When you go out to a restaurant, you expect your experience to be both enjoyable and safe, and there’s a lot that restaurants must do to ensure this. For starters, they need to make sure their premises is free from trip or slip and fall hazards, that a customer won’t be burned by something that’s too hot (such as a hot drink or serving dish that’s fresh out of the oven), or that another customer who has become intoxicated won’t cause harm to someone else.
On this blog, we’ll discuss restaurant liability, how they can be negligent, and what you can do if you’ve been hurt as a result of this negligence to hold them accountable.
As a restaurant patron, you are considered an “invitee” during the restaurant’s business hours. This means you are expressly invited onto the premises if you intend on becoming a patron, and as a result the restaurant has a duty to protect you from injury as a result of a trip or slip hazard. Restaurants are one of the leading industries when it comes to fall hazards, often from spilled liquid on a slippery floor, or from a trip hazard like a downed chair or fallen dish blocking up a walkway.
Restaurant owners have a duty to remove such obstacles as quickly as possible, including cleaning up spills as soon as they happen. If a spill can’t be cleaned immediately, the restaurant must indicate the presence of the spill with a warning sign and do everything they can to help customers avoid slipping and falling. If you are injured as a result of slipping and falling and you can show that a restaurant failed to do everything they could to remove the potential injury hazard in a timely manner, then you could argue that the restaurant violated their duty of care to you as an invited patron, and thus their negligence could make them liable for your injuries.
Nearly every restaurant serves a form of hot food, and thus there’s a near-constant risk for a burn injury. For example, restaurants that place the serving dish in an oven to broil it or complete the cooking process will often then bring that serving dish straight to the table. However, because it’s recently come from the oven, the serving dish will likely be extremely hot, and thus a customer who is unaware and grabs the dish could become burned.
While most restaurants won’t bring a dish that can cause severe burns out to the table (opting to wait until it’s at a safer temperature), there are exceptions that can make the restaurant liable. For this reason, you’ll often hear servers who bring these dishes out warn the table that the dish is extremely hot and shouldn’t be touched.
However, the serving dishes aren’t the only things that are hot; the food or drink inside could cause severe burns. There’s a famous case from a while back where the major restaurant chain McDonalds was successfully sued for their coffee being too hot. This is because not only was the popular chain serving coffee at temperatures approaching the boiling point of water (roughly 200 degrees Fahrenheit), but they had no warning or indicator to notify customers that the coffee was in such a state. Thus, when the customer accidentally spilled the coffee on herself, she suffered severe burns that required extensive medical attention, which McDonalds was held liable for.
Dram Shop Laws
Dram shop laws are a common term for laws which place part of the liability for the conduct of an intoxicated individual on the establishment which allowed them to become intoxicated to the point where they can no longer properly care for themselves and those around them.
For example, if a restaurant notices that a patron is becoming increasingly intoxicated and still continues to serve someone, increasing their intoxication, they can then be held liable if that person decides to leave, drive away, and gets involved in a car accident because of their intoxicated state. In this case, the driver would have their own share of the liability for driving in such an inebriated state, but the establishment that helped them get to that point would also share in the liability for continuing to serve a patron that they knew was already significantly intoxicated.
Have you suffered an injury at a restaurant? Learn more about your rights by calling Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, PLLC at (866) 675-4427 today!