A Philadelphia resident filed a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza after a Domino’s employee allegedly directed a racial slur at him during a confrontation in July of 2017. The customer had complained that he received a pizza via delivery that was burnt. He drove to the restaurant to return the pizza and request a refund. The situation became heated after the customer took a picture of the employee, who refused to give the customer his refund unless he agreed to delete the photo. The employee claimed that having her picture taken was against her religion. As the argument escalated, the Domino’s employee allegedly directed an offensive racial slur at the customer. A Pennsylvania Superior Court judge ruled that, while offensive, a racial slur is not enough to warrant a lawsuit.
Ruling Based on 1985 Precedent
The initial lawsuit claimed that Domino’s was negligent in the way it hired, trained, and supervised its employees. The customer claimed that the racial slur directed at him caused emotional distress. Due to a precedent that was established in 1985 in the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which ruled that an individual can only be held liable for emotional distress if the individual’s conduct is extreme and outrageous, the initial lawsuit was dismissed.
The precedent is based on an incident involving an altercation between a department store employee and a shopper, where the employee reportedly directed the n-word at the shopper. The ruling states that an individual cannot be held liable for mere insults, threats, and other indignities or trivialities. Until legal and societal changes occur, plaintiffs must be expected to accept a certain degree of offensive, inconsiderate, or unkind acts. The law cannot intervene every time someone’s feelings are hurt.
The Domino’s customer appealed after the initial lawsuit was dismissed, claiming that the 1985 ruling was outdated. While the Pennsylvania Superior Court made it clear that it does not condone such offensive and derogatory language, the appeal was denied.