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Caution Hot Sign: Needed, Redundant or Darwin?

Applebee’s Sizzling Fajitas Case

Have you heard the case of the man who wanted to sue an Applebee’s in Westhampton, NJ because he was burned while praying over their plate of sizzling hot fajitas? The plaintiff, Hiram Jimenez was seeking damages from Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar after receiving the injury in March of 2010. The initial court to see this case said that it should be dismissed and the man did not have a case. He and his attorneys appealed, and recently the appellate court in New Jersey made their decision. They said that they were affirming the decision of the lower court because the food posed what they said was an “open and obvious” danger.

Be Careful With Sizzling Plates

Jimenez ordered the fajitas and when they came to the table, immediately put his face over the plate to pray. At that time, he says that he heard a sizzling sound and a pop, and then felt burning on his face and in his left eye. The report that he prepared for Applebee’s stated that he was burned on the face, neck, and arms. Keep in mind that the actual name on the menu for this item is Sizzling Skillet Fajitas. They tell you right in the name that it will be hot and sizzling when it arrives.

His lawsuit argued that the waitress did not tell him that the fajitas were hot and that the injuries he suffered, which were “serious and permanent” were the result of the restaurant’s negligence. While businesses are supposed to discover and eliminate any dangerous conditions that could cause injuries to patrons or employees, or creating conditions that would cause the area to be unsafe, the risk of a sizzling platter of hot food should have been obvious. Applebee’s argued that the restaurant had no duty to tell the customer that the sizzling plate was hot.

What Happened In The End

The court not only dismissed the claim, but so did the appeal court. A quote from the judge says it all…. A restaurant does not have to protect “against a danger that is open and obvious.” Jimenez should be happy that this was not dealt with in the “Darwinian Law” Courts.

One in a Long Line: Other Restaurants Feeling The Heat!

This is just one in a long line of lawsuits against companies that provided food that was too hot and caused injuries. One of the most memorable lawsuits was the hot coffee lawsuit in the 90s. Stella Liebeck sued McDonald’s due to injuries that she suffered after spilling scalding coffee into her lap. The jury seemed to agree with the woman, and the injuries she suffered were actually quite severe. They wanted to award her $2.86 million. The judge reduced this to $640,000, and the two parties later settled on an undisclosed amount.

People Lie? Say It Is Not So!

There have also been some hoaxes perpetuated against restaurants over the years. One of the most famous examples of this was the Wendy’s finger in the chili hoax. Anna Ayala claimed that she bit into a fingertip that was in the bowl of chili. It turns out that she and her husband had paid a man $100 for a finger he’d lost in an accident at work and then placed that in the chili themselves.. She sued Wendy’s, but dropped the suit when suspicion against her rose. Wendy’s claims they lost around $2.5 million in sales while they were dealing with this.

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