Rochester NY July 23 2020
The mother of the 3-year-old boy who drowned in a grease trap at the University Avenue Tim Hortons last summer has filed a civil lawsuit claiming that her son experienced terror, conscious pain and suffered before he died.
The lawsuit claims that the restaurant, the franchise owner, and the people who sold and installed the trap committed misconduct and negligence by not securing the grease trap’s lid.
The lawsuit on Thursday was filed against Tim Hortons; Ninety Rock Management, the franchisee that operated the store at 1250 University Ave. and the management company’s owner Randy McKay of Webster; as well as Baker Commodities, the company that serviced and cleaned the grease trap.
Listed as John Does in the lawsuit were the companies that installed the cover and surface parts of the grease trap and those who sold or recommended it, said Lori Monaghan, attorney for Tenitia Cullum, the mother of 3-year-old Bryce Raynor.
Bryce died on July 15, 2019, drowned inside a grease trap outside the restaurant where his mother worked. He was there because his mother’s child care arrangements had fallen through.
The grease trap lid, in a grassy patch just outside the Tim Hortons back door, had not been bolted in place. As his mother was grabbing trash bags from near the back door, Bryce stepped on the lid, which swung open like a trash can lid and allowed him to drop inside the trap. The lid then swung closed, trapping and concealing him inside.
A Tim Hortons employee grieves outside the restaurant after Bryce Raynor was found inside a grease trap on the morning of July 15, 2019.
Democrat and Chronicle reporting last year found there are no state or federal laws anywhere in the country that require secondary protection devices — typically a grid of plastic or strapping that would prevent a child from falling in even an open grease trap.
Last fall, the Monroe County Legislature passed a law regulating the safety and security of grease trap lids.
The law requires that lids over a 24-inch diameter opening weigh at least 59 pounds or be otherwise bolted or locked into place. It also requires the county’s Health Department conduct annual inspections to ensure compliance
Cullum is seeking unspecified damages.
Tenitia Cullum snuggles one of her favorite stuffed animals she received after her 3-year-old son Bryce Raynor died.
“We have taken the position that the damages sought exceed the jurisdictional limits of all lower courts,” Monaghan said.
Last year, Cullum filed a notice of claim that she intended to sue the City of Rochester and Monroe County in connection with her son’s death. The notice is a legally required precursor to a lawsuit, giving the city and county notice that a formal lawsuit may be brought against them.
“After our analysis over the last few months, we opted to not pursue a claim against the city or the county and believe the defendants listed are most appropriate,” Monaghan said, adding that Cullum filed the notice to keep the option available. She said she does not anticipate filing any additional lawsuits, “however that is always a possibility.”