Burger King slip-and-fall lawsuit placed in alternative resolution program

By Carrie Salls | Jan 17, 2017

ERIE – A lawsuit filed by a New York woman who alleges she was injured when she fell on ice outside of a Fairview Burger King has been designated for placement in the Alternative Dispute Resolution program.

Todd Berkey, an attorney and partner at Edgar Snyder & Associates, said, in general, these types of slip-and-fall cases are looked at by insurance companies as defensible, and juries are tough in these cases, but that does not stop them from proceeding to trial.


“In the overall scheme of personal injury cases…these cases tend to try more often than other personal injury cases,” Berkey told the Pennsylvania Record. “These are difficult cases from the plaintiffs’ standpoint to prove the case.”


Still, Berkey said these types of cases are settled more than 90 percent of the time, and he guessed that plaintiff Yvonne Caldwell’s attorney, Brian Chapin York of Brian Chapin York, Esq. in Jamestown, New York, “really tried to settle the case,” given the amount of time that has passed since Caldwell’s fall occurred.


“(These cases) don’t always settle for great results or great amounts,” Berkey said.


In addition to Burger King Corp., Caldwell’s Dec. 9 lawsuit names franchisee Patterson-Erie Corp. as a defendant. The suit asserts claims of negligence against both defendants because they allegedly did not keep their property safe.


“The defendants negligently permitted one or more dangerous conditions to remain on their business premises for an unreasonably long time,” Caldwell alleged in her complaint.


Specifically, Caldwell said she was walking toward an entrance to the Fairview Burger King on Jan. 28, 2015, when she fell on the ice and was injured. Caldwell claims the defendants knew or should have known that there were dangerous conditions on the walkway to the entrance, and that those conditions could result in injury to its customers.


According to the lawsuit, Caldwell’s suffered an injury to her nervous system, a fractured humerus, damage to her rotator cuff and other damage to her right shoulder.


Berkey said many corporate entities, such as Burger King in this case, will hire a separate lawyer and attempt to be removed as a defendant early on in the case.


“Almost 100 percent (of franchise contracts) insulate the corporate entity,” Berkey said. “They put all of the responsibility on the franchisee.”


Caldwell is seeking more than $75,000 in damages. Berkey said this is the minimum required amount set by the federal court system, meaning the plaintiff may not be limiting her damages to that amount.


“It would be up to the jury to decide the case (if it goes to trial),” Berkey said. “In these types of cases, there are all kinds of defenses.”


According to a notice filed with the court on Dec. 16, the attorneys of record and all unrepresented parties that appear in this case are jointly responsible for submitting a stipulation to the court for the purpose of selecting an Alternative Dispute Resolution process.


Burger King did not return requests for comment on the allegations.

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