Premises Liability And Franchises
Franchises generally have a lot more leeway than the average corporate outlet. The idea is that someone from the local area owns one or more store – usually a fast-food restaurant – and as such he or she retains the profits. However, the owner is also responsible for hiring and training the staff, setting prices, and maintaining the buildings and equipment. The corporation makes its money through a franchise fee and by selling corporate-approved furniture, cooking equipment, and ingredients, and if the franchisee doesn’t like it, the corporation can suspend their license.
Still, there are some perks to the franchise system. To the corporation, it demands less direct oversight, it brings in someone else to assume the risks and responsibilities of the individual restaurants, and it avoids dealing with rapid turnover and the union question since the food service workers are technically employed by a small or medium-size business.
For the local owner, it means having a product with a guaranteed demand, benefiting from a national advertising campaign, and needing to make fewer risky decisions like interior decoration and menu options.
The Liability Question
While the franchise system has its benefits, it can sometimes make it hard to determine who is ultimately responsible if you happen to suffer an injury while on the premises, whether it’s due to improperly cooked or stored food, negligent maintenance, or a negligent design.
The franchising corporation is generally the more attractive defendant since it has much deeper pockets than the local franchisee, but then the local business has a lot of authority over what goes on in front of and behind the counter. The corporation can issue guidelines that are strict or more general, but it’s up to the management of each store to actually follow them. This can get them in trouble with their corporate supervisors, but if they’re the ones breaking the rules, then they’re the ones who are responsible.
For example, a given restaurant may happen to be operated by a general manager who doesn’t spend enough time or money on maintaining the kitchen equipment or keeping the kitchen sanitary. If that means a customer gets sick from undercooked food or else doesn’t get what he or she asks for since the deep fryer is broken, then it’s the general manager’s fault first and the owner’s fault second for not keeping tabs on the situation.
For the same reason, some of the fault may lie with the corporation since it should run regular inspections to make sure the franchise is living up to their standards. Then again, if the franchise owner actively deceives the inspector, then that frees the corporation of responsibility.
However, if a corporate policy is directly responsible for an injury, then the local franchise is the one that’s off the hook. For instance, in the classic civil case of Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, Liebeck received third-degree burns because the restaurant kept their coffee at a corporate-regulated 180 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why McDonalds was the only defendant in her court case.
If you live near or were injured in the Sarasota or Port Charlotte area, whether it was in a franchised restaurant or a corporate store, contact All Injuries Law Firm today for a free case review. We’ll do our best to ferret out the responsible parties and get you fair compensation for whatever you may have lost, whether it was time, money, or even a loved one.