Some time around 1:30 a.m. Andre Taylor and several of his friends left a social gathering to visit a nearby Denny’s restaurant to get something to eat. After they ordered, Taylor realized he left his wallet in the car.

He was not in a hurry, running or intoxicated as he pushed open the restaurant’s exterior door. Although he put his hand on the door’s narrow brass plate, it slipped onto the door glass. Taylor’s hand broke through one of the door’s glass panes, causing him to cut his right arm and lacerate his flexor tendon.

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Taylor was rushed to a hospital for emergency surgery on his wrist. His surgeon testified by deposition the surgery was a success with no further treatment planned. Taylor was released to return to work about two months later.

After his recovery, Taylor sued Denny’s restaurant for negligence in failing to provide a safe exterior door. Among other things, he alleged the door did not have shatterproof glass, lacked a push bar and had only a narrow brass plate to push on.

Denny’s attorney argued there had been no previous problems with the door or its operation. But Taylor’s attorney replied the door lacked an adequate place for patron’s to push it open so it was reasonable for patron’s to push on the glass, which was the proximate cause of Taylor’s injury.

If you were the judge would you rule Denny’s Restaurant can be found liable for negligence in failing to maintain a safe door?

The judge said yes!

The evidence shows the door had a very narrow brass plate about the size of a hand to push open; there was no push bar running across the door; the glass was not shatterproof; and the possibility of a patron pushing on the glass was high, the judge began.

In the absence of a push bar or a wider push plate, he continued, Denny’s should have used a more robust glass or shatterproof glass to prevent injury such as what occurred here. It appears the condition of the door was the proximate cause of Taylor’s injury, the judge added.

Because it was foreseeable a patron would exert pressure on the glass, evidence showed Denny’s was negligent for its failure to maintain a safe door, he explained. Based on the evidence presented, Denny’s is liable to Taylor for his injuries, he ruled.

A verdict in favor of Taylor for $33,335, reduced by 10 percent contributory negligence by Taylor, results in an award of $30,002, plus $702 costs, the judge concluded.

Based on the 2006 U.S. District Court decision in Taylor v. Denny’s Inc., 422 Fed.Supp.2d 928.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

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