LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - An OSHA spokeswoman said Thursday that no citations were issued against the owner of a Church's Chicken in Livingston where a floor collapse caused hot grease to be poured on the three employees who fell into the hole on Aug 1, 2016.
Chauntra D. Rideaux, a spokeswoman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Thursday that the owners of the restaurant did not receive any citations for the floor collapse.
"I don't care what OSHA does. What OSHA does or doesn't do isn't even admissible in Texas courts," said Anthony Buzbee, an attorney with the Buzbee Law Firm. Buzbee represents a woman suing the company due to her injuries. "And, it has no bearing on my case. I never rely on the government to make a case. To many people rely on the government, even though the government is woefully understaffed. I am seeking $100 million for my client, and I'm gonna get it."
According to a previous East Texas News story, one of the employees was burned over 65 percent of her body because of the incident. A law firm filed a $50 million lawsuit against in a Dallas County district court the restaurant's parent companies on the Erica Michelle Acevedo's behalf on Sept. 9, 2016.
However, Buzbee said Thursday that they are now seeking $100 million in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit named Acevedo as the plaintiff. Triangle Capital Properties LLC, BAH Texas, LLC, Store Master Funding VIII LLC, and Cajun Global LLC were named as defendants in the case.
The floor collapse at the Church's Chicken restaurant occurred on the evening of Aug 1. According to the Livingston police report, the three women, who are all employees of the Church's Chicken restaurant, suffered burn injuries after chicken fryers collapsed when the floor did, pouring hot grease on them.
The report states two of the women managed to climb out of the hole, which was between two and three feet deep. Acevedo, the third woman, suffered serious burns and had to be helped out by a customer.
The lawsuits petition states that Acevedo was working a second job at the Livingston Church's Chicken to purchase back-to-school clothes for her son.
"The boiling grease literally cooked Ms. Acevedo as she lay there, trapped," the lawsuit's petition states. "Had a customer not come to her rescue, Ms. Acevedo would not have survived."
The petition describes Acevedo's injuries as "catastrophic." It says that Acevedo's burned skin was pulled off her arms as she was dragged to safety. Acevedo was airlifted to the burn unit of Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, where she is still a patient.
According to the lawsuit's petition, Acevedo was burned over nearly 65 percent of her body, and she has undergone numerous surgeries. In addition, she is expected to have to endure many more.
"Ms. Acevedo is horribly disfigured and will require medical care for the balance of her life," the petition states.
In the petition, the Buzbee Law Firm, which is representing Acevedo, alleges negligence.
"This case arises from negligence that occurred at Ms. Acevedo's place of work," the lawsuit's petition states. "A chasm existed under the floor of the kitchen. The floor was weak. This chasm manifested itself in various ways and was a ticking time bomb. Defendants were aware of the sinking floor and the need to address it."
The lawsuit also alleges that the restaurant's owners knew that leaks in the roof and ceiling of the restaurant were further weakening the floor.
"The kitchen did not sit directly on foundation, but over several feet of empty space," the petition states. "Thousands of pounds of kitchen equipment rested on top of this unsecured floor as well."
According to the lawsuit's petition, when the floor collapsed on Aug. 1, the kitchen equipment that was resting on the floor fell over into the hole. The fryers were filled with dozens of gallons of boiling grease, and it ran into the hole where the three employees were trapped.
The grease collected there and began cooking Ms. Acevedo," the lawsuit's petition states. "Ms. Acevedo was begging for her life until she was rescued by several patrons."
The lawsuit's petition alleges that the chasm formed under the restaurant's floor after the business' owners made repairs to the property located at 210 N. Washington Ave.
It also alleges that the defendants were negligent in a number of ways. They include:
- Failing to ensure the floor was secured.
- Failure to properly inspect and evaluate the building.
- Failing to prevent a large chasm from forming in the floor.
- Failing to ensure the floor and building were up to code.
- Failing to perform the construction on the building in a safe manner.
- Failing to ensure that the proper type of flooring was used.
- Failing to properly inspect the flooring.
- Failing to ensure the floor was installed properly.
- Failing to ensure that the floor could properly support commercial kitchen equipment.
- Failing to ensure that any construction or repair work was done in a safe and workmanlike manner.
- Failing to detect defects in the flooring.
The lawsuit's petition also alleges gross negligence by all the defendants, and it claims they acted with "malice."
"Defendants failed to repair and maintain the premises despite knowing that the floor was sinking and was growing progressively worse," the lawsuit's petition states. "Defendants were advised multiple times that the multiple leaks were causing the floor to sink. Defendants failed to act."
The lawsuit's petition also claims the defendants' actions were "knowing, reckless, and/or malicious." It also claims that their actions involved a great deal of risk "considering the probability and magnitude of potential harm to others."
In addition to the $50 million that is being sought for actual damages for "physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical disfigurement, physical impairment, medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, loss of consortium, wrongful death damages, survivor claim damages, and loss of services," Acevedo's attorneys are also seeking court costs and any pre- and post-judgment interest.