White Castle to Pay $4 million to Customer Shot at its RestaurantJune 14, 2001
White Castle Systems, Inc. has settled a lawsuit filed against it by a man shot while waiting to order food in the drive-thru of the restaurant located at 10309 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Sterling Reed, a 30 year old south side resident, was represented by Shawn S. Kasserman and Michael K. Muldoon of Corboy & Demetrio. The lawsuit alleged that the restaurant failed to adequately protect its customers from criminal attack.
In the early morning hours of October 28, 1995, Sterling Reed was waiting to order food in the defendant's drive-thru when a gunman approached his car and demanded he get out. As Reed attempted to exit, he was shot in the back by the gunman. The bullet left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Attorneys for Reed maintained that White Castle should have had two security guards on duty during the weekend overnight shifts due to the known criminal activity in the area. Shawn S. Kasserman, a partner at Corboy & Demetrio, said:
"White Castle required a security guard to walk its employees to their cars due to criminal activity in the area, yet it left its own customers alone to defend themselves while in the drive-thru."
The case was tried to a jury before the Honorable James P. Flannery, Jr. over the last 2 ½ weeks in the Circuit Court of Cook County. White Castle had a security guard in the restaurant at the time of the shooting and defended the case on the basis that it could not have prevented the crime. Kasserman and Muldoon called ten witnesses on behalf of Reed to testify regarding prior crimes in and around the White Castle. Five years before Reed was shot, a similar incident took place at the restaurant. Kasserman said:
"White Castle knew of the criminal activity and knew its security was inadequate, but ignored the danger until someone was seriously hurt."
During the course of the trial, two settlement offers were made by White Castle and rejected by the plaintiff. Prior to closing arguments, White Castle had offered $3 million to Reed, which he had turned down. After closing arguments, it increased its settlement offer to $4 million dollars. According to Kasserman:
"Over the course of the trial, White Castle became convinced that its failure to protect its own customers is what caused Reed to be shot. The settlement money will provide Reed with the financial security he desperately needs. The risk of not receiving any compensation was more than he was willing to accept."