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New Jersey Supreme Court Reverses Personal Injury Verdict Against KFC

Finding that the trial judge had improperly instructed the jury regarding the burden of proof, the New Jersey Supreme Court threw out a verdict against a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in South Jersey and ordered a new trial. The plaintiff, a Delaware woman, said that she fell outside of the store’s bathrooms and experienced pain and numbness in her arms and legs, requiring medical treatment for approximately two months. Her lawyer contended that she fell on a floor that had kitchen grease from employees of the restaurant who shared the bathrooms with customers.

In a typical slip and fall case, such as this one, the owner of a commercial property is only liable for injuries caused by hazards that the business knew or should reasonably have known of at the time of the accident. However, New Jersey has an exception to that rule, known as the “mode of operation” exception, which holds that a business or business owner can be held responsible for dangers that are a product of the business’s ordinary practices, even if the owner or operators had no actual knowledge of the hazard or risk. The judge in this case allowed the jury to consider whether KFC’s mode of operation allowed for liability, even if the business had no knowledge of the potential risk.

The New Jersey Supreme Court found that the trial judge incorrectly allowed the jury to make that determination, pointing out that the “mode of operation” exception related to restaurants has been specifically limited to self-service type establishments, such as cafeteria style restaurants and grocery stores. The court declined to expand the “mode of operation” rule beyond situations where businesses allowed customers to handle goods that might end up on the floor, saying that the distinction between the acts of customers and the acts of employees is “sensible and practical,” as a business will have less opportunity to monitor the handling of food or other products by customers.

Contact the New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyers at The Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr

At the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr, we have fought for the rights of personal injury victims in central New Jersey for more than four decades. We carefully choose the cases we handle, so that we can provide the highest levels of service and personal attention to each client. We are also happy to take over your case, if your first lawyer does not seem to have your best interests in mind.

To set us a free initial consultation, send us an e-mail or call our office at 732-537-8570.

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