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A fight breaks out in a Denny’s. Is the restaurant liable? P3

Now that we have established some ground rules for the case, we can talk about the particulars of the fracas at a Western New York Denny’s restaurant. The case has not been decided, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that the case can move forward. The plaintiff claims Denny’s is liable for the injuries she suffered at the hands of other customers.

It happened like this: The plaintiff had asked restaurant staff to request that the other patrons quiet down. When the staff did not follow through, she approached the group on her own and asked them to keep it down. They assaulted her.

In our last post, we discussed the duty of a business like Denny’s to keep the premises free of hazards that the restaurant knows or should know exist. The plaintiff’s argument focused on the danger the restaurant should have known about.

Specifically, the restaurant had had its share of trouble in the past; there were police reports of violent acts. Also, the restaurant’s employee training materials stated that “disruptive” guests account for the majority of “workplace violence” incidents. The materials apparently also included information about loud and profane speech leading to violent acts. Denny’s had also done a cost/benefit analysis of keeping restaurants open late at night. The “cost”? Lawsuits associated with violence.

In response to the plaintiff’s claim, Denny’s argued that the plaintiff provoked the assault herself by confronting the disruptive customers.

The appeals court did not buy it.

We’ll get into why in our next post.

Source: Huffington Post, “When Is a Business Liable for Outsider Violence on Its Premises?” Brad Reid, Sept. 13, 2013

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