she will need. Thank you.
Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.
While the restaurant owner may have tried to deflect blame onto his or her wholesaler, that may not entirely relieve the restaurant owner of liability for your girlfriend’s injuries.
Restaurant owners have a legal duty of care to do everything within reason to protect their customers from undue harm and injury.
It is clear your girlfriend did not contribute to her own injuries and therefore cannot be held even partially responsible for her broken or chipped teeth.
Additionally, there was no sign or other indication (either in the menu or visible to your wife) stating the tacos may have bones in them so be careful when eating. In other words, your girlfiend had a very reasonable basis to believe when she agreed to pay money to purchase some tacos, the tacos would not be dangerous.
As a result of the restaurant owner’s failure to protect your girlfriend from injuries, the owner “breached” his or her legal duty of care. That breach constituted negligence. When negligence exits, the negligent person may be held liable for the victim’s injuries and related damages. In this case, damages can include your girlfriend’s dental bills.
There is however, an alternate argument. The question of “reasonableness” exists. It can be argued if the restaurant owner served hundreds of tacos each week, and of those no bones were found in the meat, then the bones found in the meat your girlfriend ate could be considered an aberration.
The question remains as to whether or not it would be reasonable for a restaurant owner to have an employee sift through each supply of wholesale meat looking for bones.
If there were numerous complaints from restaurant patrons about bones found in their taco meat, then the owner would have had a legal duty to either not purchase and serve the taco meat, or sift through the meat looking for bones before the tacos were served to patrons.
The next issue is one of “connectivity.” For there to be a direct link from the bones found by your girlfriend to her injuries will require a showing there were no intervening events between the time of her injury and the later time when she reported the injury.
In this case, your girlfriend acted quickly and properly by immediately notifying the employee about her injury. Moreover the restaurant owner soon after confirmed the injury when the owner called your girlfriend back.
Contact the restaurant owner and tell the owner that as a direct and proximate result of the bones in her food, your girlfriend sustained not only pain and discomfort, but dental bills as well. Tell the owner she expects him or her to at a minimum pay for her dental bills.
Ask the owner to pay, or turn the matter over to his or her insurance company. In any event, the matter should be pursued.
Send copies of your dental bills to the owner, or his or her insurance company. If your girlfriend waited to seek dental care until some time after the injury, the insurance company may argue her injuries were due to a separate incident. Fortunately for your girlfriend, she has proof she reported the injury immediately after it occurred.
If in the event the owner denies liability, or his or her insurance company refuses to pay, your girlfriend can file a lawsuit in small claims court. Read these articles about small claims court. In the State of Maryland, the jurisdictional (maximum) amount a person can sue for is $5,000 dollars or less.
See the Maryland Courts website for more information about filing a small claims lawsuit in Maryland.
Learn more here: Restaurant Liability for Injuries
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.
Best of luck with your claim,
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