On the hierarchy of despicable acts, sucker-punching a nearly 70 year old man in the face ranks pretty close to the top of the list, especially when the slugger is a 20 year old boy.
But if the punch was so forceful that it broke the old gentleman's dentures - that's Hall of Fame level.
The facts of this case are simple enough. Hapless Paul Cannon walked in to his local Detroit area Burger King restaurant to place an order. Instead of a Whopper, however, he was handed a wallop, complements of a Burger King employee.
Back at Burger King Company headquarters, no doubt, corporate lawyers are scrambling to shift blame, avoid responsibility and cover their assets. And in this case, they won't have far to look for a way out.
Under Michigan law, an employee's negligent or intentionally wrongful conduct is attributable to the employer only under certain narrow circumstances. Thus, the injury victim must prove that the employee acted in the course of his employment, within the scope of his employment, at the direction of his employer and pursuant to the employer's control. Acts which do not arise out of job related functions (such as randomly punching people in the face) are outside of the scope of the employment. Unless you are a professional boxer, that is.
Burger King Company's insurance carrier is also no doubt dancing an Irish jig. That is because most liability insurance policies contain a clause excluding coverage for intentional acts, such as assault and battery.
A game changer, however, may lie in evidence showing that the employer knew or should have known that the the assaultive employee was prone to unpredictable and uncontrollable bouts of irrational, violent rage. Upon an evidentiary foundation like that, transforming a seemingly intentional act by the employee into a negligence claim against the employer, becomes a possibility. Certainly, the applicable insurance policy covers negligence.
And it is at those investigative crossroads where the skills of an experienced Detroit personal injury lawyer become indispensable.
Burger King Wallop Leads to Elderly Man's Death,
Detroit Free Press, December 10, 2010