Can You Sue a Restaurant for Falling on Their Property?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
When visiting a restaurant, slipping, falling, and getting injured are usually the last things on your mind. Yet, surprisingly, over one million customers are injured each year in these incidents. You may wonder, can you sue a restaurant for falling on their property?
If you’re injured in a slip and fall at a restaurant, you can sue if the restaurant is negligent. While the restaurant isn’t automatically at fault because you fell on their premises, they are responsible for damages if your injury was due to their carelessness. The compensation you recover can help you pay for your damages, including your medical expenses.
What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability in Michigan refers to the legal duty of property owners, including those who own restaurants, to ensure the safety of their premises. This responsibility means restaurant owners must maintain an environment safe for customers, employees, and other visitors.
Not fulfilling these safety responsibilities can lead to legal repercussions for property owners in Michigan if an injury occurs on their premises. The level of duty varies based on the category of the visitor.
- An invitee. A person who enters a property for a purpose the property owner has allowed, like a customer in a restaurant.
- A licensee. Someone who enters a property for their own purposes and not for transactions with the property owner, like using a restaurant’s restroom without buying anything.
- A trespasser. A person who enters a property without permission or legal right. In Michigan, while property owners don’t owe the same duty of care to trespassers as they do to invitees or licensees, they are prohibited from intentionally harming trespassers or setting traps that could cause harm.
For instance, if a property owner deliberately makes the ground slippery to cause trespassers to fall and you get injured, the owner can be held liable for your injuries.
Who Can You Sue if You Slip and Fall at a Restaurant?
The same person or company that runs a restaurant often doesn’t own the building. Like in a shopping center, the restaurant might just lease the space from a landlord. If you’re injured at a restaurant, both the restaurant and the property owner might be legally responsible.
In this scenario, our slip and fall attorneys will explore suing multiple parties, including the restaurant and the property owner. This approach helps ensure all potential liability sources are considered in your claim.
Situations Where a Lawsuit Against a Restaurant for a Fall is Possible
In cases where a restaurant’s negligence leads to a customer’s injury, a lawsuit may be possible. They could be held liable if the restaurant knew or should have known about the danger but didn’t take action. For a successful claim, it’s important to establish that the restaurant’s lack of care caused the injury.
- Neglected spills and slippery floors. A common cause of falling in restaurants is when staff fails to notice or clean up spilled liquids or food on the floor. Not dealing with these hazards quickly can lead to accidents. It’s important for restaurants to clean up spills promptly and thoroughly to avoid injuries and reduce their risk of legal issues.
- Inadequate upkeep of walkways and stairs. Failing to maintain areas like walkways and staircases properly can lead to falls. Restaurant managers may face legal issues if they ignore problems such as uneven surfaces or cracks that create tripping hazards. Regular inspection and fixing any structural problems are essential to keep customers safe and avoid legal liability.
- Faulty or worn-out furniture. Restaurants are responsible for ensuring their furniture is safe. Accidents can happen if they don’t regularly check the condition of their equipment, especially if chairs or tables are in disrepair. When furniture fails and causes injuries, restaurant owners could face legal action. Routinely inspect and maintain all furnishings to prevent such accidents.
- Insufficient warning of dangers. Restaurants must mark any potential hazards clearly to prevent accidents. This includes signaling dangers like ongoing floor repairs or obstructions due to renovations. Customers are more likely to have accidents without proper signs of these temporary risks.
- Poor lighting in common areas. Inadequate lighting is a safety concern, especially in entrances, hallways, and bathrooms. Low light can hide hazards, making it difficult for customers to move around safely. Restaurants must provide sufficient lighting in these shared spaces to enhance visibility and minimize the chance of accidents due to poor lighting conditions.
- Not managing snow or ice. Managing snow and ice is critical for restaurants in Michigan, particularly during the winter months. This involves regularly clearing snow from walkways, entrances, and parking lots to ensure safe access for patrons and staff. Additionally, applying salt or other ice-melting substances can prevent ice buildup, which can be a major slip hazard.
Proving Negligence in a Restaurant Fall
Proving negligence in a restaurant fall in Michigan involves demonstrating that the restaurant knew or should have known about a hazardous condition and failed to address it, leading to the injury.
Key elements include showing the restaurant’s awareness of the danger, its failure to take reasonable steps to prevent harm, and a direct link between this negligence and the injury sustained.
- Duty of care: The restaurant must have had a duty of care towards you, which varies based on your status on the property – whether you were an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. This determines the level of care the restaurant was legally obligated to provide.
- Breach of duty: Negligence arises when the restaurant fails to meet the appropriate standard of care.
- Measurable harm: You experienced significant harm due to the restaurant’s negligence.
Evidence such as incident reports, witness statements, and photos of the scene can be crucial in establishing negligence in these cases.
- Incident reports. Reports compiled by restaurant staff or management following the accident provide an official record of the incident.
- Witness statements. Testimonies taken from individuals who observed the fall can offer valuable perspectives on the circumstances.
- Photographs taken at the scene. Photographs or video footage can serve as visual evidence, illustrating factors like slippery floors, poor lighting, or hazards that contributed to the accident.
What Happens if You Were Also Negligent?
Michigan follows a comparative negligence rule, allowing compensation even if the injured party bears partial fault, with the awarded amount adjusted accordingly.
For instance, imagine a scenario where a server accidentally spilled liquid on the floor while clearing a table and went to retrieve a mop. However, she didn’t block off the wet area. In the meantime, a customer who had consumed several beers slipped and fell on the spilled liquid before the server returned with the mop, making both parties potentially responsible for the accident.
As of July 28, 2023, Michigan eliminated the open and obvious defense in slip and fall cases, making property owners more responsible for ensuring the safety of their guests. For example, consider a restaurant with a dimly lit entrance area with uneven flooring. Before the change in Michigan law, the restaurant might have argued that the uneven floor was open and obvious, placing the responsibility on the customer to avoid the hazard.
However, this open and obvious defense no longer applies. Now, the restaurant has a greater duty to ensure proper lighting and address hazards like uneven floors, emphasizing the owner’s responsibility for safety and potentially benefiting slip and fall injury victims.
Get the Compensation You Deserve After a Slip and Fall Accident
Curious about the possibility of suing a restaurant after a slip and fall? If you’ve suffered injuries due to a slip and fall incident in a restaurant, you may be entitled to fair compensation for your losses.
Don’t allow medical bills to accumulate while waiting for the responsible party or their insurance company to act. You need an aggressive personal injury attorney advocating for the compensation you need and deserve.
Our skilled attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. represent clients injured because of a slip and fall in Michigan and have won millions in verdicts and settlements. We will be by your side from consultation to resolution and fight on your behalf for maximum compensation.
Our contingency fee basis means we only get paid if we win your case, so there is no financial risk to you to get started. Call our law firm today at 1-866-MICH-LAW and schedule your no-obligation, free case evaluation.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.