Restaurant liable for crash caused by worker

Posted at 6:09 PM, Feb 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-24 21:48:12-05

A local jury found a restaurant chain liable for a crash caused by an employee that seriously injured a Taiwanese exchange student.

In December 2012, Kai-Yen Cheng was on his skateboard when a car driven by Vincent Quintanilla plowed into him.

Attorney John Gomez told 10News, "[Cheng] was in a wheelchair and was on crutches. He's got problems walking ... he has a limp. He used to be a really good athlete, was an intercollegiate volleyball player in Taiwan. [He] played competitive basketball his whole life and can no longer do any of that."

Cheng is now in line for a civil judgment of more than $1.5 million after suing On The Border, the restaurant where Quintanilla worked.

Quintanilla was accused of having several drinks at a birthday party at the restaurant after his shift ended.

He was eventually convicted of felony hit-and-run, and then a jury sided with Cheng in a civil trial.

Cheng will receive more than $1.5 million for medical care and pain and suffering.

Gomez said, "He's pleased with the jury's decision; it's been a long road for him."

Gomez told 10News he thinks the award sends a message.

"The clear message is if you're a responsible employer, you don't give alcohol to your employees, knowing they may later drive," Gomez said.

This jury verdict could also have an impact on office parties.

"Work should be for work; if you want to drink, go somewhere else," said Gomez.

10News reached out to the corporate offices for On The Border, but did not receive a response.

Gomez said he expects there will be an appeal of the jury's award.

UPDATE: On The Border Mission Valley sent the following statement on Feb. 24, 2016:

"Recently, a San Diego jury determined that an off duty employee of On The Border Mission Valley, who had clocked out and removed his uniform, was negligent when he chose to eat and drink at the restaurant and later hit a pedestrian with his car in the fog. The jury did not find that On The Border did anything wrong, but determined that by being in the restaurant after his shift, the employee was within “the course and scope of his employment” with the restaurant. This finding was based upon a theory that because the restaurant sold food and drink to the off duty employee, it created a benefit to the restaurant. Plaintiff attorneys argued that any profit on a drink, no matter how small, was enough to have the off duty employee treated as an on duty employee, thus subjecting the restaurant to liability for the driver’s accident. The driver was never determined to be under the influence by law enforcement.
Restaurant franchisee On The Border Mission Valley, a local San Diego business with significant ties to the community, intends to appeal the case.
Over these past 18 years, On The Border Mission Valley has also been an important partner to the San Diego community. In May of 1998 the San Diego franchisee On The Border Mission Valley opened its first location, in San Diego County. The family-friendly restaurant was well received for its flavorful food and festive environment. In 2000, by popular demand, the franchisee opened a second location in Mira Mesa. In 2001 and 2006, the local business opened restaurants for the communities of El Cajon and Escondido, respectively. Today, the local business employs more than 300 employees. Employees receive extensive
training, manuals and continued education training and support – including training on alcohol awareness and food/beverage safety.
The culture at On The Border Mission Valley is one of community, hospitality and safety. The behavior of an employee beyond their schedule and the terms of their employment is solely their own responsibility.
On The Border Mission Valley does not condone irresponsible behavior, for the safety of its guests and for the community as a whole."