A Florida man has filed a $50,000 lawsuit against Dunkin’ Donuts after an alleged toilet explosion at a Winter Park location left him “drenched in waste” last month.
Toilet Explodes Without Warning
On December 22, 2023, plaintiff Paul Kerouac entered the restroom at the Dunkin’ store on Aloma Avenue around breakfast time. According to the lawsuit, Kerouac was using the toilet when it suddenly exploded underneath him. Hot waste blew upwards, dousing Kerouac’s body before spreading across the bathroom floors and walls.
The powerful blast managed to crack the toilet bowl and dislodge it partially from the ground. Kerouac scrambled to his feet in shock, his clothes thoroughly soiled by both feces and urine. An employee who heard Kerouac’s screams found him hunched by the sink, attempting to rinse himself off.
Lasting Physical and Emotional Trauma
Kerouac claims he suffered lasting physical and emotional trauma from the incident. Court filings allege the hot waste gave Kerouac first and second-degree burns. He also tore a ligament in his leg amidst the chaos, which required surgery last week.
Beyond the physical ailments, Kerouac cites the humiliation and “mental anguish” of being covered in feces and urine. He has reportedly struggled with anxiety and insomnia since the event.
“No one expects to have their morning coffee and donut interrupted by an exploding toilet,” Kerouac’s attorney Harold Polk told reporters. “Mr. Kerouac was left drenched in dangerous waste due to Dunkin’s negligence. The physical and emotional toll of such a traumatic event cannot be understated.”
|First and second-degree burns
|Torn knee ligament requiring surgery
Dunkin’ Denies Responsibility
Dunkin’ Donuts has denied any fault, claiming Kerouac failed to establish liability.
“We take great measures to ensure the safety of customers and employees at our stores,” a Dunkin’ spokesperson said. “At this time we cannot verify the validity of the allegations made against our Winter Park location, but we will review the claim thoroughly as we evaluate our options.”
According to one industry expert, proving negligence will come down to evidence that Dunkin’ had reasonable notice of potential plumbing issues.
“If there were no prior signs of problems, it would be hard to argue the company was careless,” attorney Ronald Briggs explained. “But if employees or customers lodged complaints about that toilet, and Dunkin’ failed to properly inspect or service it, that could demonstrate negligence.”
Botched Repairs May Have Caused Explosion
Documents filed with the lawsuit reveal the Aloma Avenue Dunkin’ location had longstanding plumbing problems prior to the Kerouac incident.
One week before the toilet explosion, a leak in the men’s room pipes prompted an emergency visit from Babcock’s Plumbing Services. Repair technicians replaced a section of corroded piping and cleared significant blockages.
According to work orders, the repairs focused solely on the sink and urinal areas. Technicians warned that additional servicing was needed on the toilet itself, but no immediate action was scheduled. Kerouac alleges the stopgap repairs actually weakened the integrity of the aging toilet infrastructure, causing pressurized waste gases to build until the unit ruptured under his weight.
“Dunkin’ knew that toilet needed replacement or substantial repair work,” Polk argued. “But they decided to cut corners and just patch part of the problem. That negligent decision directly resulted in the traumatic injuries sustained by my client.”
History of Health Code Violations
This is not the first health and safety incident involving the Aloma Avenue Dunkin’ location. County records show the store accrued over $5,000 in health code fines since 2018, including:
- 3 citations for employees failing to wash hands properly
- 2 citations involving vermin infestations
- 1 citation for mold buildup near the refrigeration units
The Winter Park Dunkin’ has averaged nearly double the number of health violations compared to other area locations over the past five years. Franchise owner Vivian Patel has installed new management and pledged increased staff training in sanitation procedures since the Kerouac toilet explosion.
What Will the Lawsuit Accomplish?
The graphic details of Kerouac’s experience will likely draw significant public attention as the case unfolds. But beyond raising awareness of safety issues, what outcomes can the plaintiff hope to achieve?
The $50,000 demand would help compensate for Kerouac’s immediate medical bills, missed wages from injury recovery, and mental health counseling services. He also hopes to force procedural changes at Dunkin’ to prevent similar incidents.
“I wouldn’t wish this traumatic experience on anyone,” Kerouac told reporters. “No amount of money can erase those memories. But I do want Dunkin’ to implement better safeguards ensuring their stores provide sanitary, hazard-free environments for customers.”
According to attorney Briggs, large chains like Dunkin’ have strong motivation to settle cases quickly and quietly rather than risk prolonged negative publicity. He expects the company’s legal team is already quietly negotiating behind the scenes.
“Cases that capture the public’s attention can really impact brand perception,” Briggs said. “Coming to a speedy settlement, enhancing safety policies, and making a gesture of goodwill towards the victim would allow Dunkin’ to take control of the narrative.”
The Road Ahead
In the coming weeks, expect intense scrutiny from health inspectors at Dunkin’ locations around the region. Franchise owners will likely undertake plumbing inspections and toilet replacements to guard against similar PR nightmares.
Attorneys for both sides will be gathering evidence, securing expert opinions, and preparing arguments for potential trial proceedings. Insurers for the Aloma Avenue Dunkin’ will also conduct extensive interviews and documentation reviews to determine claim validity.
Ultimately the case could culminate with a confidential settlement, a public trial, or dismissal of claims by a judge. But whatever the legal outcome, one thing is certain: Paul Kerouac’s harrowing experience atop an exploding toilet will not quickly fade from public memory. The disturbing case looks to leave a messy impact on Dunkin’ Donuts for years to come.
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