In a recent New Jersey Federal court decision, the court determined that a casino patron’s slip and fall on a spilled beverage was not within the ambit of the mode of operation doctrine. You may recall from prior blogs on this firm’s websites that the doctrine eliminates the need for an injured customer to prove that the business knew of the unsafe condition causing the accident, when the condition is caused by the way that the business operates. The case establishing the doctrine involved a slip and fall on a loose string bean that had fallen on the floor in a grocery store which allowed customers to pick their produce from an open display. Since that time, the doctrine has mainly been applied to food or drinks spilled in a self service restaurant or supermarket.
In this recent case, video surveillance showed that one patron of the casino spilled his drink on a common walkway at 7:03 pm. Four minutes later, the same video showed the plaintiff slipping on the spilled liquid, apparently causing his fall and injury He was unable to show that the spilled drink came from the casino’s beverage service. Although the casino does provide beverages in self-service style to casino patrons, the plaintiff could not identify the person who spilled the drink, and therefore could not prove that this person got the drink from the casino.
The court did hold that the plaintiff would be given the opportunity to prove that the casino should have known that the drink was spilled, thus creating an unsafe condition on its premises. This decision illustrates the concept that although someone is injured within a business location, that business is not automatically liable for the injury. Generally, negligence must be proven by the plaintiff.