The Restaurant with Two Back Ends (and a Lawsuit)

El Jalisco, a popular Mexican restaurant chain with a location in Southwood, Tallahassee, Florida, is known just as much for their delicious food as their prized plastic, bronze-colored donkey which patrons love to climb. In fact, it’s encouraged. It’s a fantastic photo opportunity, but one particular diner, 58-year-old Kimberly Bonn from Tallahassee, Florida, found out what happens when you slide off the back end of a donkey the hard way.
On August 31, 2015, she mounted the donkey and barely got on board before she slipped off what she called its “smooth and slick” backside—falling down and claiming to have fractured her spine. She did not include any details of her injury, including doctors seen or diagnoses, in her lawsuit. She then dismissed it so quickly that El Jalisco didn’t formally reply or request evidence of her alleged injury.
Bonn sued the restaurant for “in excess of $15,000,” claiming they were negligent. According to Bonn, who is a former employee of the State Government of Florida, restaurant staff and fellow patrons egged her on to ride the donkey for a photo. It’s a tradition at El Jalisco and there are scores of tagged images online featuring other patrons pulling off the stunt with ease. However, Bonn says the donkey doesn’t come with a step, ladder, seat, saddle or any other “safety features.”
Don’t Drink and Donkey
It’s unknown whether Bonn had been enjoying the two-for-one margaritas (all day, every day!) when she tried her hand at playing cowgirl, and no blood alcohol level (BAC) tests were conducted. However, America’s drinking problem is rising and fellow patrons often revere the “let it flow” vibe of the restaurant’s happy hour.
In response to the lawsuit, filed February 3, 2017, El Jalisco fans have taken to Facebook. A For the Donkey fan page created by Tom Derzypolski got over 1,000 likes in two days and currently boasts over 4,000. It’s an avenue where restaurant and donkey lovers show their love for the tradition, balking at Bonn’s claims that riding bronze donkeys (wearing sombreros) is unsafe. (It’s also a platform for fans to share their own donkey photos, often clutching drinks).
What an Ass
According to Kathy Maus and J. Blake Hunter, attorneys for El Jalisco, Bonn’s accident happened because of “negligent acts and omissions of others,” not the restaurant owners or staff. “At the time of the alleged incident, (Bonn) was participating in an activity in which she knew or should have known involved risk of harm … the hazard which (Bonn) contends caused her fall was readily apparent and constituted an open and obvious condition.” Bonn has filed twelve negligent complaints against the restaurant.
Bonn’s legal representation is attorney James G. Biggart of Morgan & Morgan, who has remained mum on the case. However, partner John Morgan, who’s currently considering campaigning as a Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, has joked about the case his firm is representing. Morgan & Morgan, in ten states and 38 cities, seems to be led by an attorney who can take a joke. When asked by the Tallahassee Democrat his thoughts on the “For the Donkey” Facebook page, he laughed and said, “It’s funny. You cannot imagine the sorts of comments I’m getting from around the state. So I guess I’m now a jackass on top of everything else.”
Although El Jalisco’s attorneys can’t prove Bonn had been drinking, they’ve certainly suggested it to the Tallahassee Democrat, stating to the “extent (Bonn) was legally intoxicated by drugs or alcohol at the time of the alleged incident and her normal faculties were impaired and (she) is more than 50 percent at fault for her own harm” and barred from damages. Bonn filed the lawsuit on February 3, 2017, eighteen months after the embarrassing gaffe. Days later, on February 28, 2017, she filed for a dismissal.
Putting the “Duh” in Florida
The lawsuit claimed that Bonn suffered “bodily injury resulting in pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of the capacity of enjoyment of life, expenses of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment, loss of earning, loss of ability to earn money, and aggravation of previously existing condition.” The case does not detail specifics of the alleged spinal fracture including costs, diagnosis, treatment (location or details), or anything beyond “significant injuries including a fractured spine.” El Jalisco never responded in court filings to Bonn’s claims.
“Burro” Down for a Dismissal
It’s unclear whether Bonn was “burro”-ed into submission by the Facebook group or whether she thought she was facing a losing battle when she dismissed the lawsuit. The sudden dismissal, a year and a half in the making, has some wondering if that’s how long it takes for a bruised ego to heal. El Jalisco had maintained its innocence from the beginning of the debacle, perhaps a suggestion that stubbornness can sometimes lead to victory (as the bronze burro already likely knew).
The Southwood location has since added a warning sign to the burro, refusing to put an end to the fiesta because of a party foul.