No Discrimination for Restaurant Refusing to Serve Takeaway Meals, Rules Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal has rejected a claim by a disabled person that she was discriminated against by the owners of a restaurant who refused to provide her with meals to take away and consume away from the premises.

Melissa Edwards brought her claim against the Flamingo Land theme park in Yorkshire under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.  She claimed that in refusing to let her take food away from the restaurant to eat in a public picnic area (where visitors were allowed to bring and consume their own food), and insisting that she instead eat in the restaurant’s own outdoor seating area, she was discriminated against as a disabled person under the Act.  Melissa suffers from Down’s Syndrome and Autism and displays challenging behaviour.

The Court at first instance agreed with Melissa’s submissions and awarded her £4,000 in damages, but Flamingo Lane appealed to the Court of Appeal.  Delivering the leading judgment following the appeal hearing , Lord Justice Longmore accepted the Appellant’s case and stated that the District Judge at first instance had taken “too broad an approach” to the question of what service was being provided under the Act.  He stated that the services provided by a restaurant include ‘serving meals and drinks at tables prepared with chairs and eating equipment such as glasses and cutlery’ which is distinct from the service provided by a takeaway establishment.  He accepted that some businesses may choose to offer both services but warned that failing to distinguish between the two could force restaurants to provide a takeaway service and takeaways to allow customers to consume food on their premises.  The appeal was allowed and the first instance decision was quashed.

Although it is essential in any democratic society that the rights of disabled people are protected, this has to be balanced with a common sense approach giving due consideration to the potential knock-on effects that judicial decisions can have.  Discrimination laws can involve particularly sensitive subject matter but seemingly innocuous disputes can lead to judgments with severe ramifications for the population as a whole.  The Claimant in this case presumably felt severely hard-done to in being refused the opportunity to eat the same food as anybody else but in an area situated directly next to the restaurant’s seating area, and to her it must have seemed that the restaurant acted in an unfair and unaccommodating manner.  However, if the Court of Appeal had found in her favour, the impact upon restaurants in potentially forcing them to serve takeaway food (and vice versa) would have been disproportionately huge.

If you require  any legal advice call David Mayor or any of our Personal Injury Solicitors for a free consultation on freephone 0800 975 2463, or contact us by email for expert legal advice.

David Mayor

About David Mayor

David is Head of the Preston Office's Civil Litigation team and deals with all types of private Civil Court disputes. David’s blogs cover his expertise in all aspects of personal injury law from low value Road Traffic Accidents right through to complex large loss claims. David also writes and has a vast array of experience in Public Liability (trips and slips), Employer's Liability (accidents at work), and Motor Claims (motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents).
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