Deep Pockets File: Foradori v. Captain D’s II

by Ted Frank on April 3, 2008

As we reported in 2005:

On December 22, 2000, 15-year-old Michael Foradori Jr. walked into a Captain D’s seafood restaurant in Tupelo, Mississippi for dinner; while there, he started flirting with the girlfriend of one of the employees, which resulted in a shouting match. “‘This (employee) was kind of picking on him, he started threatening him, he even hit him with a wadded up paper,’ said Joey Langston, Foradori’s attorney.” (More on Langston at Point of Law, May 13.) A manager restored order by kicking everyone out of the restaurant; outside, a cook who clocked out for the evening got into an altercation with Foradori, and pushed him over a wall, breaking his neck and paralyzing him.

Langston has since pled guilty to bribing a state judge in a different case; he’ll have some money to comfort him when he leaves prison, as he obtained a $20.8 million verdict in the Foradori case on the theory that, if only the restaurant had better trained its cook not to sucker-punch customers half his size, Foradori wouldn’t have been paralyzed, presumably because the threat of being fired from a minimum-wage job would’ve done what criminal sanctions would not. (Captain D’s didn’t fire the cook, Garious Harris. It is unknown whether fear of race discrimination suits had anything to do with that. Captain D’s appears to have also suffered from some questionable tactical choices by their attorneys.) The Fifth Circuit has affirmed the verdict, its hands tied to some extent by ludicrous Mississippi state law and Erie. Folo commenters speculate on the means of Langston’s success.

We hadn’t previously mentioned that the parties also sued the contractor who built the wall.

{ 4 comments }

1 E-Bell 04.03.08 at 3:01 pm

It’s kind of shocking how many commenters at Folo believe that the Captain D’s case resulted in a “just” verdict.

I fail to see how Captain D’s could have prevented the fight that led to the plaintiff’s injuries.

2 Anderson 04.04.08 at 12:01 pm

on the theory that, if only the restaurant had better trained its cook not to sucker-punch customers half his size, Foradori wouldn’t have been paralyzed

You know, if it’s really necessary to mischaracterize the opinion in order to criticize it, then maybe the problem isn’t with the opinion?

There was negligence on the part of the *manager* in failing to even *attempt* to control the employee or the situation. She didn’t care what happened to the 15-year-old, so long as it happened on the other side of the restaurant’s door. Slip op. at 16-18.

Captain D’s own officers testified that, on Plaintiff’s theory of the facts, the manager’s conduct violated their own policies and procedures.

Given their testimony, it’s amazing that Captain D’s even risked a trial on liability.

The part about training the cook not to sucker-punch a customer is evidently meant to summarize a different ground of liability, slip op. at 23 ff. The appellate court quoted the district court’s opinion that dealt with the cook’s lack of restraint, and then delicately failed to take that up itself:

After reviewing the record, we conclude that the district court correctly
analyzed the evidence and applied Rule 50, not simply for the district court’s
stated reasons, but also because of additional legally sufficient evidence …

As any law clerk knows, this is the classic euphemism for “right results, wrong reasons.” The 5th Circuit went on to focus on the poor training of the manager and of other, noncombatant employees.

In short, the theory of recovery was not simply as the blog post states, and you are misleading your readers.

I generally trust this blog to be honest on issues I don’t know about. When I *am* up on the facts, as here, and find that this blog is not to be trusted, that affects its credibility as a whole.

3 Ted 04.04.08 at 12:34 pm

To quote the opinion:

The fact that Harris nevertheless elected to commit this assault raises questions in this court’s mind as to whether Captain D’s management had adequately informed Harris of the adverse consequences which would result if he behaved in a violent manner towards a customer.

I’ve misrepresented nothing. I don’t see how the alternative ground on which the Fifth Circuit held is much better: idea that restaurants should be liable for failing to train managers to call police on employees when customers get into arguments with them (the Fifth Circuit doesn’t propose any other alternative for resolving the dispute) doesn’t have any basis in testimony at trial. This is pure second-guessing by 20/20 hindsight. But readers are welcome to review the Fifth Circuit opinion for themselves, which is why I linked to it.

4 Steve 04.04.08 at 2:39 pm

To quote Ted quoting the opinion:

“The fact that Harris nevertheless elected to commit this assault raises questions in this court’s mind as to whether Captain D’s management had adequately informed Harris of the adverse consequences which would result if he behaved in a violent manner towards a customer.”

Apparently, the courts believe that employers are responsible for informing employess of the laws of the state.

For most positions, you could get in trouble with breaking laws and, as long as it does not affect your ability to perform your job, it SHOULD NOT affect your employment.

If this had happened IN the restaurant WHILE working, I think there should be some (read small) amount of liability. People should still be personally responsible for their own actions-WHOOPS I have forgotten that we no longer believe that in this country. Please forgive.

Anderson, if you could please show why a restaurant, or any business for that matter, should be held liable for the illegal actions of its employees after having ended their shift with regards to personal responsibility, I would appreciate it.

Common sense(gosh, there’s another annoying concept!) would seem to be that a business is only responsible for its own actions. Not that of employees off the clock out in the parking lot.

PS

I would also like to know how you would justify suing the builders of the wall….Hmmmm…makes sense.

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