Restaurant Liability

Southwest Florida is a foodie paradise, with a little something for everyone. No matter whether a restaurant is seaside or landlocked, adventurous or standard fare, owners and operators owe a duty of care to keep properties safe for those welcomed to eat and drink there.

Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, are committed to assisting those who have suffered injuries at restaurants in Southwest Florida in obtaining compensation for their medical bills, lost wages and more. Our Fort Myers injury lawyers know that some of the more common restaurant injuries and claims of negligence include:

  • Slip-and-fall injuries due to spilled food or drinks;
  • Trip-and-fall injuries in parking lots that are poorly-lit or have uneven pavement;
  • Violence, particularly by fellow patrons;
  • Fires or explosions due to unsafe gas or wiring;
  • Struck by falling objects/ stock/ plates, etc.;
  • Broken stairs, ramps or handrails;
  • Injury (usually by drunk driving) caused by underage or alcohol-addicted patrons who were served booze despite not being old enough or being known alcoholics (i.e., dram shop liability, per F.S. 768.125).

Almost all restaurants carry liability insurance, but that doesn’t mean these incidents will make for easy claims or fast pay-outs. Many restaurants and insurers vigorously fight these claims.

Plaintiffs in restaurant injury lawsuits should consult with an experienced attorney who understands the various theories of negligence that will apply to restaurants, and how best to hold them accountable.

Duty of Care Owed by Restaurants

The very first element that must be established in any negligence case is that of a duty of care. That is, what responsibility did the defendant have to protect or warn the plaintiff?

In the case of restaurants as it relates to customers, it turns out that duty of care is generally of the highest. In Florida, businesses owe varying degrees of care to those entering the property based on the purpose for the entry. Individuals may be: Invitees, licensees or trespassers. Patrons who are welcomed on site for the purpose of furthering the business of the restaurant are owed the highest duty of care.

The Florida Supreme Court in the 1972 case of Post v. Lunney defined “business invitee” as a person who is invited to enter or remain on the land for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with the business dealings of the land’s possessor. As noted by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal in the 2011 case of Delgado v. Laundromax, Inc., businesses owe two primary duties to business invitees:

  • Take ordinary and reasonable care to keep premises in reasonably safe condition;
  • Warn of perils that are known or should be known to the owner and which the invitee could not discover.

That means restaurants required to conduct regular inspections to look for any dangerous or defective conditions that exist or might occur on the property, and to warn customers about those conditions if they aren’t obvious.

Actual or Constructive Knowledge

To hold a restaurant and/or its employees liable for injuries, a person who is injured on site needs to show the restaurant/ employees had actual or constructive knowledge of a hazardous condition and failed to take proper action.

Actual knowledge involves a condition about which the owner/ employee actually knew about, either because they created it, they saw it or they were informed of it.

Constructive knowledge, meanwhile, can be established if it can be shown (as noted in Florida’s slip-and-fall statute, F.S. 768.0755):

  • Condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business should have known of it;
  • Condition occurred with regularity, and was therefore foreseeable.

In cases of violence, where a plaintiff is asserting third-party liability against a restaurant, one must typically show the restaurant/ establishment was made aware of a specific threat or danger and failed to act, or that there was a pattern of similar incidents on site in the past, and therefore the hazard was foreseeable.

This duty of care to customers extends to any building or surrounding areas (i.e., parking lots) over which it has control.

Damages for Restaurant Injuries

If you are injured at a Fort Myers restaurant due to business or property owner’s negligence, you could be entitled to receive compensation. Some specific types of damages could include:

Economic damages:

  • Medical bills.
  • Lost wages.
  • Costs for future medical care.
  • Lost earning potential.

Non-economic damages:

  • Pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Disfigurement.
  • Mental anguish.
  • Loss of life enjoyment.

In many cases, there will be more than one defendant. For instance, claims may not be limited to the restaurant owner. They could extend to the owner of the property, the manufacturer of any machinery that caused or contributed to the injury, the company responsible to perform maintenance or repairs (property managers), security firms or other third-parties.

Defendants in Southwest Florida restaurant injury cases will often dispute liability for injuries based on things like:

  • Contract language between property owners and restaurant owners containing an indemnification agreement;
  • Challenges concerning the extent of plaintiff’s injuries;
  • Disputes on where or how the injury occurred.

Our experienced injury lawyers in Fort Myers will help you determine the best ways to fight back, and obtain the compensation you deserve.

800-646-1210 – Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner – Focused on Justice

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