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Missouri food poisoning victims must sue in the county where the restaurant is located

When two Missouri children became sick after eating negligently prepared hamburgers from McDonald’s restaurants, their families wanted to file their personal injury suit McDonald’s in the county where the children were hospitalized. However, a recent Missouri Supreme Court decision stated that the families must file their food poisoning lawsuit in the counties in which the specific restaurants were located.

Venue law in Missouri was amended in 2005 to require lawsuits to be filed in the county where the injuries occurred. However, because the injuries occurred and the lawsuit was filed prior to the venue law amendments, the Missouri high court had to interpret the previous law, which permitted lawsuits to be filed in a county where the defendant has an office “for the transaction of its usual and customary business.”

Because the two McDondald’s restaurants were located in Branson and Marshfield, the families of the food poisoning victims relied upon the customary business language of the previous statute to sue in Kansas City, Missouri. In rejecting this choice of venue, the Missouri supreme court focused on the difference between the McDonald’s corporation and the McDonald’s franchises. The usual and customary business of the independantely owned McDonald’s franchises was to serve food. The usual and customary business of McDonald’s corporation is to license its products to the McDonald’s franchises. Because of this difference, and because the franchisees being sued did not own any locations in the Kansas City area, the Missouri supreme court held that the families of the child food poisoning victims can not sue in Kansas City.

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