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Mode of operation doctrine not expanded for fast-food restaurants

Premises liability laws are in place to help you if you're hurt due to someone else's property being in poor repair. For example, if you are eating out at a restaurant and trip on flooring that has come loose, any injuries you suffer should be the responsibility of the restaurant owner. If you chose to seek compensation after an injury, then your attorney would file the claim against that facility for premises liability.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has recently made a decision that will not help those who want to seek to prove premises liability claims; the court decided not to expand the Mode of Operation doctrine. This doctrine gets rid of the necessity for an injured party to prove notice of an unsafe condition when the business's operations create the hazard. In the case reported, a woman claimed she had slipped and fallen on grease mixed with water at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken. She was initially awarded damages of $138,643, but an appellate court reversed that award, stating that the judge in the original case shouldn't have suggested the mode of operation charge to the jury.

Where mode of operation charges can be used is if the business is a self-service arrangement. For example, in Ikea, you have to pick up your items yourself, even in the warehouse portion of the store. In a farmer's market, you'd pick out your own foods from baskets and self-service bins.

For the woman hurt in this case, a case will need to be refiled without the mode of operation charge, so it's possible to still obtain compensation for the injuries she suffered. In the future, the terminology around the mode of operation of a business may expand, but for now, it simply applies to self-service businesses.

Source:, "N.J. Supreme Court orders new trial in KFC greasy floor injury case," Samantha Marcus, Sep. 28, 2015

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