If you're reading this article and you know anything about me, you know that I'm a slightly over-weight guy who loves food, wine and great restaurants. I developed this passion by spending nearly 10 years of my life working in nearly every job in the restaurant industry (I was paid to wash dishes, but I've never been employed as a cook, go figure). Anyway, as any ex-service industry person will tell you, people who dine at restaurants are some of the most disrespectful out there.
Now that I've said that, lets turn to the law. New Orleans is filled with some of the most well-known and fantastic restaurants in the country. Since the storm, New Orleans has flooded, rebuilt, and launched itself to the fore-front of the culinary world, and is in the process as emerging as the place to go for great food and good times. As a matter of happen-stance, I have welcomed many friends and family who came to New Orleans to hit the restaurants for not only po' boys and crawfish, but also BBQ, gourmet, and Asian-Cajun. Yeah, we're really lucky here.
Sadly, as more and more diners come to restaurants, more and more have the possibility of a bad experience. More scary, however, is the phenomenon where disappointed diners dare to sue for to recovery damages for their dismay. I find this to be horrifying. First, let me be clear, I am not talking about the people who spill hot coffee on their lap after leaving McDonald's or cut their lip while using their knife to shovel food into their mouths. I'm referring to people who are actually suing for pain, suffering, and embarrassment after their Levi's are stained by a drop of ketchup! Okay, maybe we are talking about the same people, but let's dig further.
In a recent article published in the ABA Journal, "When Food Attacks," the American Bar Association highlighted a trend growing trend in the restaurant world, where diners plead their demand for damages not with the manager, but with the court. In one such incident, two diners' eyes were exposed to garlic butter sauce which squirted from an escargot. As a result of the spray, the diners sued the restaurant claiming damages of approximately $7.500 a piece. The case was dismissed. Luckily, judges have yet to fully understand where plaintiff's lawyers are coming from on this one, will they ever?
Also, in the service industry's defense, and quoting Monty in Waiting, "Do not ____ with the people who serve you food!" (For the record, New Orleans is home to culinary/movie landmark Bennigan's which played Shenanigan's in the movie. Here's the address) Seriously, don't mess with us. Not only do we fake smiles, work awful hours, and exhibit less than exemplary manners outside of work, we also control how your food can and will taste. I will bend over backwards, fight with the chef, and cry to the manage to get you what you want just like they do at your favorite restaurant in whatever po-dunk town you're from when you're on vacation at Disney at my restaurant IF YOU"RE NICE. But if you're mean to me, I will simply ask the kitchen to 'accidentally' over cook your steak or hit the 'extra spicy' key on your kung pao chicken.
Sorry, I was ranting. Let's turn back to the law. I think many diners fail to realize how much diners mistakes cost. To explain this best, imagine a bottle of wine. It's from France. It's really old. And, it's the only bottle left like it in the world. As you can imagine, this bottle of wine is expensive and your waiter is sweating bullets while she opens it. After successfully removing the cork, decantation, and pouring a taste, you learn that you detest bordeaux and want to go back to drinking Pinot grigio from some farm owned by Boone. What is the restaurant owner supposed to do? Are they supposed to re-cork the bottle and sell 9o% of a bottle of wine to the next guy? Is he supposed to give that $10000 bottle to his kitchen to cook coq au vin? NO! Have you ever considered that when you ask for a bottle of wine you are contracting a sale of goods with them for the wine. Have you ever been sued for breach of contract when you rejected the wine? Of course not.
Here's my offer, crazy diners: If you don't reject the goods I'm offering you, or you exercise the care reasonably expected of you when you using (eating) my goods, I promise not to sue you either.
And if that fails, contact me.