Slip and fall accidents in restaurants are some of the worst types of premises liability accidents that can happen. Here’s one of the typical scenarios. You go to a restaurant to have a meal or maybe hang out with your friends or family. While you’re walking along, your foot starts to slide and boom! You fall to the ground in the middle of the restaurant. When you look up, the restaurant is quiet. Everyone has stopped eating long enough to stare at you. They’re holding their forks or their drinks; they have a surprised expression; and their mouths are halfway open. In all honesty, they’re probably worried about you, but if you’re anything like most of us, you’re embarrassed. You feel shame. So, your first instinct is to hop up and dust yourself off like everything is fine. Pretend it didn’t happen.
Sometimes, the embarrassment is the worst part of a slip and fall at a restaurant. You shake it off, enjoy your night, and everybody has a laugh about it later. If so, consider yourself lucky. However, for some people, the fall is the beginning of a nightmare that could involve surgeries and months of rehabilitation. For some unfortunate people, slip and fall accidents in restaurants are the beginning of a long and painful process toward recovery.
There are a lot of different hazards at restaurants that could cause a person to slip and fall and get hurt. Below, we’re going to talk about the five most common slip and fall accidents that we see occurring in restaurants.
One: Slip and Fall on Food in a Restaurant
Mushy or wet food can create the perfect slip hazard. Think about a banana. It’s mushy and slippery, and its texture combined with the right shoe and a slick floor could make even the steadiest person fall. Bananas are the textbook example of a food that is a dangerous slip hazard. However, there are many more types of food that can cause people to fall, including:
- Sauces and dips;
- Wraps and burritos;
- Mashed potatoes or pasta;
- Cooked onions and other vegetables; and
- Butter or sour cream.
This is by no means a full list of possible foods that could cause slip and fall accidents in restaurants. However, this gives you an idea of the types of foods that are serious slip hazards if they are left on the restaurant floor.
Two: Slip and Fall on Liquid in a Restaurant
Liquids on the floor is one of the main causes of slip and fall accidents in restaurants. The textbook example is soapy water left behind after someone cleans the floor with no sign around to warn people who walk through it. Add in some dim lighting and floors that don’t show the liquid, and it’s the perfect scenario for someone to get injured. However, soapy water is not the only liquid that can cause a slip and fall in a restaurant. There are other slip hazards, like soups, drinks, oils, juices, and more. Additionally, one of the biggest slip hazards occurs when restaurant employees spill ice on a slick floor in an area where people walk. When the ice melts, there’s now a puddle on a slippery floor that can cause slip and fall accidents.
Three: Slip and Fall in the Parking Lot at a Restaurant
The restaurant itself isn’t the only place where someone can slip and fall. Restaurant parking lots are the source of a lot of slip and fall accidents. For example, a poorly maintained parking lot may have a pothole that isn’t easily visible. Potholes are a serious hazard, especially for older people or people who need assistance walking. Another slip hazard at a restaurant parking lot is the painted parking lot lines. People slip on parking lot lines for various reasons. Sometimes they’re polished such that they’re slick. Other times, the parking lot lines don’t have aggregate in the paint, and thus the lines are extremely slippery, especially when wet.
Four: Slip and Fall Over Uneven Floors or Sidewalks at a Restaurant
There are many restaurants that have sidewalks around the restaurant and leading into the entrance of the restaurant. Sometimes, the sidewalks can shift and become uneven over time. This can be the result of settling into the ground. Other times, tree roots can grow under sidewalk planks and cause them to become uneven. These uneven sidewalks should be tended to such that the edges are ground down. If not, there’s a sidewalk lip with a 90-degree edge that is the perfect trip hazard for someone walking into the restaurant. When a sidewalk is left in this condition, someone will inevitably fall and get hurt.
Five: Slip and Fall Because of Dim Lighting at a Restaurant
Many restaurants turn the lights down to create the perfect environment and ambience for folks to have a meal. However, dim lighting can sometimes create a trip and fall hazard. For example, a restaurant with dark flooring should make sure any steps are lit well enough for patrons to see. Additionally, dimmer lighting makes it more difficult to see liquids or other slippery substances on the floor. Therefore, dim lighting can create a slip and fall hazard or exaggerate an existing slip and fall or trip and fall hazard.
Where Slip and Fall Accidents in Restaurants Occur is Important.
The location of the slip and fall accident in a restaurant can be important to identifying the proper defendant. In other words, if a carless company or person caused you to fall and get hurt, where you fall may determine who is liable for your injuries. Let’s look at this in a few hypotheticals.
Hypothetical 1: Slip and Fall in a McDonald’s Parking Lot (Multiple Defendants)
Let’s say you slipped and fell on slippery parking lot lines at a McDonald’s restaurant parking lot owned by Land LLC. Let’s also say that Land LLC leases the parking lot to McDonald’s. In this situation, Land LLC may be responsible for maintaining the parking lot lines. Let’s also say a separate company, Painting Inc., negligently painted the lines you slipped on in the parking lot. Well, Painting Inc. may also be liable for your injuries because they may have forgotten to put aggregate in the paint, and thus the parking lot lines were unreasonably slippery.
It’s important to discover all the possible negligent parties because each negligent party may have an insurance policy. Additionally, each negligent defendant may share a portion of the liability for your injuries. Theoretically then, Land LLC, Painting Inc., and McDonald’s may all be liable for a portion of your damages.
Hypothetical 2: Slip and Fall Accidents Inside a Starbucks (Two Defendants)
Now, let’s say you’re walking through a Starbucks with wooden floors. Let’s also say that Contractor LLC has been doing work on the wooden floors near the coffee bar over the past week. As you’re walking along the side of the coffee bar to go and wait to pick up your coffee and scone, your foot catches an uneven wood panel on the Starbucks floor. As a result, you trip and fall and break your arm and your wrist. You also landed sideways on a stool as you were going down, so you broke three ribs.
We know Starbucks is going to probably share in the liability here. But let’s also think about Contractor LLC and the faulty wood panel. If this defect was not something the Starbucks folks could easily see or notice, if it was a hidden defect caused by Contractor LLC’s workers, then Contractor LLC may share a significant portion of the liability here.
Hypothetical 3: Slip and Fall at Starbucks (One Defendant)
Let’s say you walk inside a Starbucks and start looking at the menu for something new. At the same time, a Starbucks employee is cleaning the bathroom floor with soapy water. Let’s also say the Starbucks employee walks into the back to take a phone call. However, before walking away, the employee does not put out a sign to warn people of the slippery floor.
You notice that the line is a little long, and you want to use the restroom before ordering. So, you walk back to the back of the store to use the restroom. The floors are dark, and you can’t see the soapy water on the tiles. As you’re walking, your foot lands in the soapy water and boom! You crash to the floor, breaking your arm and wrist. You also smash your head onto the hard floor, which may have caused you to suffer a concussion or other traumatic brain injury.
In this situation, Starbucks is likely liable for your injuries. The Starbucks employee created a hazard and did not put up any warning. As a result, you fell through no fault of your own, and you suffered injuries.
Liability for Slip and Fall Accidents in Restaurants
Proving negligence in a slip and fall case can be challenging. Just because you fell down and got hurt does not mean you have a good slip and fall case. For example, it’s your responsibility to act reasonably and to look where you’re going. It’s also your responsibility to not be too impaired to walk. The responsibility to act like a reasonable person is yours.
However, the restaurant also has a responsibility to remedy any unreasonably dangerous conditions in the restaurant. At the very least, the restaurant should warn patrons of any unreasonably dangerous conditions the patrons might encounter. The restaurant is profiting from the presence of its patrons, and it has a duty to keep the premises safe and free of slip hazards.
Comparative Negligence in Florida Slip and Fall Accidents in Restaurants
What happens if you’re partially at fault for your slip and fall in a restaurant? Can you still bring a lawsuit and recover damages? Well, this all depends on the state where you fell and suffered injuries because each state has different laws regarding comparative negligence.
In Florida, for example, the law is modified comparative negligence. In Florida, an injured plaintiff cannot recover if he or she is more than 50% at fault. In other words, you can be partially to blame for your accident, but you can still bring a lawsuit for your slip and fall and recover for the part that was not your fault. Florida switched to modified comparative negligence in March 2023. Before that, Florida was a pure comparative negligence state, which means that you could be mostly at fault for your injuries and still bring a lawsuit for your damages in Florida. However, your damages would be reduced by your percentage of fault.
South Carolina and Georgia are also modified comparative negligence states. This means that you can’t recover damages if you’re 50% or more at fault. However, if you are less than 50% at fault, you can still recover damages. As in pure comparative negligence states, your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
In North Carolina and Alabama, the law is contributory negligence. This means that you can’t recover anything if you are at fault in any way. Thus, even if you’re just 10% at fault, you can’t recover damages for your slip and fall accident in a restaurant.
Hypothetical 1: You are 60% at fault.
Let’s say you’re walking through a Starbucks, and you’re looking at your cell phone. Let’s also say you’re wearing shoes that are slippery on the bottom and unstable, and you’ve had a few beers in the past hour at the bar next door. An employee was cleaning the floors and walked away for just a minute. The employee set up a sign to warn patrons of the soapy water on the floor, but the sign collapsed and fell flat on the floor before you turned the corner and stepped in the soapy water and fell. As a result, you broke your arm and needed $75,000 worth of surgery.
Now, let’s say the jury says your injuries and your pain and suffering are worth $100,000, and they say that you were 60% at fault. In a pure comparative negligence state (what Florida used to be), you would be entitled to 40% of the damages, or $40,000. Under Florida's current laws and in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama, you would be entitled to nothing because of your high percentage of fault.
Hypothetical 2: You are 20% at fault.
Now, let’s say you’re at a McDonald’s, and you’re ordering some food. You’re wearing athletic shoes with good grip, and you’re completely sober. At the same time, a McDonald’s employee is cleaning the floors in front of the bathroom and decides to walk out back for a break. The cleaning is taking place around the corner where you can’t see. Before leaving for a break, the employee does not put up a sign to warn patrons of the slippery floors.
When you finish ordering, you decide to talk to the bathroom. While you’re walking, you are playing a game on your cell phone, not paying attention to where you’re walking. When you turn the corner, you step in the soapy water and fall. As a result, you break your arm and need a $75,000 surgery.
Again, let’s say the jury says your injuries and your pain and suffering are worth $100,000, and the jury says that you were 20% at fault for playing on your phone when you fell. In Florida, you would be entitled to 80% of the damages, or $80,000. You would be entitled to the same in South Carolina and Georgia because you were less than 50% at fault. However, in North Carolina and Alabama, you would be entitled to nothing because you were partially at fault.
Contact an Orlando, Florida Slip and Fall Attorney for Your FREE Legal Consultation
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