Man Burned While Praying Over Sizzling Fajitas Can't Sue Applebee's

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 06, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A man who claimed he was burned while praying over Applebee's fajitas won't be able to sue the restaurant chain.

A New Jersey appellate court affirmed a lower court's decision to dismiss his case, saying the sizzling hot fajitas were an "open and obvious" danger.

Delicious Danger

Hiram Jimenez ordered Applebee's signature "Sizzling Skillet Fajitas" which a server delivered to his table in a skillet that was in fact sizzling. According to his lawsuit, the server didn't warn Jimenez that the dish was hot, possibly believing that the dish's name and current condition would have alerted Jimenez to the sizzling nature of the skillet.

As Jimenez leaned over the sizzling skillet to pray, he heard "a loud sizzling noise, followed by 'a pop noise' and then felt a burning sensation in his left eye and on his face." According to the court's ruling and an Applebee's report from the March 2010 incident, Jimenez suffered burns to his face, neck, and arms when grease popped on the sizzling skillet of fajitas. (He also alleged he suffered additional burns when he panicked and knocked the sizzling skillet of fajitas into his lap.)

Words of Warning

As a business, Applebee's owes its customers a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the restaurant is safe. This includes the obligation to warn invitees of hidden dangers. Jimenez claimed the sizzling skillet of fajitas, which he described in his complaint as sizzling, smoking, and "real hot," was a dangerous and hazardous condition, and Applebee's, through its server, did not warn him.

A trial judge dismissed Jimenez's claim, however, holding that Applebee's was not required to warn him "against a danger that is open and obvious." The appellate court agreed, saying the risk posed by the sizzling skillet was "self evident," and Applebee's "had no duty to warn [Jimenez] that the food was sizzling hot."

According to USA Today, Jimenez's attorney declined to comment on the court's ruling.

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