Fast-Food Restaurant Fight Results in Premises Liability Lawsuit

Courts have long held that restaurants, bars and other facilities open to serve the public are responsible, to a degree, for the safety of patrons.
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When patrons are harmed on-site – even if the harm occurs at the hands of a third-party – the restaurant owner, manager and staff may be held liable for failure to exercise reasonable care in protecting those on the property.

In cases of an assault or attack on site at a restaurant or bar, usually a claim of negligence will involve an allegation of inadequate security. Rock Hill premises liability lawyers know that the success of such a claim is going to depend on a variety of factors, including the type of enterprise, whether there have been previous violent incidents there before and whether there were any obvious breaches in security that should have been addressed but were not, proximately resulting in the plaintiff’s injury.

A recent case reviewed by the Texas Supreme Court had to do with a fight that broke out in the parking lot of a Whataburger fast-food restaurant. We don’t know all the details of the fight, except that the plaintiff suffered a number of injuries as a result.

The case, In re Whataburger Rests. LP, went to trial, and the jury rendered a 10-2 verdict in favor of the defendant. The trial court subsequently issued a take-nothing judgment, based on the verdict of the jury.

However, the plaintiff then requested a trial on the grounds of juror misconduct, as one of the jurors had failed to disclose the fact that she had previously been the defendant in three other lawsuits. A motion for a new trial was granted by the trial court, but later overturned on the grounds that the nondisclosure could not be proven as a basis for probable injury to the plaintiff.

These technicalities aside, the fast-food chain has been the site of numerous violent incidents across the country. In 2008, a mother sued the chain on behalf of her son, an employee who was murdered in a botched robbery attempt orchestrated by a then-manager.

Last summer, a patron was murdered in one of the chain’s parking lots due to a confrontation that occurred when the victim allegedly dinged the door of the assailant’s vehicle. The victim died after suffering several punches to the face.

Whether a property owner can be held liable for such instances is going to be very fact-specific. For example, an owner or operator could be held liable for negligent hiring resulting in injury if it can be shown that the worker or independent contractor acted negligently or incompetently and those elements proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury.

A franchisor could be held liable on these grounds too, depending on the amount of control they had in day-to-day operations, or whether the franchisor failed to meet the safety standards required by the parent company, proximately resulting in injury.

In cases of third-party assault, plaintiffs have to show that the incident was a foreseeable risk, and that the business did nothing to address it.

These cases can be complex because of the many different elements that are required, but they can also be successful. Contact us for more information about how we can help.

Contact our Rock Hill personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
In re Whataburger Rests. LP, April 2014, Texas Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Third Party Liability Stemming From Criminal Attack, April 4, 2014, Rock Hill Premise Liability Lawyer Blog

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