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Corporate Policies Do Not Always Create a Standard of Care

August 5, 2020

When defending a personal injury claim corporations must often assess whether their employees’ actions complied with the corporation’s policies and procedures.  However, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently held that the failure to comply with internal procedures does not necessarily mean an applicable standard of care was breached in a negligence action.

In Casey v. McDonalds (yes, that McDonald’s) one intoxicated customer punched another customer outside the restaurant early in the morning.  The victim struck his head and died.  Wrongful death and survival actions were brought, alleging in part that McDonald’s violated its own internal policies regarding the hiring of security guards and ready contact of emergency services.  However, the District Court granted summary judgment, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.  Despite the violation of McDonald’s internal (and allegedly advisory only) policies, the Court believed summary judgment was appropriate because the polices did not establish a “national” standard of care (rather the question was what a similarly situated reasonable business would do).

It is always concerning when internal policies are violated; however, if there are circumstances where those violations do not necessarily mean the standard of care was breached, that issue may be decided by a dispositive motion.