Have lawsuits driven a restaurant to use a waiver for protection against being sued by customers who get injured from hot food?
A recent article in a legal opinion blog by Jonathan Turley titled Tort or Torte? Restaurant Requires Waivers Before Customers Try Hot Food Mr. Turley discusses a restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts requiring the customer to sign a waiver in an attemt to protect themselves from lawsuits.
Requiring the waiver sounds a bit more like a publicity stunt than a bona fide attempt at limiting liability.
Although the tort laws in each state can differ, there are defenses that are generally universal in nature, including assumption of the risk.
The restaurant advertises the week as “Hell Week,” during which only very spicy foods are served. Customers come during that week specifically for that reason: to try the hottest foods they’ve ever tasted. The fact that the food is very spicy is not a secret. Because the customers are seeking out this restaurant during Hell Week, it can be argued that they know full well what to expect and are implicitly assuming the risks involved with eating spicy foods. As long as the restaurant provides a clear and complete list of the ingredients used in each dish, I don’t see the waiver being warranted.
So if a customer signs a waiver have they given up their legal right to sue?
That being said, many consumers erroneously believe that by signing a waiver they are giving up all legal rights to bring an action against a tortfeasor. They believe this even though there are many defects in a waiver that would render it void. So while the restaurant’s goal in requiring the waiver might be publicity, it could benefit from the byproduct of avoiding litigation from an uninformed consumer who assumes the waiver was airtight.
Jonathan Turley’s article can be found here: Tort or Torte? Restaurant Requires Waivers Before Customers Try Hot Food
The original news story about the restaurant can be found here: Cambridge Restaurant’s Food Is So Hot, You Have To Sign A Waiver