There are numerous ways that you may be harmed in a restaurant. For instance, your food may be poisoned, the floor may be wet causing you to slip and fall, you could cut yourself on broken glass, you could be attacked in a poorly lit parking lot, or hot food or beverages may be dropped on you by a server.
Additionally, restaurant owners are responsible for keeping the restaurant property safe for those who eat and drink there, as well as not causing injuries to the patrons that are dining at their establishment.
Additional injuries that a restaurant may be responsible for include injuries caused by negligent security, or dram shop law violations. If you have been injured at a restaurant, or the restaurant otherwise caused you damages, you may be able to recover for your damages by filing a lawsuit against the restaurant.
As noted above, restaurant owners owe patrons of their restaurants certain duties. First, owners must keep the restaurant in a reasonably safe condition for customers, meaning they have a duty to warn their invitees of any hidden dangers.
For instance, they must provide that all of the restaurant furniture is safe, and won’t harm the patrons by collapsing under them or cutting them. Further duties owned by restaurant owners include things such as:
- Properly cooking and handling food to avoid undercooked or contaminated foods, to avoid poisoning patrons;
- Properly training and supervising staff to not drop hot plates or beverages on patrons, to lessen the risk of burns;
- Not serving patrons who are clearly intoxicated, to avoid dram shop liability;
- Providing a safe means of entrance and exit to the business;
- Maintain a safe passageway from the dining room to the restroom;
- Properly maintain the furniture by inspecting seats, stools, and chairs;
- Making sure the floor does not have dangerous defects, such as non-level areas or not promptly cleaning up wet spots on the floor. Slip and fall accidents are one of the most common injuries in restaurants;
- Provide adequate lighting in the restaurant and in the parking lot to prevent accidents on the premises, as well as to discourage criminal activity; and
- A duty to not otherwise negligently cause harm to restaurant patrons, by taking prompt action to correct hazards that arise and avoid creating circumstances that may increase the risk of harm.
As mentioned above, restaurant owners generally do not owe patrons a duty to protect them from the criminal acts of third parties. This includes if you are assaulted in the restaurant. However, a restaurant owner may owe you a duty to protect you from an assault if they knew another person was going to attack you, but did not prevent it from happening.
Further, if you happen to be assaulted by an employee of the restaurant, such as a waiter or bar staff, then you may have a claim against the restaurant under vicarious liability laws. In order to hold a restaurant owner responsible for an assault, you must show actual harm or injury, meaning owners will likely not be responsible for legal claims based on mere insults or embarrassment.
In order to successfully sue a restaurant for negligence and recover for your injuries, you must prove not only all of the elements of negligence, but also that the negligence of the restaurant was the direct cause of your injuries or illness.
Therefore, you must provide evidence that proves that the act or omission of the restaurant that caused your injury were foreseeable by the restaurant owner, that the actions were negligent, the actions directly caused your injuries, and your damages are measurable (like hospital bills).
If you prove that the restaurant was negligent, then they will be responsible for paying for your damages. Damages may include your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other out-of-pocket expenses that occurred due to the incident.
In order to make a strong claim against the restaurant it is important to gather as much evidence of the incident as possible, especially evidence that tends to link the acts or omissions of the restaurant to your injuries. For instance, you should always try and obtain any incident report that was filled out as a result of your injury.
Most restaurants have a procedure that requires them to fill out an incident report documenting the details of the incident, as well as witnesses. For example, in a typical slip and fall incident, you would want to obtain the incident report of the slip and fall, as well as any witness statements that indicate that the hazard had been there for awhile, but the restaurant took no action.
Importantly, there are a few limits to the owner’s responsibility. For instance, restaurant owners will not be held liable for patrons who are injured in restricted areas of the restaurant. Further, as mentioned above, restaurant owners do not have a duty to protect patrons from the acts of a third party, unless that third party happens to be an employee of the restaurant.
Additionally, if a server comes out with a hot plate, which may reach temperatures of up to 150 degrees, and informs a patron that the plate is hot and not to touch it, but the patron ignores the warning and touches the hot plate or pan, then the restaurant owner will not likely be held liable for the patron’s injuries. Contributing to your own injury will either bar or limit your ability to recover damages.
Additionally, restaurant owners are not liable for injuries that were unforeseeable. For example, if an earthquake occurs and you fall and hit your head on the table, causing a head injury, a court would not likely hold a restaurant owner liable, because they did not cause the earthquake.
Further, if there is a dangerous condition, but the restaurant owner is unaware or did not have time to discover the hazard, such as another patron recently spilling their drink on the hardwood floor, the owner may not be liable for that slip and fall.
If you have been injured while in a restaurant, it may be in your best interest to consult with an experienced and well qualified personal injury attorney in your area. An experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate your claim, investigate the incident, help you build a strong case, as well as representing you in court, if necessary.