Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

McDonald’s denies liability in customer’s trip and fall suit

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Dec 15, 2015

Several McDonald’s defendants deny liability and seek to dismiss a customer’s lawsuit alleging she tripped and fell on loose tile.

Shanai McLorn and Darryl Garner filed a lawsuit on July 16 against McDonald’s Corporation, McDonald’s Restaurant, McDonald’s of St. Louis and the Metro East and TDS Services Inc.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs were at the defendants’ franchise when McLorn allegedly lost her balance while walking on the tile floor and fell on Feb. 22, 2014. She claims the tile “had been loose for a considerable period of time.”

The plaintiffs allege the restaurant failed to maintain the floor in a safe condition, place a sign or other warning in the area to alert patrons and failed to barricade the dangerous zone.

They seek damages of more than $50,000, plus attorney’s fees and costs.

TDS Services answered the complaint on Sept. 28 through attorney Erin Phillips of Unsell Schattnik & Phillips in Wood River. The defendant argues that the plaintiffs caused their own injuries by failing to keep a proper lookout, failing to avoid an alleged defect known to McLorn and failing to use reasonable care while walking across an alleged defect.

The plaintiffs denied the affirmative defenses in their Oct. 13 response, filed through attorney Ellen Burford of Wendler Law in Edwardsville.

McDonald’s Corporation filed a combined motion to dismiss the complaint on Oct. 5. The defendant argues that the plaintiffs have “only baldly asserted that the restaurant was ‘under the jurisdiction and control of McDonald’s Corporation’ which fails to sufficiently invoke the existence of a legal duty.

McDonald’s of Metro St. Louis, improperly named as McDonald’s of St. Louis and the Metro East, filed a motion to dismiss on Oct. 7 through attorney Amy Simkins of Law Offices of Rouse and Cary in St. Louis, arguing that it is not a proper party in this lawsuit.

The defendant argues that it is a co-op of McDonald’s franchise and has “no role or control in the day to day operation of any McDonald’s franchise.”

McDonald’s Corporation filed a motion to transfer venue under the doctrine of forum non conveniens to Washington County on Nov. 23 through Phillips.

The defendant agrees that venue is “theoretically proper” in St. Clair County but argues that another venue would better serve the parties’ convenience.

McDonald’s claims the alleged injury occurred in Washington County, meaning Washington County would be more convenient for the parties and witnesses involved.

“Although deference to the plaintiff’s choice of forum is substantial, it is not dispositive. St. Clair County is plaintiff’s home forum and therefore presumed to be convenient to plaintiff, but this factor is not determinative given that the situs of the occurrence is in a neighboring county and that plaintiffs’ residence does not bear a substantial relation to the litigation,” the motion states.

The defendant also argues that “the interest in deciding localized controversies locally as a factor overwhelmingly favors transfer of this cause to Washington County.”

“Obviously Washington County would have a greater interest in ensuring the safety of patrons who claim to have been injured at a business located within the county than would St. Clair County for a business not within its borders,” the motion states.

McDonald’s further alleges that it would be “unfair” to impose the burden of a trial on St. Clair County residents with “little to no connection” to the case.

On Dec. 1, Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot scheduled a motion hearing to address McDonald’s motion to transfer for Jan. 20 at 9 a.m.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 15-L-400

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