Waiter, Can I Get a Side of $25,000?

By: Michael Seinberg

money blend 3Everyone has seen the classic movie comedy scene. Waitress/waiter trips and drops a precariously balanced tray of dishes (usually with a lot of tomato sauce involved) onto a hapless diner. Apologies ensue, tears, a few laughs, and the guy gets the girl or vice versa and all is well. Unfortunately for an unnamed waitress at a Missouri P.F. Chang’s, one of her customers never caught that movie.

On September 11, 2009, Chenise Schaefer claims that a waitress, who is only identified as Jane Doe, dropped a tray full of dishes on her.  On September 25 of this year (four years later), Schaefer brought suit against the waitress and the restaurant seeking $25,000.  “As a direct and proximate result of the negligence and carelessness of the defendant Jane Doe, the plaintiff suffered injuries to her back, neck, spine, and fibromyalgia affecting her entire body as a whole,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff has been caused to suffer great pain and mental anguish, and all of plaintiff’s injuries are permanent and progressive.”

Definitely no laugh track on this one. Though it is hard to imagine how a plate of Kung Pao chicken could have caused so many permanent injuries.  And while there is no crying over spilled milk, apparently there is grave “mental anguish” over a tray of spilled Chinese food – something to consider next time you order dim sum.

As is the case in many similar suits, one needs to ask whether or not such a suit would have been filed had the restaurant in question been a small local eatery as opposed to a large national chain with deep pockets. To bolster her case, Ms. Schaefer claims that the waitress was not given proper assistance, not properly trained and did not implement “sufficient safety policies regarding tray weight.” So her handy dandy tray scale was not available?

Chain restaurants such as this are busy places that place a great deal of emphasis on fast, efficient service. When staff members are moving quickly though a crowded dining room, mistakes will occur. No one is perfect, and in an ideal world that would be an accepted truth and we could all move through our workdays doing our best and knowing that’s what counted.

Unfortunately for waitress Doe, what counts is what sort of fodder a trial lawyer can make out of an honest mistake.

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