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Lost the Game of Chicken

chicken kitchenI lived in South Florida for about a year and regularly ate at the Chicken Kitchen (background article). The restaurant flame roasts chicken on a very large open grille for all guests to see, and then chops up the whole chickens for plates, bowls or burritos. The bowls were quite healthy, filling and reasonably priced.

Chicken Kitchen was recently involved in a nail-biter law suit. One of its franchisees caused a serious auto accident. Who was liable? Only the driver and franchisee, or also the franchisor?

Let’s do this law school style (all you lawyers know what I mean):

Plaintiff (P): Joshua S, motorcycle rider hit; represented by lead attorney Ervin A. Gonzalez with assistance from Deborah Gander.

Defendant (D): Chicken Kitchen USA LLC; represented by Frank Alloca and Bill Davis of the law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in Miami.

Facts: An employee of D’s franchisee was driving to make food deliveries for its restaurant. P was driving down the street in his motorcycle with friends. The franchisee’s driver hit P, causing severe neurological damage and the loss of his right arm.

P’s Claim: The Miami franchisee was an independent contractor, and it was therefore not responsible for any of the franchisee’s actions and omissions.

D’s Claim: Its franchisee was an independent contractor and therefore was not responsible for their acts and omissions

Issue: Is a franchisor legally responsible for the actions of its franchisee’s employee when the employee crashes a stop sign and causes bodily injury?

Holding: Yes.

Reasoning: Chicken Kitchen USA is legally responsible for the acts and omissions of its franchisee because it controlled or had the right to control the day to day business activities of its franchisee pursuant to its franchise agreement and operating manual.

The jury subsequently award Joshua S $2 million. I’m not sure whether insurance covered Chicken Kitchen USA LLC for its liability.

About Ryan Knoll

Attorney and advisor with an interest in franchising. Feel free to email me comments and questions on the "Contact Us" page.

2 comments

  1. Don’t remind of law school FP!

  2. So if someone slips and falls in my store, can they sue the franchisor?

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