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Jason R. Schultz P.C

Chain Restaurant Liability in Atlanta: Franchisor vs. Franchisee

Generally speaking, when a customer or patron is injured at a restaurant because of a restaurant’s negligence, the customer can file a preemies liability claim for compensation for damages. When someone is injured in a chain restaurant, the question gets muddies, which party do you file the claim against: the owner of the particular franchise in which the patron was injured (the franchisee), or the franchisor?

The answer isn’t always obvious. Chain restaurant liability is actually quite complicated, and much depends on how much power over the restaurant’s daily operations the franchisee and franchisor had. Below we discuss some of the most common types of injuries customers sustain at chain restaurants, as well as franchise liability.

Types of Injuries at Restaurants

Below are a few examples of types of injuries patrons sustain at chain restaurants.

  • Food poisoning (poor food handling practices)
  • Fractures, spinal cord, and brain injuries because of slip and fall accidents (wet floors, loose carpet, objects in the walkways)
  • Employee assault on patrons
  • Burns (overly hot food, servers spilling food or coffee on patrons, fire in the restaurant)
  • Major internal and crush injuries from collapsed roofing or a collapsed patio

Who is liable, the franchisor or franchisee?

Sometimes the franchisor is liable for a patron’s injuries, and in other cases, the franchisee is the party responsible. The franchisor is not automatically liable simply because of the franchisor/franchisee relationship; in order for the franchisor to be liable, a victim will need to prove that the franchisor was negligent in some manner and vicariously liable for the incident.

Each state provides its own rules regarding franchise liability and premises liability cases. In Georgia, there are three types of situations in which the courts might find a franchisor vicariously liable for the actions (or inaction) of the franchisee.

  • The franchisor obligates itself to pay the debts of a franchisee.
  • The franchisee is actually just an alter ego of the franchisor.
  • The franchisor approves of or authorizes the actions of the franchisee.

Because this is such a difficult area of the law and varies from franchise to franchise, claimants should consult a local attorney about their case to discuss the particulars.

Examples of Cases of Franchisee Negligence

More times than not, it’s the franchisee that will be found liable for injuries to a customer, rather than the franchisor. Below are a few examples of cases in Georgia in which courts held that there was no vicariously liability, i.e., the franchisor was not responsible for the victim’s damages.

  • Ellison v. Burger King Corp (2008): The franchisee’s store manager assaulted a customer.
  • Pizza K, Inc. v. Santagata (2001): The pizza delivery driver caused an auto accident.
  • Schlotzsky’s, Inc. v. Hyde (2000): Customers contracted a food-borne illness.
  • Coldwell Banker v. DeGraft-Hanson (2004): The franchisee’s sales agents allegedly caused emotional distress when they made negative, race-based statements.
  • McGuire v. Radisson Hotels Int’l (1993): A customer was injured when he was forcibly removed by hotel security.

Consult a Restaurant Injury Attorney in Atlanta

If you were seriously injured at a chain restaurant, contact a premises liability attorney for help filing a claim and recovering a settlement. For assistance in the Atlanta area, call the office of Jason Schultz, P.C. for a case evaluation. Contact our office today at 404-474-for a free, no-obligation consultation.


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