Wendy’s not responsible for a shooting that left a customer injured in their drive-thru, federal judge rules

The Wendy’s drive-thru at 254 West Garfield. (Google)

CHICAGO — A federal judge has tossed out the lawsuit filed by a Chicago man who claimed Wendy’s was negligent for not providing security at a Fuller Park restaurant where he got shot in the restaurant’s drive-thru.

Lawyers representing Vonzell Scott argued that it was “reasonably foreseeable” that customers “would be the victims of a criminal attack” at the company’s 242 West Garfield location. They claimed that the restaurant already had bulletproof glass and security cameras, and management “knew or should have known” that security guards were necessary to protect Wendy’s customers. 

Scott was sitting in the restaurant drive-thru early on New Year’s Eve 2018 when he honked his horn at someone who tried to cut in front of him, according to court records. After a “kerfuffle,” everything returned to normal, and Scott waited for his food, U.S. District Judge Manish Shah summarized.

But, as Scott continued to wait for his food, two men approached his car from behind, one on each side, and opened fire on him.

Scott sued, arguing that a shooting at the restaurant was “reasonably foreseeable,” given the restaurant’s location and other factors.

While Chicago’s 911 center recorded 29 calls for service at that Wendy’s location in the 30 months before the shooting, none of those calls involved shootings, Shah explained.

The judge noted that about 10% of Chicago-area Wendy’s have armed security guards, more than five times the chain’s national average. And, in fact, the restaurant where Scott was shot had armed security on duty until the dining room closed about five hours before the shooting, according to Shah’s summary.

“Targeted killings or attempted assassinations are not reasonably foreseeable dangers to the typical quick-service restaurant,” Shah noted. However, “intentional third-party assault… is not outside the zone of reasonable foreseeability.”

Ultimately, Shah found that, while “Scott’s suffering is tragic, the shooting constituted an intervening criminal act that was not reasonably foreseeable to Wendy’s.” As a result, Shah granted the restaurant’s motion for summary judgment.

The Cook County Record first reported on Shah’s decision.

Coincidentally, another shooting was recently reported at a different Wendy’s drive-thru in Chicago. In that case, a customer is accused of shooting the drive-thru cashier because his food was not provided promptly.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com