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Can you sue a restaurant if you are injured at a restaurant?

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Posted on September 24, 2021

Generally, a restaurant owner is responsible to keep their premises safe for those who visit their restaurant, or they must provide a warning if they cannot keep the area in their restaurant safe. If they fail to provide safe premises or warn patrons of their dangers, they can be held liable for injuries in their parking lot, dining area, and bathrooms. Common injuries include slip and fall accidents on spilled drinks or food, uneven pavement or steps, and poorly lit parking lots.

The victim in these cases will have to show that the restaurant knew of the issue, and the longer the food, drink or unsafe condition exists without being cleaned up or a warning to patrons being put out, the more likely the restaurant or location will be held liable for the victim’s injuries.

The victim will still have to prove that the restaurant knew of the unsafe condition through showing the restaurant had actual or constructive notice. However, there is no notice required if it was the restaurant, or through one of their employees, who created the unsafe condition. For example, if a restaurant employee was mopping a floor and failed to warn patrons of the wet floor, and a patron was injured by slipping on the wet floor, the restaurant would likely be held liable.

Utah employees two different types of theories for liability, 1) the permanent unsafe condition theory, and 2) the temporary unsafe condition theory.

Permanent Unsafe Condition Theory

To recover under a permanent unsafe condition theory, a victim must show that a restaurant chose a “mode of operation” that foreseeably could result in an inherently dangerous condition. In Utah, the case of Canfield v. Albertsons, Inc. is where the court explained this theory the best. In Canfield, the victim slipped on a piece of lettuce that was part of a lettuce display known as a “farmer’s pack,” meaning that the lettuce did not have its wilted outer leaves removed.

Instead, shoppers were invited to remove the outer leaves and discard them into empty boxes that Albertsons had placed on the floor. The victim slipped on a piece of discarded lettuce on the floor and sued, claiming that the farmer’s pack method of display was a permanent unsafe condition. The Supreme Court of Utah agreed and emphasized that “it was reasonably foreseeable that some leaves would fall or be dropped on the floor by customers thereby creating a dangerous condition.” The elements of foreseeability and inherent dangerousness were met.

Temporary Unsafe Condition Theory

To recover under a temporary unsafe condition theory, a victim must show that that the restaurant knew of an unsafe condition which existed long enough that the restaurant should have discovered it; and (2) “after obtaining such knowledge, sufficient time elapsed that in the exercise of reasonable care the restaurant should have remedied the unsafe condition.

Utah then makes it clear that the victim needs to distinguish between a situation where the unsafe condition causing the injury was created by the restaurant or its employees, or whether the unsafe condition was created by some third person. This is because the rule distinguishes between third party-created conditions and owner-created conditions.

Under the temporary unsafe condition theory, it can to prove liability. For example, one case where the Court ruled against the victim was Lindsay v. Eccles Hotel Co., where the victim slipped and fell on a small quantity of water on the floor of a coffee shop. The Court ruled against the victim because under the temporary unsafe condition theory “there was no evidence as to how the water got onto the floor, by whom it was deposited, exactly when it arrived there or that the coffee shop had knowledge of its presence.”

In another case, Koer v. Mayfair Markets, the Utah Supreme Court again determined that a victim could not recover under the temporary unsafe condition theory after she slipped and fell on a grape because the victim was unable to prove that a the restaurant (or its employees) had dropped the grape, or that the restaurant knew the grape had fell on the floor.

Having a personal injury attorney help build your case to prove either of these theories can increase your chances of recovery from the at-fault party.

What about when you are injured after you leave a restaurant? Generally, you cannot recover once you leave a restaurant, but there are exceptions, including Utah’s Dram Shop Laws.

Utah’s Dram Shop Laws

What is more, restaurants can also be liable for injuries of victim’s even once they leave a restaurant under dram shop violations. In Utah, an alcohol vendor can be liable for actions of an intoxicated patron if the vendor provides alcohol to the patron and patron was a) under 21, or b) if the patron was apparently under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

To illustrate, imagine a patron shows up to a restaurant and is visibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but the restaurant serves him alcohol anyways. Then the patron assaults another patron, severely injuring the other patron. In this situation, not only would the injured patron be able to sue the intoxicated patron, but the victim would also be able to sue the restaurant for serving alcohol to a patron who was already under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Takeaway 

If you or your loved one was injured in a restaurant due to a slip and fall or another dangerous or unsafe condition, you may be able to recover damages from the restaurant owner. You should talk to one of our personal injury attorneys at We Win Injury Law for your free consultation. Remember, we don’t charge you anything and only get paid if We Win through a settlement or a jury verdict on your behalf.