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» Film-Tech Forum   » Community   » Film-Yak   » Ont. man sues Cineplex after choking on popcorn

   
Author Topic: Ont. man sues Cineplex after choking on popcorn
Frank Cox
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Posts: 1750
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 02-03-2017 03:43 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Ont. man sues Cineplex after choking on popcorn

quote:
TORONTO — An Ontario man who claims he nearly choked to death while eating popcorn in a movie theatre has launched a lawsuit against Cineplex, alleging the cinema chain and its employees failed to help him as he was suffocating.

In a statement of claim, 28-year-old Chadrick John Veenhof says the incident happened at a Cineplex theatre in Kitchener, Ont., in June 2009.

Veenhof alleges that as he was choking on the popcorn he had bought at the cinema, Cineplex staff “refused to and prevented him from receiving medical intervention,” causing him to suffer very low blood oxygen levels and a subsequent cardiac arrest.

“As a result of this accident, the plaintiff, Veenhof, sustained serious and permanent injuries to and about his body,” the statement of claim alleges.

In particular, Veenhof alleges Cineplex and its employees didn’t administer emergency medical care, prevented him from receiving medical intervention from certified patrons, failed to turn on the lights in the cinema and stop the movie, and failed to call emergency services in time or at all.

As a result of what happened that night, Veenhof alleges he sustained serious injuries that included brain injury, some hearing loss, severe cognitive dysfunction and scarring.

“Veenhof alleges that he will sustain a permanent, partial disability for the rest of his life,” the statement of claim says.

A Cineplex spokeswoman said the details in Veenhof’s lawsuit are “allegations and not all of the facts.”

“The safety of our guests and employees is and always has been our top priority,” said Sarah Van Lange, Cineplex’s director of communications. “An unfortunate incident occurred at one of our theatres seven years ago that is currently before the court. Out of respect for those proceedings we are unable to discuss the details.”

After choking on the popcorn, Veenhof was taken to a hospital where he was put into a coma, his statement of claim says.

He went through procedures that included a tracheostomy — where an incision is made in the windpipe — and tendon release surgery, the document alleges.

He also alleges he went through a variety of other treatments including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and personal support work, the statement of claim says.

Cineplex has denied Veenhof’s allegations and says in court documents that its employees were not negligent.

In a statement of defence, the company says that on the night of the incident, someone who witnessed Veenhoff’s collapse called 911 and was on the phone with a dispatcher. It said that Veenhof was breathing but was unresponsive.

A Cineplex employee took instructions from ambulance attendants with regard to how to treat Veenhof, the statement of defence says.

“At all times, the instructions were being provided by the ambulance attendants and Cineplex employees were relaying the plaintiff’s condition to them,” the document says.

Firefighters arrived and took over the medical emergency treatment of Veenhof, Cineplex argues.

“All medical care that was provided to the plaintiff until he was taken to the hospital was under the instruction of medical personnel. The defendants therefore deny that it breached any administration of any emergency medical care as it was always under the instruction of emergency medical personnel.”

Cineplex further argues that Veenhof was under the influence of marijuana at the time, which it alleges contributed to his collapse in the movie theatre.

The document also alleges Veenhof’s girlfriend failed to provide immediate first aid to the man and failed to call an ambulance in a timely manner.

“He failed to use proper care for his own safety, especially in light of his usage of an illegal substance,” the document says. “At the time of the alleged accident, his faculties of observation, perception, judgement and self control were impaired and he was the author of his own misfortune.”

None of the allegations in the case have been proven in court.

The lawsuit is set to go to a civil trial in Kitchener in March.


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Louis Bornwasser
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From: prospect ky usa
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 - posted 02-03-2017 08:36 PM      Profile for Louis Bornwasser   Author's Homepage   Email Louis Bornwasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
So, let me get this straight: Cineplex supposedly did not allow their highly skilled and medically trained ushers to do the operation on the lobby floor so they are being sued.

It seems to me that they would be sued either way. I should have been a lawyer. (Did do a semester in law school, though.)

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Jim Cassedy
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 - posted 02-03-2017 09:06 PM      Profile for Jim Cassedy   Email Jim Cassedy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't know how it works up in Canada, but here in the USA, there is no legal
duty for a person to render aid to someone in distress, unless, of course, you
are employed in a position where your primary duty is to protect life or property.
(Doctors, nurses, ambulance attendants, Police & Firemen...etc)
I think there are also some exceptions in Maritime Law.

I seem to recall that when the US Supreme Court rendered a verdict on this
some years ago, one of the judges actually wrote in his ruling dissertation
that if you saw a blind man about to step into oncoming traffic, you would
have no legal obligation to stop him from doing so.

(Of course, such inaction would be morally reprehensible, but apparently not tortable)

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Randy Stankey
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They are called "Good Samaritan" laws.

Not only do they say that an ordinary citizen (not including doctors, EMS workers, police, firefighters, etc.) has no legal obligation to render aid, they often shield the Good Samaritan from liability as a result of unintended consequences of their actions, provided the person rendering aid acted reasonably.

So, yes! Under ordinary circumstances, it would have been perfectly legal for a person to stand there and watch as the guy choked to death on his popcorn.

Unless there are extenuating circumstances that were not mentioned in the article, this case probably won't go very far.

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Allan Barnes
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From: GRAND BEND, ONTARIO, CANADA
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 - posted 02-06-2017 02:50 AM      Profile for Allan Barnes   Author's Homepage   Email Allan Barnes   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Under Ontario / Canadian Law... You supplied the Food you are responsible... lots of case law to support this. REPLACE the word food or popcorn with alcohol. Cineplex lawyers already know this to be true so they are attacking the Patrons state of health with unfounded charges of drug abuse. What kind of evidence could you have that would hold up in any court?

PART TWO... you delayed medical care or refused care on site... because "the show must go on." Serve that up in a Court Room and you are done.

FINALLY The long court delay in defense tactic... maybe the Guy will die or run out of money before it gets into Court.

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Bobby Henderson
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 - posted 02-06-2017 09:48 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Allan Barnes
You supplied the Food you are responsible... lots of case law to support this.
If that is so, then do people need to be certified and licensed to prove they know how to chew and swallow their food correctly?

I don't mean to sound insensitive, but Cineplex employees were not the ones doing the chewing and swallowing of this man's popcorn. I think of choking on something to be akin to tripping on some steps or any other kind of clutzy accident. If I do either one, I'm still the one who did it. It's my own damned fault. If I was getting drunk on alcohol or getting high on marijuana and that contributed to my choking event, it's all still my fault. I'm not a 2 year old still in diapers; I'm an adult and wear big boy pants.

quote: Allan Barnes
PART TWO... you delayed medical care or refused care on site... because "the show must go on." Serve that up in a Court Room and you are done.
The allegation that the theater "refused care" sounds very fishy to me.

How many modern movie theaters have staff present in the auditorium at all times? That number is probably very close to zero. Theater staff would need to have incredibly lucky timing to see someone in the auditorium choking on their popcorn and be able do something about it immediately. Modern, stadium seated theaters are not designed in any sort of way where the movie can be stopped and house lights brought up in an instant. The booths and auditoriums are physically not set up this way. Depending on the show time the theater may have very minimal staffing numbers.

Things can happen in a dark movie theater auditorium, such as a mass shooting. Minutes could pass before the staff becomes aware of what is happening. When someone chokes on food and gets their air way obstructed it doesn't take more than a couple minutes for serious, irreversible damage to occur. You can't just sit there and wait for staff to notice the problem, climb all those stairs to the guy's seat and have someone else run up to the booth to stop the show. This man apparently wasn't alone. The people who were with him in the theater should have called 911 and helped him out of the damned auditorium. That's what I would be doing.

quote: Allan Barnes
FINALLY The long court delay in defense tactic... maybe the Guy will die or run out of money before it gets into Court.
Welcome to the reality of the court system. Nothing is ever fast or cheap when it comes to court procedure, especially in the United States. Even if you were clearly, deliberately wronged or suffered damage from some company you won't be able to do anything about it without a great deal of money in that legal war chest.

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Leo Enticknap
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 - posted 02-06-2017 12:13 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Allan Barnes
You supplied the Food you are responsible... lots of case law to support this.
Surely that case law must put sensible limits on that principle? If you supply food that is in no way defective and the customer has a bad reaction to it for reasons you could not have done anything reasonable to prevent (e.g. has an allergy they didn't know about), it seems insane that you should be liable for damages in that situation. That would be like Carrie Fisher's relatives suing the airline for not being able to save her life, even though she made the decision to board an 11-hour flight (in other words, put herself in a situation in which full scale emergency medical care would not be immediately available) while in very poor health.

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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Kramer!

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Frank Angel
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quote: Bobby Henderson
You can't just sit there and wait for staff to notice the problem, climb all those stairs to the guy's seat and have someone else run up to the booth to stop the show.
After we had a major fire that took out an entire floor of one wing of our theatre complex, it became obvious that we needed to address safety procedures, of which we basically had none. Have yourself a fire that could have killed people and all of a sudden it becomes very obvious: you need procedures in place BEFORE an emergency hits.

Many procedures came out of those meetings, one thing being putting in an emergency master houselights & audio control that a house or stage manager could use should a serious problem present itself. They all had the key on their key rings. In a 2500 cap theatre, chances are you will at some point encounter such a situation. You better have a plan. Over the years we have had 3 actual heart attacks, at least 4 medical situations not heart attacks but where a patron needed to be removed, 2 fire/smoke situations where the theatre had to cleared, more patron altercations than I can count and unfortunately 1 actual death.

The master control was a small lock box that was installed backstage and in the house that allowed control of the house lights and level of the sound system -- mute it if necessary. A totally separate "squawk" system was installed in the ceiling coves so that even in an emergency, staff could communicate with the audience to give instructions and inform them of what was happening. Believe me, when an audience smells smoke, even if it is nothing threatening and it is contained, you better have a way to let them know what's going on and they are in no danger or how to get their asses out in an orderly manner.

Thing is, we realized that we needed to train staff on what to do in emergency situations, basically people need to know who does what when a serious situation arises to avoid staff panicking and wasting precious time running around like chickens with out heads. Prior to these conferences on safety (which including lawyers), there was no formal training on how emergencies are dealt with. Lawyers said that alone could definitely be actionable -- you'd better have a pamphlet "Safety Procedures for Theatre Emergencies" that you can offer as evidence in any court procedure against you. What does the staff do in case of fire, medical emergency? In our litigious society, not having a definitive plan and a trained staff for such situations can be reason enough for your lawsuit to go down in flames.

Question is, how many staff meetings do chain managers give their staff on safety protocols with regard who has what responsibility to do what. And it's not as simple as shutting down a show -- there has to be specific conditions present because stopping a show, especially when you have large crowds, there is always the risk of starting a panic situation that could be worse than the immediate situation.

How much money you want to put on whether or not Cineplex had regular training sessions? Did they ever do regular fire drills? Answer No to any of these issues and they could be up against a legal thrashing.

Do any of the big chains ever run regular fire drills?

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Buck Wilson
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 - posted 02-11-2017 05:47 PM      Profile for Buck Wilson   Email Buck Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
At Regal, staff meetings are twice a year and end with fire drills. But to be honest, that's not frequent enough with how bad turnover is.

When the alarm is activated, automation pauses all movies, and brings lights to full.

Some mode of control like those key switches from the auditorium would be invaluable in other emergencies, as it's through two loooong halls and a kitchen and a giant set of stairs to get to any sort of control and with Regal's payroll restrictions..........

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Leo Enticknap
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quote: Frank Angel
Believe me, when an audience smells smoke, even if it is nothing threatening and it is contained, you better have a way to let them know what's going on and they are in no danger or how to get their asses out in an orderly manner.
I believe you alright, because I have also experienced this. It was at a theater in England, in which two of the three auditoria were on the second story and one was on the third. The first (ground floor, as the Brits call it) floor contained bars and restaurants. Of of these restaurants had a wood-burning pizza oven, and shared an HVAC system with the theater.

A small chimney fire in the pizza oven (because the idiots who ran the place never swept it) caused some smoke to get in to our HVAC system. It was quickly extinguished, but smoke detectors in the auditoria triggered an automatic douser close, house lights up and audio mute. The combination of a fire alarm siren going off and a slight smell of smoke resulted in a rush for the emergency exit. On the other side of the emergency exit crush bar doors was quite a steep staircase down to the ground level, and a second set of crush bar doors to exit the actual building. Thanks to tripping on those stairs, the end result was a broken leg and several more minor injuries. If there had been an announcement to the effect of "We have established that there is no fire and the smoke will not get any thicker, so please evacuate at walking pace and take care on the stairs," those injuries could have been avoided.

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