A waiter at a Chinese restaurant placed a teapot filled with hot water on a table in front of two-year-old Brian L. who, seconds later, sucked scalding water from the spout of the teapot which was left facing him, causing him to suffer burns to his esophagus. Brian was taken to the hospital where he was placed in a medically induced coma and intubated in order to allow his burns to heal.
Suit was brought against the restaurant for negligence in leaving the teapot in a dangerously close proximity to the child. Brian’s parents, who had witnessed him suffer the burns, sued for “bystander” emotional distress under the seminal California Supreme Court case of Dillon v. Legg.
The restaurant denied any negligence, and specifically denied that any of their employees would have left the teapot in front of the boy, which they admitted was contrary to their custom and practice because of the obvious danger this posed. Brian’s grandmother, however, testified at deposition that this was exactly what they did.
Brian went on to make a full recovery from his burn injury, and is a happy and well-adjusted boy today. Partner B. Mark Fong settled Brian’s case for personal injuries for $250,000 and his parents’ emotional distress claims for $35,000.