Recently saw an interesting article about a multi-million dollar settlement resulting from devastating injuries suffered by a little boy at a Burger King restuarant in Southern California. Back in August of 2005, Jacob Buckett,[pictured below, before the incident] then only 8, accompanied his dad and younger sister to lunch at a Burger King in Temecula, California. The particular restuarant they chose had an attached play area, with a jungle gym[known as “soft-contained playgrounds” – like the one in the photo above]. Jacob went to play on the Jungle Gym and climbed up one of the horizontal support poles. He lost his balance and fell, cracking his head on the tile floor.
Jacob suffered a traumatic brain injury which kept him in a coma for two months. He was hospitalized for a full six months. The brain damage he suffered left him partially paralyzed and with severe emotional and cognitive defects. Although Jacob is now 12, he has the maturity level of a 6 year old.
Jacob’s parents sued, claiming that the franchise owner, The Breckenridge Group, and the parent company, Burger King, knew the Jungle Gym was dangerous, but didn’t address the problems. Specifically, the Bucketts argued that the play area lacked “no-climb netting” and floor padding. They further alleged that the defendants were on notice about these defects because of previous incidents. The Bucketts also alleged that the owner of the franchise, failed to post warning signs and refused to retrofit the structure.
The article suggested that the defendants in their responsive pleadings suggested the Jacob’s father was at least partly responsible for failing to properly supervise the child. That assertion was neutralized by videotapes showing numerous children misusing the equipment on a regular basis prior to Jacob’s accident.
The parties settled the case for $20 million, which will pay for enormous and on-going medical bills, rehabilitation therapy and 24 hour attendant care for Jacob.