When a faulty lock trapped Curtis Brooner in the restroom of a Northeast Portland Burger King for an hour, he says the foul experience came with a windfall: The fast-food restaurant's manager offered him free meals for life.
Now Brooner is suing Burger King in Multnomah County Circuit Court, saying the company reneged on the deal.
The lawsuit, filed today, seeks a court order forcing Burger King to honor its offer, or damages of $9,026.16. That's the cost of buying one Whopper combo a week for the next 22 years.
"It's an honor issue," Brooner tells WW. "They could have said, 'The next meal is free,' and that would have ended it. But that's not the deal they made."
Brooner, 50, lives in Wood Village and works at a Northeast Portland FedEx warehouse. On Dec. 15, according to his lawsuit, he ate lunch at the Burger King location at 2555 NE 238th Drive. Afterward, he used the facilities, washed his hands—and discovered the restroom door wouldn't open.
Employees slipped a fly swatter under the door and suggested he use it to pry open the lock, the lawsuit says. Brooner allegedly cut his hand attempting that. The lawsuit says he could hear employees on the other side of the door laughing at him.
"The cleanliness of the place was less than desirable," Brooner tells WW. "Highway bums use it as a changing room. It's not a pleasant smelling place. Being locked in there for over an hour, you smell like that when you get out."
Brooner says being trapped triggered his post-traumatic stress disorder, and he sat in the Burger King for another hour, too shaken to drive.
"While I was sitting in their lobby trying to calm down," Brooner says, "the manager came over and said, 'Anytime you come in here, it's free meals on us.' I eat at Burger King almost daily, and so I was grateful for the offer."
For the next two weeks, Brooner capitalized on the offer. He tells WW he ate at the Burger King location at least once a day—until Dec. 26, when the restaurant's district office allegedly told employees to stop giving him free meals.
So Brooner went to Portland lawyer Michael Fuller, who has calculated what Burger King owes him.
"Mr. Brooner is 50 years old," the lawsuit says. "A Burger King Whopper® Meal costs $7.89. Assuming Mr. Brooner lives to be 72 years old and consumes on average one Burger King Whopper® Meal per week for the rest of his life, the value of Burger King's agreement to Mr. Brooner is $9,026.16. If the Court will not require Burger King's specific performance under the agreement, Mr. Brooner instead requests judgment for $9,026.16 against Burger King, which is the value of the lifetime supply of Burger King meals that he was promised."
Fuller says the lawsuit is no laughing matter.
"This may seem like a story right out of an episode of Seinfeld," he tells WW. "But we have evidence to support our claim. And a deal is a deal."
A Burger King spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.