A man who rescued a young boy trapped in playground equipment at a McDonald’s restaurant has successfully appealed his case after suffering an injury during the incident.
The boy had become stuck between two large cylindrical play tunnels after climbing onto the colourful apparatus unsupervised. The man who saved the five-year-old handed him to his parents, but fell from the equipment shortly afterwards.
He aggravated an existing injury to his wrist and sustained a minor rib complaint. The appellant originally claimed the fast food chain had breached its duty of care by failing to take adequate precautions to prevent unauthorised people from accessing the playground area.
However, the first judge argued that the man failed to establish negligence on the company’s part and ruled in the defendant’s favour.
Reviewing the evidence
The appellate judges set aside the original ruling after reassessing the facts of the case. One of the key issues examined was the gate that allowed the boy to enter the playground area.
It was acknowledged that if McDonald’s was negligent in failing to prevent the child from gaining access, this negligence would also extend to anyone who suffered injuries rescuing the boy.
Importantly, the judges highlighted that the gate did not have a self-closing mechanism that would ensure the playground area was blocked off from young children in the event that someone accidentally left the gate open.
Furthermore, there was no notice in the vicinity forbidding entry to unauthorised persons or a key latch on the gate to keep it locked.
“A key lock would almost certainly have prevented the accident occurring, subject to one possible exceptional circumstance, because it would have prevented even inadvertent access with the assistance of an older person,” the appellate judges wrote.
“The one exception would be the situation in which a member of staff who had entered to clean the area left without locking the gate: conduct which would itself be negligent and for which McDonald’s would be liable.”
Due to McDonald’s failure to provide adequate safety guards to prevent unauthorised access, the judges ruled in favour of the appellant, awarding him $179,000 of injury compensation.
This included $32,000 for non-economic losses, which covered physical pain, the stress of disability and short-term shock and distress. Past and future economic losses were valued at $106,000, while $30,000 was provided for future domestic care costs.
A further $11,000 was set aside for medical expenses, the majority of which were intended for an upcoming operation to the appellant’s wrist.