Child cannot sue Meijer for second-degree burns suffered as a result of leak from pre-cooked deli chicken
Meijer's deli serves pre-cooked whole chickens which are maintained at a temperature above 140 degrees to prevent the growth of bacteria. 11-year-old Bailey Malthaner accompanied her mother to the grocery store after having a tooth removed and was seated in the main compartment of her mother's shopping cart. When her mother purchased the chicken in an enclosed plastic container, Bailey asked if she could hold it. Almost immediately she started to scream and mom discovered that hot grease was leaking from the plastic container and burning Bailey's leg.
Bailey's parents sued Meijer on Bailey's behalf, alleging inadequate packaging and warning. The were unable to conclusively establish the integrity (or lack of integrity) of the package prior to Bailey's burns, however. The Court held that whether their claim was brought as a product liability claim, a negligence claim, or a premises liability claim, the store owed no duty to Bailey.
The Court cited the fact that the display from which the chicken was purchased warned that it was "hot" and "could cause severe injury." On this basis, the judges held that the risk of injury was "open and obvious" since Bailey's mom "knew" that the plastic container could open, spilling its contents. In another example of judicial activism directed against consumers, the Court held that Bailey had no right to a jury trial with regard to the relative responsibility of Meijer, Inc. with regard to how the chicken was packaged and sold: even if it was negligent, the judges ruled that it owed no duty to consumers.