A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Restaurant Found Not Liable for Patron Whose Face was Burned by Leaning over Sizzling Plate of Food

By on April 10, 2015 in Blog with 0 Comments

Plaintiff Hiram Jimenez ordered a steak fajita at Applebee’s. His food was brought to him in a sizzling skillet. After the waitress walked away, he bowed his head close to the table over his food to pray and grease from the food popped up and burned his face, neck, and arms. In  Jimenez v. Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, 2015 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 430 (App. Div. March 4, 2015), the plaintiff sued Applebee’s, claiming that he was injured as a result of the defendant ‘s negligence when he came into contact with a dangerous and hazardous condition, specifically “a plate of hot food.”

The defendant Applebee’s filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that even if the plaintiff established the existence of a dangerous or hazardous condition, it was entitled to a dismissal because the condition was open and obvious. The trial court judge ruled that while the defendant did have a duty to provide its patron with a reasonably safe premises, it had no duty to warn against a danger that is open and obvious. Hence, the court found that the defendant breached no duty to plaintiff and dismissed the case.

The plaintiff appealed and argued that the trial judge was wrong in deciding that the defendant had no duty to warn the defendant of the danger posed by the sizzling plate of food that had been served to him. Here, the Appellate Division noted that the plaintiff was not arguing that there was any dangerous condition of the premises. Plaintiff only argued a duty to warn.

The appeals court stated that once the platter was served to the plaintiff, Applebee’s lost control over it and the plaintiff had the opportunity to protect himself from any danger that it posed, since the danger was open and obvious. The Appellate Division found that the imposition of a duty to warn plaintiff of this obvious danger was not required as a matter of fairness and sound policy. Thus, it affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuit.


About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 30 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020-2023, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

“Best Law Firms” is published by Best Lawyers in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. For a description of the selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

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