TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Southwestern Law School

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Beware the Shrimp

Many readers have already seen the story (Overlawyered has discussed it several times), but just in case: the trial brought by a widow of a patron against Benihana has begun, and, as usual, you can count on the New York Post to provide measured coverage.  (Follow the link above, as well as this story from the first day of trial.)

The plaintiff, who is seeking $10 million, contends that the chef was a "klutz" who continued to throw food around the table after being asked to stop, and that eventually, the decedent was struck by a shrimp that he attempted to duck.  That blow caused an injury that eventually required surgery, which resulted in an infection, which resulted in the death of Jerry Colaitis, a wealthy fur seller.  The defense has pointed out that it would be an odd thing for a tips-dependent chef to repeatedly ignore the patrons' requests that he stop chucking shrimp around.

Interestingly, given the usual evidentiary rules about subsequent remedial measures, testimony apparently indicated that the shrimp- (or, for the allergic, chicken- or vegetable-) tossing ended after the incident. I suppose the defense may have decided to show its concern for safety by allowing the evidence in.

Testimony also included the tidbit that the practice was inspired by a Jackie Chan movie, Mr. Nice Guy, that I somehow missed.  As usual, I am strangely drawn to the IMDB descriptions of Chan movies: "A Chinese chef accidentally gets involved with a news reporter who filmed a drug bust that went awry and is now being chased by gangs who are trying to get the video tape."

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