11 Mar Man Sues Applebee’s because Fajitas Are Hot
State appeals panel ruled that New Jersey man cannot collect damages for a burn to his head while bowing his head in prayer over a sizzling skillet at Applebee’s.
While I’ve never exercised my religion by planting my face in a cast-iron skillet, I do have some experience with hot food. One of the biggest tip-offs in a restaurant of high temperature food is when the server brings it wearing an oven mitt and places it onto a trivet so as not to burn the table. That should be warning enough.
Hiram Jimenez visited an Applebee’s location in Burlington County with his brother, Raphael, in March of 2010. When Jimenez steak fajita skillet was brought to him, he claimed the waitress did not warn him the skillet was hot. Before digging in to his meal, Jimenez bowed his head to pray before his meal and heard a loud sizzling noise and a loud grease pop followed by a burning sensation in his left eye and on his face.
I’ve also never been warned that the candle, which brings ambiance to my dining experience, is also hot. I’ve always assumed that a reasonable person understands that candle flames are hot. This is what we call “open and obvious.”
After feeling the burning sensation, Jimenez, panicked and dropped the sizzling skillet onto his lap causing more burns. Records presented that the burns did not leave any scarring, but he sued Applebee’s claiming that he suffered serious injuries because his food was served to him without being warned the skillet was hot.
The case was dismissed by the lower court claiming dangers of the sizzling hot skillet was “open and obvious” and that Jimenez chose to put his face too close to the skillet. The New Jersey man tried to appeal, but appeals panel agreed with the lower court’s finding. The two-judge panel ruled that, “the danger posed by a plate of sizzling hot food was self-evident.”
In the infamous McDonald’s Hot Coffee case, an elderly woman was severely burned and initially only asked that her medical bills be paid. After being denied, she sought an attorney to help her pay for her injuries. Her damages were real, the coffee had been superheated beyond the temperature anyone would rationally expect, in order to extract more coffee per bean.
There are times when people are seriously injured because of the negligence of a business. The Jimenez lawsuit deserved to be thrown out. Cases like these make it harder for people with real claims to be taken seriously.