Desert Sun Wire Service – March 26, 2009
The parents of a now-12-year-old California boy who fell from a play structure located on the premises of a Burger King restaurant, striking his head, which caused severe brain damage, have settled their claims. The franchise’s parent company will pay $20 Million in settlement for the injuries to Jacob Buckett and his sister, Isabelle, who was 5 at the time of the boy’s fall in 2005 at the Temecula restaurant. The structure was inside the restaurant and there was no rubber beneath the bars, just hard tile. The defendants, the restaurant franchisee, the parent company, the playground manufacturer, and the installer of the playground were all named as defendants in the case. The settlement had a confidentiality clause, but several media outlets in the area have reported on the amount and that Burger King was involved.
The young boy suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, as well as injuries to his lungs, when he fell off the bars. The equipment was designed to look like a fireman’s pole with monkey bars. While the defendants contended that the responsibility for watching the boy was the father’s, parents have an expectation of safety when they take their children to established public playgrounds.
The restaurant and installer should have placed rubber beneath the structure, rather than leaving the hard tile floor unprotected. Warning signs were not posted at the particular restaurant where the fall occurred, though other restaurants in the chain had such signs posted. There had been at least one prior fall-injury at this location.
After his initial treatment, Jacob was placed on a ventilator and stayed in a hospital for more than a month, before being admitted to a rehabilitation hospital for six weeks. Because of complications when a ventricle shunt was placed, he had to be readmitted to Children’s Hospital in San Diego for two more months. The boy is still undergoing rehabilitation and has significant brain damage. The sister was awarded money in the settlement because she – as the result of seeing the fall – suffered negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Christopher Aitken, a lawyer with the San Diego firm of Walton Barber, represented the family and did an outstanding job of developing the case. This lawsuit raises awareness of the importance of safety at public playgrounds and the need to make safety of children at such locations a top priority.
Source: The Desert Sun
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