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Rare burger? Just don't sue us

Hotel's disclaimer advised customers to order burgers "medium or above."
Corporate Law
Marriott International Incorporated

LONDON, England -- An exclusive London restaurant stopped asking customers to sign a legal disclaimer if they order rare or medium-rare burgers after the practice came to the attention of the city's legal community.

The restaurant at the five-star Marriott West India Quay in London's Docklands required diners to complete a form which said it waived the hotel chain's responsibilities should they suffer food poisoning.

The chef on duty and the restaurant supervisor also had to sign the document before hungry customers could tuck into a bloody burger, this week's issue of The Lawyer magazine revealed.

Carnivores who yearned for one of the hotel's £12 ($22) "prime gourmet steak burger" were advised to consider having it cooked "medium or above" instead.

A spokesman for Marriott International hotels said the hotel stopped using the forms Monday, UK's Press Association reported.

"This was standard practice within Marriott until recently. However, it is no longer a Marriott requirement and the practice has now been dropped," she said.

The one-page "burger disclaimer form" read: "Although we are happy to accommodate the request for the cooking of your burger rare or medium rare, we would like to advise that while following the Food Safety Act of 1990, and striving to maintain due diligence, Marriot West India Quay and its associates, we can take no responsibility of minced beef products cooked in this manner, and would advise of cooking the minced beef products medium or above."

Lawyer Tim Sanders, who was handed the waiver in the hotel's Curve Restaurant after ordering a 10-ounce medium-rare steakburger, said: "This fear of getting sued is getting more and more bizarre and this is just the latest example of it. It's just getting ridiculous.

"I ordered a standard burger, cooked medium rare, and the waiter muttered something and walked away.

"Then he came back with a legal form which then had to be signed in triplicate, and which said 'Unless you sign this, you can't have your hamburger.'"

The partner at Canary Wharf-based law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom said: "If we are not careful then the fear of being litigated against starts to dictate the way people live their lives, which is manifestly absurd. Where is it going to end?"

Stephen Sidkin, commercial law partner at Fox Williams solicitors, said: "This seems to be a case of whoever owns the restaurant trying to cover themselves, but a misguided one."

Nick Scade, chairman of the Restaurant Association, said: "It strikes me that some corporate person has got their knickers in a twist.

"You've got to have a bit of common sense somewhere in life and if a customer wants to order raw meat, they have to accept some responsibility for the risk they are taking."

The Marriott spokeswoman added: "We should point out that we have full confidence in the meat products that we serve.

"However, customers who choose to have their burgers cooked rare or medium-rare do so at their own risk."

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