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Food-related lawsuits come in waves, oftentimes showcasing similar fact patterns and events.
We've seen this with foreign-object-in-food suits, as well as with the McDonald's coffee incident and the subsequent "hot food" lawsuits that seemed to clog the courts overnight.
On the heels of two tipsy toddler incidents, wherein both Applebee's and Olive Garden allegedly served alcohol to young children, a Chicago mother is claiming that a Chili's restaurant served her 4-year-old daughter an alcoholic Mudslide instead of a chocolate shake.
Are tipsy toddlers the new food lawsuit trend?
To be fair, Chili's disputes the family's accounting of events. The restaurant says that the mother ordered a fruit punch for the child, which was properly served to the little girl in a kid's cup. The alcoholic drink, which was supposed to be a chocolate shake, was served to the mother in barware. She was the one who handed the drink over to her child.
Even so, the recent string of tipsy toddlers is unsettling, as it points to a larger problem of negligence within the restaurant industry.
Whether these incidents were caused by sloppy serving or understaffed restaurants, the food chains are opening themselves up to legal liability.
It's their duty to properly train servers and to implement safeguards so that underage persons are not served alcohol. If a server consistently makes these kinds of errors then it's arguable that the restaurant has a legal duty to fire the server before someone is hurt.
And if mishaps are the result of understaffing? Then a restaurant likely has the responsibility to hire more staff so that no one has to cut corners.
As for whether tipsy toddlers are a new legal trend, who knows? As the McDonald's coffee incident demonstrated, while these kinds of lawsuits often spawn a variety of copycats, only time will tell.