A Burger King franchise in Southern California is paying $20 million to the parents of a young boy who suffered permanent brain injuries after a fall on the restaurant’s playground.
In August 2005, Kevin Buckett thought he would take his two children, 8-year-old Jacob Buckett and a younger daughter, for an innocuous visit to play on Burger King’s colorful and inviting playground. Soon, Jacob was climbing the horizontal support poles of the outdoor playground equipment when he suddenly lost his grip, fell to the ground and hit his head on the tile floor below. Jacob’s father was quoted on an MSN.com story as saying, the noise sounded “as if you took a bowling ball and dropped it about ten feet on the floor.”
As a result of the fall, Jacob suffered a traumatic brain injury which has left him with permanent physical and mental impairment. Today, at 12-years-old, Jacob has the maturity level of a boy of no more than six. He suffers from partial paralysis and severe emotional and cognitive problems. He is unable to go to the bathroom alone, and is prone to frustration and violent temper tantrums. His devastated parents fear for his future.
According to MSN.com, “the multi-million dollar settlement will pay for Jacob’s enormous medical bills, 24-hour attendant care and ongoing rehabilitation therapies.”
In the lawsuit, the Bucketts charged that Burger King was responsible for Jacob’s accident under the auspices of “ostensible agency,” meaning that they relied on the company for a safe product. In the suit, they faulted the chain for having no oversight or inspections to ensure its franchises followed playground safety standards.
Attorneys for the Burger King Corporation and franchise owners the Breckenridge Group countered that Jacob ‘s father, Kevin Buckett, was in charge of the boy’s safety on the playground. They further insisted that the company had complied with the national playground safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Three years later, the company had still failed to post safety notices or retrofit the structure for safety. According to the Bucketts attorney Chris Atkins, Burger King did take a lesson from Jacob’s tragedy and implement a safety inspection system. This came after Atkins scored a crushing blow against the defense’s argument when he screened surveillance tape showing children regularly being allowed to misuse the playground’s structures in the same manner that had caused Jacob’s fall.
It is critical that parents never assume that playgrounds at restaurants, though they may be brightly colored and tempting to children, are completely safe. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that emergency rooms treat more than 200,000 children every year for playground-related injuries. If your child has been injured on a fast food restaurant playground or in another place that should have ensured their safety, we can help. Call MLN Law at (404) 531-9700 for more information about your rights.