Monthly Archives: December 2012

Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: New York Restaurant Sued For “Negligence” By Woman Injured By “Dog Leashed To Unanchored Chair”; Seeks $2 Million

“…(plainfiff) was injured earlier this year at the chain’s 86th and Lexington location when a dog “attached” to Hospitality Industry Lawsuitone of the restaurant’s chairs knocked her down…Shake Shack “was negligent in its failure to protect [Cirlin] from the anticipated dangers of allowing dogs to be attached by leashes to its flimsy and unanchored chairs…”

A Manhattan woman claims the Upper East Side outlet of the famed burger and hot-dog chain was a little too friendly to canine clients and their owners. Cindy Cirlin says she was injured when she was knocked down by a dog that was leashed to one of the East 86th Street restaurant’s chairs, according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed last week.

Cirlin wants $2 million in damages. Shake Shack did not respond to a request for comment.

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Hospitality Industry Property Risks: California Restaurant Fire Starts In HVAC System And Contained By Sprinklers; $50,000 In “Significant Water Damage” To Building

“…Fire fighters say the fire started in the restaurant’s heating and air condition system and could have been Restaurant Firemuch worse…The sprinkler system did exactly what it was supposed to do. It contained the fire to a small area up in the attic…”

A fire set off the sprinkler system and flooded a popular restaurant in Fair Oaks early Saturday morning. Fire fighters arrived to find a section of Mikuni Sushi restaurant on fire. Luckily, the building sprinklers systems had gone off and contained the fire. However, the restaurant sustained significant water damage.

Three Sac Metro Fire engines and 17 fire fighters battled the blaze which caused an estimated $50,000 in damage to the building.

“It’s still under investigation. We know where it started, but how it started is still under investigation,” said Michelle Eidem of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department. So when our crews got here there was light smoke inside but the fire was contained and they could quickly put the fire out.

No one was in the building when the fire started, But Mikuni owner Taro Arai says his employees, customers and profit will suffer.

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Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: California Restaurant Chain Sued By Handicapped Woman For ADA Violations; Claims “Severe And Pervasive Accessibility Barriers”

“…(accessibility) barriers include having to cross the drive-through lane to reach the restaurant’s main entrance from the accessible parking area, excessive slopes in the path of travel to that entrance and ordering Hospitality Industry ADA Lawsuitslines too narrow for wheelchair users. The suit also claims wheelchair-using customers can’t reach the drinks and condiments on the service counter or slide the chair under the tabletops to dine…”

A wheelchair-bound woman who has eaten at a Redwood City Taco Bell at least twice a month for several years is suing the company for not complying with handicap access standards, saying she has been left humiliated by having others place her order or only procuring food through the drive-through window.

Susan Seales was part of a decade-old class action lawsuit against Taco Bell in which a federal judge ultimately ordered the upgrade of more than 200 California restaurants. However, in July 2012, the court also decertified the class for damage claims and Seales is now seeking that relief though the San Mateo County Superior Court.

Seales has lumbar stenosis which leaves her unable to walk or stand, according to the lawsuit filed Dec. 27. Between roughly 2002 and now, Seales has visited the Taco Bell at 2693 El Camino Real several times and from 2002 to 2009 dined inside the restaurant twice a month. From 2009 on, though, she has only used the drive-through to buy food which she eats in the parking lot because of the “severe and pervasive” accessibility barriers, the suit states.

Seales’ daughter or another customer would have to place her order as a result, giving her “discomfort, embarrassment and distress.”

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Hospitality Industry Theft Risks: Wisconsin Hotel Manager Charged With Stealing More Than $28,000; Purchased Prepaid Credit And Gift Cards From Company Accounts

A police audit of credit card purchases made by Huff on her company account revealed $19,603 in prepaid Visa and other gift card purchases made at a local grocery store during a six-month period. Investigators also employee theftdiscovered checks Huff wrote for personal use as well as additional credit card purchases for a cellphone, a computer, auto insurance and auto repairs.

A Schofield woman charged with stealing more than $28,000 from two hotels she managed will be sentenced Jan. 10 after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors. Gretchen Huff, 32, was charged in March with embezzlement after investigators discovered thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges to her employer’s credit card for personal purchases. Huff is the former general manager of two Ghidorzi Co. hotels, the Country Inns and Suites in Schofield and the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Weston.

Managers at Ghidorzi Cos. became suspicious of Huff in January after discovering a one-week van rental in August 2011 for $1,029. Police say Huff paid for the rental with a business credit card issued in her name. Huff admitted renting the van to go on vacation with her children in Nebraska and offered to pay back the money. Further investigation by Ghidorzi officials uncovered additional unauthorized charges, including $2,000 for a used car and stereo equipment Huff said she purchased for a boyfriend in Chicago.

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Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: Family Of Man Who Died At “After-Hours Party” Files “Wrongful Death” Lawsuit Against Washington Restaurant; Victim Was “Over-Served” Alcohol, Did Not Receive Assistance

“…The injury occurred during an after-hours party hosted by the establishment’s general manager, who allegedly gave Lee liquor and marijuana…(the lawsuit alleges) that the restaurant broke the law by hosting an Alcohol Drink Responsiblyafter-hours party and put Patrick Lee in danger by over-serving him liquor, then failing to summon assistance when he was injured…”

The father of a man who died after allegedly falling and hitting his head during a party at a Puyallup restaurant has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the business. Attorneys for David Lee filed the lawsuit on his behalf this month in Pierce County Superior Court.

Lee is the father of Patrick Lee and the representative of the younger man’s estate. He seeks unspecified damages from Mis Tres Amigos, a family-owned Mexican restaurant with locations in Puyallup and Lakewood.

Patrick Lee, 22, died in November 2010 allegedly after becoming extremely intoxicated at the restaurant, the lawsuit states.

Instead of summoning help for Lee, the general manager and one of Lee’s friends “left him in a booth and continued to party,” the lawsuit alleges.

Lee was found the next morning unresponsive and having difficulty breathing. The general manager and Lee’s friend took him to Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup. He eventually was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was declared brain dead and removed from life support.

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Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: Workplace Discrimination Lawsuits Increase As Companies Employ “Ethnically Diverse Labor Force”; Hotel Worker Mocked For His “Accent” Awarded $500,000 Settlement

Earlier this year, an Iraqi hotel worker in Phoenix won a $500,000 settlement from the Four Points Sheraton. EEOCHe claimed his co-workers mocked his accent and called him derogatory names. According to the EEOC, the worker’s managers didn’t take his complaints seriously, which made his workplace situation intolerable.

Workplace discrimination complaints based on national origin, including those involving language ability, increased by 76 percent from 1997 to 2011, according to the EEOC. The agency says the trend reflects a more ethnically diverse labor force.

Civil rights advocates say workplaces have become more hostile toward workers who don’t speak perfect English.

“There’s definitely a climate of fear that’s bad for everyone,” John Mejia, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told Insurance Journal.

Some workers have won large settlements in accent-related lawsuits.

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Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: Oregon Restaurant Employee Awarded $70,000 In “Unlawful Employment Practices” Lawsuit; Woman Claimed Discrimination After Filing For Workers’ Compensation

“…the (plaintiff) was placed in a position to work near heat, which caused a re-blistering of the wound, according to the lawsuit…(her) physician contacted the worker’s compensation carrier again to say she was to Hospitality Industry Lawsuitwork on modified duties without exposure to heat, the lawsuit states KFC continued to expose Vargas to heat in the workplace…”

“…her physician instructed her not to return to work because KFC was not able to follow the modified duty requirement. Vargas then told her employer she could not return to work until her burn healed…two days later, KFC terminated her employment, stating that Vargas had resigned…”

A Salem woman was awarded more than $70,000 after a lawsuit she filed against Chick Inc., the Salem company that owns three KFC franchises, for unlawful employment practices. Jurors unanimously found in favor of plaintiff Sarai Vargas, who claimed she was wrongfully discharged and that she experienced discrimination after filing for workers compensation because of a workplace burn. A four-day trial ended Dec. 14.

While wearing protective gloves, Vargas suffered second-degree burns after grease splattered on her right arm as she pulled chicken from the grill oven May 9, 2010, Vargas’ lawyer Larry Linder said.

Vargas was treated by a doctor for the burn and was cleared to return to work on a modified duty, which included light activity with no exposure to heat, Linder said.

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Hospitality Industry Employment Risks: South Carolina Restaurants Ordered To Pay $391,000 In Back Wages To Workers; Servers Paid Below Mandated $2.13 Per Hour And Received Tips Only

“…the restaurants agreed to maintain future compliance with the FLSA by keeping accurate records of employees’ work hours, wages and other required employment information; paying all employees at least the Hospitality Industry Wage and Hour Litigationfederal minimum wage; and providing overtime compensation and informing employees in advance that the tip credit will be used…”

Three restaurants in South Carolina have been ordered to pay $391,000 in back wages to workers, as the result of a Department of Labor investigation. The restaurants, all individually owned branches of the San Jose Mexican restaurant chain, owe 37 employees wages for overtime and minimum wages. The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division also found violations in record-keeping provisions.

Following widespread noncompliance in the state’s restaurant industry, the Wage and Hour Division began a multiyear enforcement initiative. Since 2009, more than $2.5 million has been paid to workers, following 2,500 investigations.

All three of the restaurants failed to properly compensate employees. Servers were paid below the mandated $2.13 per hour and made to rely on tips for pay. Other employees were paid flat salaries below the minimum wage requirements, with no regard to hours worked.

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Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: Connecticut Hotel Guilty In “Wrongful Death” Lawsuit Filed By Family Of Man Killed By Hotel Van; Jury Awards $2.3 Million For Driver’s Negligence

The jurors ruled both Coleman and Campos were at fault in the accident. But the jurors said Coleman, and thus LaQuinta as well, were responsible for 58 percent of the negligence and Campos was responsible for 42 Hospitality Industry Lawsuitpercent…the (victim) was found to share some of the negligence probably because “no one can say for sure” if he obeyed a stop sign…the (driver) did not have a stop sign…”

“…The lawsuit also alleged (driver) was using a cellphone in violation of state law…the jurors awarded $1,709,840 in damages to the victim’s estate and $580,000 in damages to the widow…”

The family of Jose Mauricio Campos Thursday won a jury verdict of nearly $2.3 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against a hotel corporation and its employee, the driver of a van that struck Campos. Campos, 52, was riding a bicycle at about 6:45 p.m. Sept. 15, 2008 when he was hit by the van, operated by Robert Edward Coleman, near the intersection of Westfield and Gilbert streets in West Haven.

Coleman was a defendant in the civil suit, along with his employer, LaQuinta Inn and Suites, owned by LQ Management. He and the corporation were found to be equally liable.

Campos, who was not wearing a helmet, was thrown to the pavement by the impact and suffered a serious head injury. He died three days later at Yale-New Haven Hospital after emergency surgery. The plaintiff was his wife, Gregoria Campos of West Haven. The Camposes had three sons, now adults.

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Hospitality Industry Safety Risks: Gas Fireplace Manufacturers To Provide “Protective Screens” To Prevent Severe Burns From “Scorching Glass Fronts”

“…Under the voluntary standard, the glass is allowed to reach temperatures as high as 500 degrees or 1,328 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the type of glass used. Up to now, most manufacturers have not provided Hotel Glass Fireplacesscreens or prominent safety warnings out of fear of marring the aesthetic appeal of fireplaces or scaring off customers…”

Some have argued that the risks of a fireplace are so obvious that keeping kids safe is simply a matter of good parenting and common sense. However, some child burn victims were hotel guests whose parents had no experience with gas fireplaces.

Fred Stephens’ 11-month-old daughter Lila had to have skin grafts on both palms after suffering third-degree burns from fireplace glass at a resort in the Wisconsin Dells in 2010.

To stave off regulation and lawsuits over severe burns to toddlers, manufacturers will provide protective screens as standard equipment with new gas fireplaces. The industry has revised its voluntary guidelines to call for the addition of mesh screens attached to new fireplaces to prevent contact with the scorching glass fronts.

Fireplace makers will have a long lead time — until Jan. 1, 2015 — to provide screens with new units, though companies are already retooling to do it sooner, said Tom Stroud, a senior manager with the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.

As reported by FairWarning, more than 2,000 children age 5 and under were injured by contact with the unprotected glass in a recent 10-year period, according to a federal database. The injuries triggered at least a dozen lawsuits and scrutiny by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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