Sarkisian v. Concept Restaurants, Inc. – Slip-and-Fall at Nightclub

Asheville’s nightlife is vibrant and thriving, with a range of wine bars to brewpubs to sidewalk cafes and coffee shops.There are also numerous live music venues, jazz bars and even a few nightclubs.
discoballs.jpg
It’s expected at these events that drinks – alcoholic or otherwise – will be served, creating the potential for spills. Business and property owners owe their guests a duty of care to make sure the premises is reasonably safe. That means spills – which could result in injurious falls – need to be monitored and promptly cleaned. If for some reason that isn’t possible, workers should post a “Wet Floor” sign, warning patrons of the danger.

When this does not happen, the property owner may be held responsible to cover all related medical bills, lost wages and damages for pain and suffering in what’s called a premises liability lawsuit.

However, it is that the case that just because a person falls in a restaurant or club that the business is automatically liable. In order to prove a slip-and-fall lawsuit in North Carolina, plaintiff must show:

  • There was a dangerous condition on the premises
  • Condition was such the owner knew or should have known it existed
  • Owner failed to correct the condition
  • Plaintiff suffered injury as a result of the condition

The recent case of Sarkisian v. Concept Restaurants, Inc. before the Massachusetts Supreme Court shows the kind of legal wrangling that can go on in these cases. Obviously, laws vary from state-to-state, but the same general principles apply both here as in Massachusetts.

According to court records, plaintiff fell and broke her leg after she slipped and fell on a wet dance floor at a nightclub owned by defendant.

She sued.

Trial court judge granted summary judgment to defense because it ruled plaintiff had not shown defendant had actual or constructive knowledge (knew or should have known) of the dangerous condition – i.e., the spill on the floor.

However, the state supreme court reversed, finding the “mode of operation approach” applied in other negligence cases does in fact apply to slip-and-fall cases as well. That theory asserts defendant should have known (constructive knowledge) about the incident because it was foreseeable due to the fact it was a dance floor onto which people carried their drinks.

Patrons were permitted to consume their beverage on the dance floor, and many patrons danced with a drink in their hand. The lights were dim and there were strobe lights, making it difficult to see the floor.

The question was whether the “mode of operation approach,” previously only applied to self-service businesses, could also be applied in a slip-and-fall premises liability case like this.

The court ruled it can be, and it was reasonable to expect the nightclub to foresee the potential danger given the circumstances. Thus, defendant should not have been awarded summary judgment. It was remanded for further proceedings.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Sarkisian v. Concept Restaurants, Inc., June 23, 2015, Massachusetts Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Woman Suffers Life-Threatening Injury at Baseball Game, June 10, 2015, Asheville Injury Lawyer Blog

Contact Information