Cracker Barrel offers homestyle cooking and a country spirit
Let’s take a look at an actual Florida slip and fall case. It is not my case, though I am very experienced with Florida slip and fall cases.
In Thoma v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., 649 So.2d 277 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995), Deborah S. Thoma and Michael Thoma, husband and wife, sued Cracker Barrel.
This is an old case, but it is still good law. Deborah Thoma claimed to have suffered a back injury when she fell in the Tallahassee Cracker Barrel Restaurant on the morning of September 26, 1990.
It should help you understand slip and fall claims against Cracker Barrel.
Deborah claims Cracker Barrel negligently maintained the floor in a particular area of the restaurant either by creating a dangerous condition or by failing to discover a condition that had existed for a sufficient time so that Cracker Barrel knew or should have known about it.
The appeals court said that this case should not be dismissed. It should be decided by a jury.
After eating breakfast at the Cracker Barrel, Thoma took three or four steps away from her table when her left foot slid out from under her, causing her to fall.
The fall occurred in a common aisle, near the passage from the kitchen to the restaurant. When Thoma got up, she noticed an area 1 foot by 2 feet containing drops of clear liquid.
She claimed to have slipped on this liquid. Thoma was in the restaurant about thirty minutes before her accident. During that time, she saw no one drop anything on the floor in the area where she fell.
Mr. Leonard McNeal was the only known witness to the fall. He arrived for breakfast about 15 minutes before the accident. His seat was some 12 to 15 feet away from where Thoma fell.
McNeal described the area as “a normal area where waitresses would frequently go in and out (the kitchen) door.” McNeal felt sure he saw waitresses carrying beverage pitchers in that area.
He did not see any Cracker Barrel customers carrying drinks in the area, nor did he see anyone drop or spill anything. Cracker Barrel’s manager, Mr. Charlie Gray, inspected the area of the fall and saw no foreign substance whatever on the floor.
According to Mr. Gray, the Cracker Barrel is not a buffet restaurant and he would not expect customers to get up and walk around with food or drinks. To recover for injuries incurred in a slip and fall accident, the plaintiff must show that the premises owner either created a dangerous condition or had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition.
Notice of a dangerous condition may be established by circumstantial evidence, such as evidence leading to an inference that a substance has been on the floor for a sufficient length of time such that in the exercise of reasonable care the condition should have become known to the premises owner.
Thoma and McNeal took their breakfast at a location near where Thoma eventually fell. Despite their proximity, neither Thoma nor McNeal saw anyone drop or spill anything. The area of the fall was in clear view of Cracker Barrel employees, since they walked through it regularly on their way in and out of the kitchen.
If a jury were to believe Thoma’s description of the liquid as covering an area 1 foot by 2 feet, it might also be convinced that Cracker Barrel employees, in the exercise of due diligence, should have noticed the liquid before the accident.
No one except Cracker Barrel employees were seen to carry food or beverage in the area of the fall. The manager of the restaurant would not have expected customers to move around carrying food or drinks.
Cracker Barrel notes that “common sense” suggests a huge amount of other reasonable inferences other than the inferences urged by claimant. The court agreed with this observation, but said that the existence of other possible inferences is not grounds to dismiss the case.
The court said that a jury should determine whether the greater weight of the evidence supports the inferences suggested by Thoma.
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