Sitting down to eat at a restaurant is fraught with peril: every meal, you run the risk of coming down with a foodborne illness, finding a razor in your rice, or being verbally abused (at some restaurants, that’s actually the whole point). But is it ever really your poor waiter’s fault?
For one diner in Quebec, the answer was a resounding yes—so resounding, in fact, that he’s suing the 22-year-old man that served him. The story starts with a relatively simple order mix-up: Simon-Pierre Canuel ordered a steak tartare at Le Tapageur in Gatineau, Quebec, and instead gets a salmon tartare. There’s just one tiny problem: he has an extreme alergy to seafood, which he reportedly told his waiter. According to an interview with CBC Canada, he took one bite before realizing what he was eating wasn’t beef.
We told the waiter, who apologized, saying he would bring me beef. That’s when I started going into anaphylactic shock and having difficulty breathing.
“With the dim lighting, it’s not easy to tell the difference between two dishes, especially if they use mayonnaise. It can be confusing,” Canuel told CBC (though for the record, neither salmon nor beef tartare traditionally calls for mayo). “He confirmed that it was salmon and he said we had to go to hospital. We told the waiter, who apologized, saying he would bring me beef. That’s when I started going into anaphylactic shock and having difficulty breathing.”
Canuel, who had left his EpiPen in his car outside the restaurant, subsequently went into cardiac arrest, and was in a coma for several days.
“I almost died,” he told reporters.
The waiter, who has not been named, was arrested on Wednesday, effectively making Canadian restaurant law history: This would be the first time a waiter has been sued for criminal negligence in the entire country. Criminal defense lawyers in Canada are skeptical that the case will make it to criminal court, however—this is the sort of thing that would be considered a civil law case, according to attorney Daniel Brown.
He told the Toronto Star that prosecutors will have to prove that the server showed “wanton, reckless disregard” for human life.
This would be the first time a waiter has been sued for criminal negligence in Canada.
“It would be extremely rare to see a case like this make its way into the criminal courts,” Brown said. “It must make a lot of waiters uneasy.”
Americans, however, are much quicker to bring the hands that feed them to court: everyone from gluten-free college students to dairy-averse steakhouse goers have launched lawsuits against restaurants and cafeterias for failing to keep their health top of mind.
The difference, however, is that these suits were brought against the businesses, not the servers themselves. If you want to sue your waiter, you may have to wait almost a year to see any results, like the Syracuse man who sued his Chili’s waiter for spitting in his cup (the police ran DNA tests and yes, he did indeed do it.)
When you don’t do something that is supposed to be your duty, and you show recklessness for the life or security of someone, that’s a crime.
In the meantime, the Quebec server was released from police custody, and is awaiting news about whether he’ll face criminal charges for negligence—which could result in anything from a fine to years in prison.
“When you don’t do something that is supposed to be your duty, and you show recklessness for the life or security of someone, that’s a crime,” Police Constable Martin Constable Carrier told reporters.
What do you think—does this waiter deserve to go to jail?
Photos via Flickr