Man Sues After Burning Face Praying Over Applebee’s Fajitas, Loses

The most 'America' story ever.

fajitas

Becca Young deems “Man burned by fajitas while praying can’t sue Applebee’s” (USA Today) “the most ‘America’ headline I’ve ever read.” It’s certainly in the running.

A man who leaned over a plate of sizzling fajitas to pray can’t sue a Westampton restaurant because the dish burned him, an appellate court ruled Wednesday.

Hiram Jimenez sought damages from Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar after a March 2010 incident at the chain’s restaurant on Burlington-Mount Holly Road. But an appellate panel said Applebee’s can’t be held responsible because the hot food posed an “open and obvious” danger.

According to the ruling, Jimenez ordered fajitas that were placed in front of him in a “sizzling skillet.” When he bowed his head “close to the table,” the ruling says, Jimenez heard “a loud sizzling noise, followed by ‘a pop noise’ and then felt a burning sensation in his left eye and on his face.”

[…]

His lawsuit said a waitress did not warn Jimenez that the dish was hot. It argued Jimenez suffered “serious and permanent” injuries “solely as a result of (Applebee’s) negligence when he came in contact with a dangerous and hazardous condition, specifically, ‘a plate of hot food’.”

A trial judge dismissed the suit, finding Applebee’s — a California-based chain with more than 1,900 restaurants — was not required to warn Jimenez “against a danger that is open and obvious.”

Jimenez appealed, but a two-judge panel came to the same conclusion.

It noted business owners are required to “discover and eliminate dangerous conditions, to maintain the premises in safe condition and to avoid creating conditions that would render the premises unsafe.”

But it said the risk posed by the hot platter was “self-evident.” Applebee’s, the ruling said, “had no duty to warn (Jimenez) that the food was sizzling hot and should be approached with due care.”

Of course, servers routinely issue such a warning, anyway. But the judges here are of course correct: anyone who’s ever ordered fajitas served in this manner is aware that the plate is steaming hot.

Those of a certain age will immediately be reminded of Stella Lieback, the then-79-year-old woman who sued McDonald’s two decades ago after she spilled coffee in her lap and suffered third-degree burns. She won that suit, including an initial award of $2.7 million in punitive damages, becoming for a time “the poster child of excessive lawsuits.” In reality, though, McDonald’s coffee was much hotter than customary, numerous previous people had been seriously injured as a result, and the trail judge called McDonalds’ conduct reckless, callous and willful.

Applebee’s, on the other hand, did nothing here out of the ordinary. Why fajitas, unlike almost any other food, is served on a metal plate brought right from the oven (and thus continuously cooks the meat) I don’t know. But Applebee’s actually calls them “sizzling skillet fajitas” right there on the menu.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. wr says:

    I’m surprised the first judge didn’t simply rule that anyone who orders fajitas at Applebee’s deserves whatever he gets…

  2. I’ve never quite understood why some restaurants feel it necessary to deliver something like fajitas, or steak, on a hot, sizzling, iron skillet. But, yea, they do warn you and you’d kind of have to be an idiot not to realize that the sizzling skillet of food that was just laid in front of you is kind of hot. So, the Court got this right.

  3. CB says:

    @wr:

    You win the internet for today, good sir.

  4. CSK says:

    Somewhere, some fringe right hysteric is going to claim that this ruling demonstrates the court’s contempt for Christianity.

  5. Yolo Contendere says:

    This is why when I go to Applebee’s, I just do the salad bar.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @wr: I’m even more amused that it’s a man with a Hispanic surname. I mean, he really ought to have known better.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    It’s Obama’s fault.

  8. rodney dill says:

    TANSTAACSL – There ain’t no such thing as a cold sizzling lunch

  9. @Doug Mataconis:

    I’ve never quite understood why some restaurants feel it necessary to deliver something like fajitas, or steak, on a hot, sizzling, iron skillet. But, yea, they do warn you and you’d kind of have to be an idiot not to realize that the sizzling skillet of food that was just laid in front of you is kind of hot.

    If, for sake of argument, serving the food on an iron skillet instead of plating it constitutes negligence, I’m not sure how simply warning the customer that they’re not taking proper safety precautions mitigates the restaurant’s liability. If anything it would be an aggravating factor as it demonstrates the fact the restaurant was aware of the danger and chose to proceed anyways.

  10. John H says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Doug – you don’t get how selling the sizzle works, and that cold greasy fajita fillings at the end of the meal aren’t a real stimulus to repeat business?

  11. TheoNott says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’ve always assumed it was a presentation thing. Like, it adds a bit of theater to have your fajitas brought out on a sizzling metal plate. I agree with the Court’s decision, too. The bubbling grease was clearly visible and audible when the plate was brought out.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    What happened here is obvious. We all know that Jesus and Mary regularly appear in grilled cheese sandwiches. Obviously Satan possessed the fajita. He heard the praying and went all Exorcist on this guy.

  13. Will Taylor says:

    i hate Applebees. they have Rats. My whole impression of Applebees is based on this scene.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A27nH_TtN3k

  14. Gustopher says:

    If you are praying over Applebee’s Fajitas, and you get burned in the face…

    I think we might just have proof in the existence of God.

  15. “the most ‘America’ headline I’ve ever read.” It’s certainly in the running.

    “Man sues Applebee’s claiming no firearm policy left them defensless against anti-Christian fajitas”

  16. J-Dub says:

    Satan 1, Jesus 0

  17. KM says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We all know that Jesus and Mary regularly appear in grilled cheese sandwiches.

    Maybe they were trying to warn him he’d suffer some unpleasant consequences from the fajitas and he mistook it as hissing and popping. Better a small burn on the face then a constantly burning ass, after all…..

  18. Hal_10000 says:

    In reality, though, McDonald’s coffee was much hotter than customary,

    Oh yes, this trial lawyer talking point again. It’s not true. Starbucks serves coffee at the same temperature. NCA recommends 180-190 degrees. Frank Easterbrook, in particular, has tossed cases in the 7th circuit for arguing this, citing tons of information about how coffee is usually served.

    Sorry for the threadjack, but I tire of seeing these talking points over and over and over again.

  19. C. Clavin says:

    Another strike against religion.

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Yolo Contendere: Last time I did the Applebee’s salad bar joke, nobody got it. I don’t think David Brooks has the readership he used to.

  21. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Like someone or other famously said, you don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle.

  22. Tyrell says:

    There are not too many cooked foods that a person would want cool or lukewarm. In fact there are some that should be hot on arrival: fries, popcorn, baked potato, hot fudge cake, coffee, hot chocolate. I have often gotten burned eating pizza: my fault because I wouldn’t wait for it to cool down.
    There are so many frivolous, petty, and spiteful lawsuits these days. Lawyers and plaintiffs both should be fined in those situations.

  23. PogueMahone says:

    Clearly the guy needs to go back to Bible study.

    You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil

    Psalm 23:5

  24. stonetools says:

    Who put the sizzletas in my fajitas?

    Seriously, how clueless does a Hispanic guy, or any one really, have to be not to know that fajitas sizzle?What next, complaining that ice cream is really cold ?

  25. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:

    What other foods should be enjoyed hot? Do you have a list of foods that should be enjoyed cold? What about room temperature?

  26. michael reynolds says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    You’re doing the Christopher Walken thing, aren’t you.

  27. Neil Hudelson says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yup. It’s addicting.

  28. DrDaveT says:

    Every prayer is answered? It’s just sometimes the answer is “Ouch!”.

  29. de stijl says:

    @CSK:

    Somewhere, some fringe right hysteric is going to claim that this ruling demonstrates the court’s contempt for Christianity.

    I’ve got dibs on Rod Dreher. It would be a total lock if it was gay fajitas.

  30. DrDaveT says:

    @de stijl:

    It would be a total lock if it was gay fajitas.

    You mean “fagitas”, right?

  31. ernieyeball says:

    What next, complaining that ice cream is really cold ?

    I have complained many times that the ice cream melts too fast at Chilis…

  32. Franklin says:

    @gVOR08: D’oh, I totally forgot about that. Went back up and gave Yolo a Like.

  33. bill says:

    @wr: but he was hispanic, religious and eating at a successful chain with deep pockets!? that must have been a leap of faith for you to side with big business, there’s hope after all.

  34. John Peabody says:

    Applebee’s fajitas are quite good. The sizzling griddle is part of the enjoyment.

  35. Yolo Contendere says:

    @gVOR08: Then I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing the joke failed…

  36. Yolo Contendere says:

    @Yolo Contendere: Apparently there’s at least one David Brooks fan around here though.

  37. Paul Hooson says:

    More proof that praying over every touchdown or praying over every fajita isn’t wise…I think god gets it…you’re grateful…

  38. Paul Hooson says:

    “Dear Pat Robertson and the 700 CLUB. I was praying to be rich. So while praying over fajitas to be be rich I burnt myself…So, I sued for $2.7 million! Thank you Lord! The Lord answers prayer…”

  39. Murray says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “I’ve never quite understood why some restaurants feel it necessary to deliver something like fajitas, or steak, on a hot, sizzling, iron skillet”

    Because … there is a market honey. Something the Libertarian you clam to be should understand.

    Besides, there is a true culinary benefit to this type of cooking if the customer knows how to use it. I.e.you you cook your meat as YOU like it and can eat … slowly to enjoy it rather than having to gobble up what’s in front of you while it’s hot/warm

    There is really no surprise this will have escaped a baseball cap wearing hamburger eater such as yourself.

  40. Moderate Mom says:

    @gVOR08: Not enough Bobos in Paradise anymore, I guess.

  41. Tony W says:

    I have heard of Applebees described as a microwave oven surrounded by booths, but this puts a nail in the coffin of that theory

  42. Grewgills says:

    @Tony W:
    Yes, they also have an oven and spritzer bottles of water to keep the griddles hot and spray them to make them sizzle before they add the microwaved food.