Visitor Question

Filing a lawsuit after fall off a counter stool at Denny’s?

Submitted By: Richard (Mystic Island, New Jersey)

While having breakfast at a Denny’s restaurant I was sitting at the counter, which was full and had 8 stools. I had to move from one stool to the next as people were standing behind me with the hostess.

In moving the swivel, the back moved causing me to grab the next stool, which was the last one at the left of the counter. With nothing blocking it for support it I fell to the open area where the servers go in and out.

The claim was reported to the franchise owner who in turn reported it to his insurance company. I had x-rays taken which showed no broken bones, then proceeded to be treated by a chiropractor for over a year. I never gave a verbal statement to the insurance company, and eventually they denied the claim, saying there was no negligence and if I disagreed to file a lawsuit.

I did file a lawsuit pro se, within the statute of limitations. I sued the franchise owner who didn’t respond since he sold the business. I re-filed to the new owner and he didn’t respond, so the court said I have to file for a judgement within 6 months.

In my research I found the counter setup was archaic. It had 8 stools with swivel backs and 4 legs. The counter was as high as the stools, which were improperly spaced. Since my accident, the counter set up has been redone, with only 4 stools, which are lower and under the counter, and have no swivel backs.

Now I have pictures. My question is, do I re-file and sue the franchise name as registered in the state of New Jersey, or do I sue the insurance company? Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated. 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.

Answer

Dear Richard,

Restaurant owners have a legal duty of care to do everything within reason to ensure their customers are safe from injury or undue harm. When a restaurant owner fails in that duty, referred to as a “breach”, and a customer is injured, the restaurant owner may liable for the customer’s “damages.”

Damages can include, but are not limited to: medical, chiropractic, and dental bills; out-of-pocket expenses for such items as prescription and over the counter medications; costs of travel to and from treatment; lost wages if work was missed due to the injury; and pain and suffering.

For a restaurant customer to be entitled to compensation in the form of damages, the customer must show the following:

  • The restaurant owner owed a duty of care to do everything within reason to protect the customer from undue harm and injury
  • The restaurant owner breached that duty of care
  • The injury was foreseeable, meaning the restaurant owner knew, or should have know his or her actions or omissions would likely cause injury
  • That breach was the direct and proximate cause of the customer’s injury

In your situation, while it is presumed the restaurant owner had a legal duty of care, it appears you are still unable to show the following:

  • The restaurant owner breached that duty of care
  • As a result of that breach you were injured

Just because you decided to see a chiropractor for a year does not automatically entitle you to compensation. The restaurant or its insurance company never accepted liability, nor agreed to pay for your chiropractic treatment.

Your claim was likely denied because there is no evidence of liability. Absent proof of legal liability, a restaurant owner has no legal responsibility to compensate a customer.

Your best bet would be to contact the chiropractor and work out a payment arrangement. If you don’t, there is every possibility the chiropractor may pursue you in a civil action.

Finally, no matter how many lawsuits you file, it is unlikely you will ever prevail if you cannot present clear proof of liability. Moreover, if a judge believes you have filed groundless frivolous lawsuits without proof of liability, the judge may not only dismiss your cases, but may order you to pay the restaurant owner’s legal fees.

Learn more here: Broken Chair Accidents

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck with your claim.

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