Pot Luck

Spindletop Sued for Gross Negligence After Toddler's Foot Is Caught In Rotating Floor

Set at the very top of the Hyatt Regency Houston hotel downtown, Spindletop is a popular destination for date nights and special occasions. The rotating floors in the restaurant spin guests slowly around for impeccable views of the city skyline, making Spindletop a draw since it first opened in 1972. But those rotating floors ended up creating a nightmarish scenario for one couple, who allege in a lawsuit that their 4-year-old's foot became lodged between two rotating platforms, causing serious injuries.

The couple, Dehong Shen and Min Zhang, filed a lawsuit against Spindletop and its parent company, the Hyatt corporation, on April 17. In the filing, Shen and Zhang accuse the restaurant of gross negligence for failing to prevent the injury to their child and for failing to provide sufficient assistance to the family when the toddler's leg became stuck.

Reading the couple's account of the night's events in the court filing is chilling, even if you don't have children. According to the suit, the 4-year-old, Erin Shen, wandered off from her parents briefly after a waiter walked by with birthday cake. "Shortly thereafter," the lawsuit states, "Erin cried out that her foot was stuck."

"Plaintiffs discovered that her right foot was caught in a gap between the rotating floor and the window. Erin stood...facing the opposite direction as the restaurant rotated forward. She became pale and panicked as she attempted to free herself, crying out that her foot hurt."

Her parents rushed over to free the toddler, but couldn't. And the restaurant floor continued its slow rotation as her foot became trapped even further.

"Plantiffs asked a restaurant employee to immediately stop the rotation of the floor, but the rotation never stopped," the lawsuit alleges. More worryingly, a giant pole in the floor -- part of a handrail -- was headed Erin's way. "After approximately a minute, Erin's parents were able to pull her foot out of her shoe and squeeze it out of the gap in the floor just seconds before the pole contacted her body."

According to the suit, her foot was mangled, with several deep lacerations. Managers came over to discern what had happened, one of them bringing ice for Erin's foot. But they were accompanied by an armed guard, who soon escorted Erin and her parents out of the restaurant. "The armed security guard watched Plaintiffs closely without offering any assistance, thereby adding additional emotional distress to the situation," the suit reads.

Shen and Zhang are suing for damages that include emergency room expenses, future surgeries to "restore the normal appearance of Erin's foot" and prescription drugs as well as "likely permanent disfigurement" of the child's foot. She was involved in dance classes prior to the incident.

They allege in the lawsuit that Hyatt and Spindletop failed to use reasonable care to make the restaurant safe, primarily by failing to "remedy and warn of a serious safety hazard that was especially dangerous to small children."

A spokesperson for the Hyatt Regency Houston responded to questions about the lawsuit by saying, "We are unable to comment on matters involving active litigation."

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Katharine Shilcutt