A jury in an Orlando, FL court awarded a $10.1 million judgment for damages to the fiancée of a man whose death was reportedly caused by a pizza delivery driver that was working at the time for a local Domino's Pizza franchise. Some of the reasons for damages included mental anguish, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering. Domino's Pizza sells franchises to local proprietors who wish to capitalize on their brand recognition, training, and successful business model. Statistica reports that Domino's revenue was $2.2 billion in 2015. The 2011 crash resulted in the death of Richard Wiederhold, who was initially functioning as a quadriplegic after the accident, died a year later from related complications. Determining which driver was at fault in the accident was not the subject of debate, as Domino's had previously conceded by agreeing to pay for Mr. Wiederhold's medical expenses.
The delivery driver was employed by the regional franchisee Fischler Enterprises. According to the contract, the franchisee is merely an independent contractor, and neither a holding or an agent of Domino's. Attorneys for the Plaintiff argued that in fact, Dominos has significant control of the franchise and that the independent contractor arrangement is simply an easy way to protect the parent company from liability exposure. One argument in the proceedings related to the “respondeat doctrine”, which is summarized by stating that the superior entity is responsible for the subordinate. In 1993, Domino's ended their “30-minute guarantee” delivery program, when a costly lawsuit revealed that encouraging delivery drivers to meet time deadlines wasn't conducive with safety.
Colorado franchise liability cases
There are limited examples in Colorado courts of franchisor liability stemming from actions occurring at the franchisee level. In Corrales v. Days Inn Worldwide, Inc. in 2005, heard in the Colorado District Court; a guest of a local Days Inn Hotel owned by a franchisee was severely burned by scalding hot water in the shower. The plaintiff felt the Franchisor was liable under premises liability, stating the “landowner” can be liable for direct negligence or vicarious liability.
- The franchisor had insufficient control based on the license agreement; each party maintained independent rights and obligations.
- The agreement stated the franchisee was an independent contractor, not representative or agent of Days Inn.
- The franchisor didn't manage daily operations of the hotel. The training, inspection, and the franchisor's right to terminate the agreement don't establish necessary control to charge the franchisor with liabilities for injuries in this instance.
- Further clarification stated the franchisor didn't “possess” the hotel or maintain real operational control.
Jeremy Rosenthal has an established track-record of defending the rights of victims of injury or death in Colorado. Having worked previously in the insurance industry has given him valuable insight for negotiating with insurance companies. Contact The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal today for a free consultation and case review.