Deep fryer causes deep headaches for McDonald's

Legal News Line Jan. 25, 2007, 10:40am

CHICAGO -- A McDonald's employee's slip and fall into a deep fryer in 2001 instigated a legal battle that still has not reached trial, despite the efforts of a plaintiff's firm that smells cash (and grease). In August 2001, Julie Ann Wynard was cleaning the deep fryers at a McDonald's in Carol Stream, Ill., when she allegedly lost her footing on a slippery floor and her hand plunged into a fryer containing hot oil. Wynard sustained burns to her hand as a result. Wynard filed a premises liability suit on June 9, 2003, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, seeking a minimum of $30,000 in damages from the McDonald's Corporation and Frymaster, L.L.C., the manufacturers of the fryer in which her hand was injured. Count I of the suit alleges that McDonald's maintained inadequate rules pertaining to cleaning of the deep fryers, provided unreasonably dangerous fryers, designed unreasonably slippery floors, and failed to warn the plaintiff of the aforementioned hazards. The complaint also alleges, in Count II, that Frymaster was careless in the design and manufacture of the fryer in question, and failed to provide warning of the dangers that could result from contact with heated grease. Wynard is represented by Michael R. Panter & Associates, a Chicago personal injury firm specializing in all types of tort cases, from slip-and-falls to animal attacks and toy accidents. In February 2006, the firm won a $5.3 million verdict for the family of a construction worker killed in a crane collapse. The firm boasts of other verdicts including a $7.5 million award in a medical malpractice case, a $2.5 million wrongful death verdict, and a $1 million award for the family of a prison inmate who hung himself. The firm is seeking a minimum of $30,000 in Wynard's suit, but will likely ask for far more at trial. McDonald's is represented by Neuson Cronin, P.C., of Glenview, Ill. The firm typically represents employers in workers' compensation cases and other forms of employment litigation. Frymaster is represented by Christensen & Ehret of Chicago, a firm specializing in business and insurance cases. The case is nearing trial and both sides are still completing discovery. Wynard's counsel moved for a continuance on Jan. 17 and the next hearing is set for Jan. 23, 2007, before Judge Donald O'Brien.

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