“What Can Go Wrong?” you might say, “I’m a good guy, I do a good job and am always careful.” “There is no way a lawsuit will affect me and my business.”
But you are wrong! There are so many things as a medical practitioner an/or a business owner you are liable for. It is not a matter of if you will be sued but when. The ways the
laws on liability are written you will often be liable even when you did everything right. After Legally Mine’s reviewing of
thousands of cases involving business owners, the following are a few of the items that can develop into a
Patron Falls in Parking Lot, Restaurant
Owner Joseph Fix Held liable for $243,750
Joseph Fix owned and operated a McDonald’s fast-food franchise in Charlotte, Michigan. The franchise was placed in
a corporation (C.H.A.D. Enterprises, Inc.) of which he was the sole shareholder. However, when a patron fell in the
parking lot, this did not stop the injured party from suing Mr. Fix individually. The fall occurred when the patron got
out of his truck and walked to the front of the truck to check his radiator. The patron did not notice a change in grade
between the lot on which the McDonald’s parking lot was situated and the neighboring lot. The patron fell a short
distance off of a retaining wall and injured his knee, requiring surgery and some rehabilitation time. As a result of the
accident, the patron, who was employed as a U.S. postal worker, missed five months of work. The postal worker sued
several defendants, including Mr. Fix individually. Some of the defendants were released from the suit, but Mr. Fix
was not. The plaintiff at one point offered to settle for $90,000, but the defendants refused to settle. The case went to
trial and the jury returned a verdict against Mr. Fix and his franchise in an amount of$243,750, plus court costs and
attorney fees. That’s a lot of burgers! (Hunt v. C.H.A.D. Enterprises, Inc., 183 Mich. App. 59; 454 N. W2d 188 (Ct.
App. Mich. 1990))
Motel Owner Held Liable for Off-Duty Employees
Husband Who Seriously Injures Two Individuals in the Motel Lobby This case involved a small motel,
owned and operated by an individual. In this case the motel owner was held liable for the intentional criminal
acts of a third party. The facts were that one of the off-duty female employees was on the motel premises just
prior to her shift. Her drunken and domestically violent husband showed up enraged at his wife. The wife did
not call the police, but enlisted the help of individuals (including an off-duty officer) who were on the motel
premises. Meanwhile, the abusive husband went to his car and returned with a shotgun. Rather than directing
his violence towards his wife, he unexpectedly shot and seriously injured two unrelated individuals who were in
the motel lobby. The court held Mr. Catlett, the owner of the motel, liable under the theory of vicarious
liability. In other words, he was held vicariously liable for his off-duty employee’s failure to protect those in the
motel lobby against her husband’s intentional and criminal acts. The case does not record the amount of
damages that were awarded by the jury, but in any case, the appellate court upheld the jury verdict and Mr.
Catlett, the motel owner, was held liable for the damages. (S.C. Catlett, d/b/a King’s Inn. V Stewart, 304 Ark.
637; 804 S. W2d 699 (1991))
Employee in Car Accident and Business Owner Held Liable for $4,190,000
A jury awarded Patricia Marcoux, a fifty-year old woman, $4,190,000 for her injuries sustained in a car accident. The
accident occurred when the back wheels of a tractor-trailer truck, owned by Farm Service and Supplies, Inc., skidded into her
lane and clipped her car. It was determined that the truck driver, an employee for Farm Service and Supplies, Inc., was
negligent in that he was driving too fast under the adverse weather conditions and was unable to properly control the truck on
the wet and slick pavement. Ms. Marcoux’s injuries included a severe breaking of her leg and wrist, requiring several
surgeries and leaving her somewhat disabled. The employer, Farm Service and Supplies, Inc. was found vicariously liable
for the negligent acts of its employee. The court acknowledged that the jury award was on the high end for the type of
injuries sustained, however held that it was not so high as to deviate materially from other awards that had been given.
Hence, with only some minor adjustments, the jury award was affirmed on appeal. (Marcoux v. Farm Service and
Supplies, Inc., 290 FSupp.2d 457 (S.D. NY. 2003))
Pharmacy Settles Suit for $750,000 for Criminal Acts of One Customer Against Other Customer.
Walgreens settled a negligent-security claim brought against it for $750,000. Arthur Fendelander, then 42, entered a
Walgreens in Linden, N.J., and bumped into an unidentified male customer. Fendelander said, “Excuse you” and
proceeded to the pharmacy section. Less than 10 minutes later, the customer tracked him down and beat him
unconscious. He was in a coma for four days before he died. His estate and wife sued Walgreens, claiming more
security was required because of previous crimes nearby and that employees should have promptly called the police.
Walgreens maintained that it had no duty to provide security guards and that even if police had been called
immediately, there was insufficient time for them to respond and prevent the incident. (Estate of Fendelander v.
General Contractor Liable for $2.21 Million
When Bricklayer Fell Through Gap in Scaffolding
A bricklayer who injured his knee when he fell through a gap in scaffolding was awarded $2.55 million by an
Illinois jury. The award was reduced to $2.21 million due to his 13% contributory negligence. In 1997,
Kryzstof Kulasik, 28, was working as an apprentice bricklayer when he fell through the 2 or 3 foot gap, falling
eight feet and sustaining various soft-tissue injuries. Kulasik sued the project’s general contractor, Boller
Construction Corp., for failing to provide a safe workplace. Boller contended that no gap existed; that if it did,
Kulasik should have been on notice of it; and that his employer was responsible for ensuring safe scaffolding.
(Kulasik v. Boller Construction Corporation Inc.)
Matt – Legally Mine