A federal judge has rejected a motion to dismiss an Outback Steakhouse lawsuit filed by a customer injured at one of the restaurant chain’s Illinois locations.
Hand Cut on Broken Mug
The Outback Steakhouse lawsuit stems from an incident in October 2018, when Desmond Jones and his family were celebrating a birthday in Orland Park, IL.
Outback Steakhouse staff served Jones water in a glass mug that reportedly “broke into several pieces” when he set it back on the table. The glass “severely cut Jones’s left index finger,” requiring him to undergo surgery and other medical treatment.
Outback Steakhouse Lawsuit Changes Venues
In 2019, personal injury attorneys representing Jones filed suit against Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. (BBI), the company that owns and operates the restaurant chain, alleging negligence under Illinois law. The Outback Steakhouse lawsuit claims that the mug contained a defect that made it “unsafe and prone to breaking” and that the restaurant did not properly inspect the item before serving it.
Jones v. Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. was initially filed in Cook County Circuit Court. BBI later removed the case to the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois based on federal diversity jurisdiction, then filed a motion to dismiss.
Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss
On September 30, 2021, Judge Andrea R. Wood declined to dismiss the Outback Steakhouse lawsuit. She applied federal procedural rules and state substantive law to formulate her decision, with Illinois state law applied to the suit’s claim of negligence.
In her opinion, Judge Wood wrote that a complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face’” in order to survive a motion to dismiss. A claim for negligence under state law needs to establish that:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant breached that duty; and
- The plaintiff suffered an injury “proximately caused by the breach.”
Taking this into account, the judge concluded that the plaintiff’s claim of sustaining an injury while at the restaurant is sufficient to prove that “BBI owed him a duty of care.”
“All restaurants and other businesses have a general duty to protect their invitees from unreasonable risks of physical harm,” wrote Judge Wood.
She further argued that the plaintiff’s assertion that the broken mug injured his hand pleads the “third element” – that the breached “proximately caused” an injury.
“Thus,” the judge stated, “the only element at issue is whether Jones has pleaded facts sufficient to suggest that BBI breached its duty of care.”
Multiple Defense Arguments Rejected
In refusing to dismiss the Outback Steakhouse lawsuit, Judge Wood rejected multiple arguments advanced in the defense’s motion.
Specifically, the defense argued that Jones failed to plead sufficient facts to establish a breach of duty. According to BBI’s attorneys, while the plaintiff’s claims are consistent with a breach of duty, they do not “plausibly suggest” one. The defense labeled the allegation that the glass was defective as “speculative” because Jones did not describe the nature of the defect. Consequently, it was “just as likely that Jones caused the glass to break.”
Wood dismissed this argument, stating that the claim that the mug contained defective glass that made it prone to breakage is a “factual allegation that is entitled to deference at the pleadings state.”
She also argued that the plaintiff’s assertion that he “set the mug down on [the] table” implies that he did so in a normal manner, without applying sufficient force to break it. Furthermore, Jones’ allegation that the defendant failed to prevent the mug from being damaged “plausibly establish that BBI is at fault for his injury.”
Additionally, the motion to dismiss argued that Jones must provide additional details about the mug’s defect. The defense cited Weddle v. Smith & Nephew Inc., in which the plaintiff alleged that a defective product made by at least one of three companies had inflicted injuries.
Wood rejected this argument because Jones directly identified both the defective item in question and a singular defendant believed to be responsible.
Finally, the defense argued that Jones did not adequately prove that BBI had actual or constructive knowledge of the defect. Under the law, constructive knowledge is established either when a condition or defect has existed long enough that it should have been discovered while exercising reasonable care or when it is part of a pattern.
Judge Wood also dismissed this argument, stating that the plaintiff had alleged facts establishing constructive knowledge at the pleading stage.
“As such,” she concluded, “Jones’s pleadings suggest that BBI’s failure to discover the defect in his mug was not a one-time mistake, but rather a broader failure tied to the restaurant’s pattern of conduct.”
Protecting Your Case at Every Stage
Whether or not the Outback Steakhouse lawsuit ultimately proves successful remains uncertain. Nevertheless, the importance of having strong legal representation to overcome defense objections at every stage of the litigation process should be clear. It is this level of representation that thousands of plaintiffs over the years have sought out and received from the detail-oriented personal injury attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
With more than $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the premier Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois. No other plaintiff firm is more respected – or more feared – by defense lawyers and insurance companies throughout the state, both inside and outside of the courtroom. Our personal injury attorneys have the experience, the determination, the resources, and the reputation of success needed to get you and your family the justice you deserve.
To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney, contact GWC today. You may call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time