A judge in San Raphael, California, recently dismissed a lawsuit in what has become known as The Case of the Exploding Escargot.
It seems that two gentlemen were dining at the Seafood Peddler in San Raphael, and decided to begin their meal with snails prepared in the traditional garlic butter. The snails burst, scalding them with hot grease. They sued for $7,500 in “negligence, pain and suffering,” and also accused the restaurant staff of “rudeness” and “indifference” to their plight.
The judge ruled that there was a reasonable expectation of hot grease in snails prepared with hot garlic butter. He was also perturbed that after a snail burst when the first man poked it with a fork, his dining companion did exactly the same thing.
Interestingly, he cited a 1992 California Supreme Court decision as precedent. In Mexicali Rose vs. Superior Court, a woman sued after choking on a bone found in her chicken fricassee with dumplings. The judge in that case ruled that it was reasonable to find a chicken bone in a chicken dish, and that the restaurant would only have been liable if the object had been ‘foreign.”
I expected that the McDonald’s coffee case would have been the likely precedent. In 1994, Judith Liebeck purchased a cup of coffee from a drive-through at a New Mexico McDonald’s. Although the car was stationery when she opened the cup, she was holding it between her knees at the time, and she was hospitalized with third-degree burns. During the trial, it came out that McDonald’s mandated a serving temperature of 180-190 degrees for coffee, or hot enough to cause serious injury.
Even though Liebeck received a large award, the judge didn’t seem to question the fact that she opened the cup while holding it between her knees, nor did he seem to think that it was reasonable to expect the coffee to be hot. Personally, I can guarantee you that a cup of coffee is going nowhere near my lap.
The moral? Watch out for those snails. They may be slow, but they can be vicious.