KINGSPORT — A Bristol, Tenn., woman shot multiple times in the face and body while eating at a Waffle House on New Year’s Day has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the parent company of the restaurant.
Kristin Smith filed the lawsuit in Sullivan County Circuit Court last week naming Rocky Top Waffles as the defendant. Rocky Top Waffles owns and operates the Waffle House on East Stone Drive where the shooting took place earlier this year.
According to Kingsport police, Michael Bunche of Kingsport entered the Waffle House about 4 a.m. on Jan. 1, and after sitting with three other individuals, soon began arguing with them. Bunche then allegedly stood up and brandished a handgun, which prompted Waffle House employees to call police.
Police say Bunche confronted Smith as he left the Waffle House and upon re-entering the restaurant ambushed her as she was leaving the restroom, shooting her multiple times in the body, arm and face.
Bunche has been charged with attempted first-degree murder and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. He currently remains jailed under a $200,000 bond with a preliminary hearing pending.
According to the lawsuit, Bunche displayed erratic and threatening behavior during his time at the Waffle House, acting like he was on drugs, talking and mumbling to himself, and pacing back and forth. KPD Detective Frank Light said at the time Bunche did not appear to be under the influence of drugs when the shooting occurred.
Smith alleges in her lawsuit that Bunche went through the kitchen area of the Waffle House and exited the building, but then attempted for the next 10 minutes to re-enter through the back door, pounding on the door at the time.
“The employees failed to promptly notify the police of this disturbing conduct and allowed his dangerous behavior to escalate without notifying the police until it was too late,” the lawsuit states.
Smith’s lawsuit claims Bunche re-entered the Waffle House two more times, the final time shooting her multiple times at point-blank range in the face, arm, leg and torso. Smith was initially taken to Holston Valley Medical Center to be stabilized before being flown to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville for additional surgery.
The lawsuit states Smith was shot twice in the mouth and has required facial reconstructive surgery to rebuild the palate of her mouth and lip; her upper gums and teeth were blown away by the gunfire.
Smith alleges the Waffle House employees were negligent in their actions and had a duty to take all reasonable steps to protect customers from criminal acts that were reasonably foreseeable, such as Bunche’s erratic, hostile and threatening behavior.
Smith is seeking $5 million in compensatory damages due to past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Rocky Top Waffles did not return a call for comment on the lawsuit.