A waitress badly burned while serving a flambéed pig at a wedding may not sue the catering hall for damages, a New Jersey appeals court says.
Thursday’s ruling, in Jarosz v. G&B LLC d/b/a The Royal Manor, makes no new law but is a good primer on what level of employer wrongdoing must be shown to surmount the workers’ compensation bar to a lawsuit.
On October 5, 2008, at The Royal Manor in Garfield, Magdalena Jarosz was assisting another server in wheeling out the flaming pig on a serving cart. The other server poured grain alcohol on the pig, causing the flames to erupt. Jarosz was scarred from hand, arm and abdominal burns.
She was awarded workers’ compensation medical and temporary disability benefits and permanent, partial disability benefits.
But she also sought civil damages from the catering business, G&B LLC, which shared a common principal with the owner of the premises, Kida LLC.
Jarosz alleged G&B acted in a manner it knew was certain to harm her. She claimed G&B’s manager knew but disregarded the danger of applying alcohol to a flaming pig. She further alleged that Kida breached its duty to keep the property safe.
Affirming summary judgment dismissal of the suit, the Appellate Division held that to meet the intentional-wrong exception to the workers’ comp bar, a safety-regulation violation or failure to follow good safety practices must be accompanied by deception, affirmative acts that defeat safety devices or a willful failure to remedy past violations.
Here, the Royal Manor had never served a flambéed dish before and there was no certainty an injury would occur. Even if there were, getting burned is an expected risk of working in a restaurant, the appeals court concluded.
As for Kida, the landlord, the panel held the fact that the companies’ shared principal, Dariusz Kida, maintained an office at the Royal Manor, was involved in the restaurant’s day-to-day operations and was aware that there was going to be a flaming-pig presentation that day was insufficient to confer liability on Kida for G&B’s actions.
Kida’s attorney, Alexander Drago of Nowell, Amoroso, Klein & Bierman in Hackensack, says the ruling fills a gap in case law by addressing the limits of a landlord’s duty to supervise the activities of a commercial tenant.
The Royal Manor’s lawyer, James Passantino of Biancamano & DiStefano in Edison, declined to comment.
Jarosz’s lawyer, Joseph Calabria of Garruto & Calabria in Nutley, did not return a call. •