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Sarkisian v. Concept Restaurants, Inc. – Slip-and-Fall on Wet Dance Floor

When someone takes to the dance floor, they may want to “get down,” but they usually don’t actually mean “on the ground.”barsign

Unfortunately, when bars, nightclubs and other entertainment establishments allow drinks – alcoholic or otherwise – on the dance floor, patrons are at-risk for a slip-and-fall injury.

What started as a night of fun and revelry quickly becomes a trip to the emergency room, and in some cases, an extensive recovery with time off work or worse.

Our Orlando slip-and-fall attorneys do recognize these cases have been increasingly difficult to win in Florida since the statute was updated in 2005. F.S. 768.0755 now states a person claiming injury due to a slip-and-fall on a transitory foreign substance has to prove either actual or constructive knowledge. That wasn’t the case before.

Actual knowledge means employees knew that particular spill was there and failed to take timely action to clean it up/warn patrons of the danger. Constructive knowledge means it either existed for a long enough time the business should have known about it, or it occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.

In the case of slips on the dance floor, one could argue any establishment that allows people to hold beverages while they dance should know spills are likely to occur. However, under Florida law, one would have to show they in fact did occur with regularity and were therefore foreseeable.

This was the argument in a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case of Sarkisian v. Concept Restaurants, Inc. The question here was whether plaintiff could put forth the “mode of operation” assertion in a slip-and-fall case. That is, plaintiff satisfies the proof burden on defense’s “notice” of the hazard by showing injury occurred as a result o a reasonable foreseeable unsafe condition related to owner’s chosen mode of operation.

In this case, it would be that the nightclub routinely allowed drinks on the dance floor, and thus should have recognized the harm in this.

Plaintiff alleged she broke her leg after slipping and falling on a wet dance floor at a nightclub owned by defendant. Dance floor was located between two bars within the establishment, where patrons could purchase alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, served in plastic cups. Patrons were allowed to take their drinks on the dance floor or in the lounge area near a set of stairs by the dance floor.

That night, the floor was crowded and many people danced with drinks in their hands. There were also strobe lights that made it difficult to see the floor.

A number of employees were present who were generally responsible for keeping the floor clean and clear of debris.

Neither plaintiff nor her friends noticed any liquid on the floor. As a result of the fall, she suffered two fractures in her leg and serious bruising.

She later sued the nightclub owner for premises liability.

However, the district court granted summary judgment to defendant nightclub on grounds plaintiff failed to prove actual or constructive knowledge. She argued the mode of operation defense should be applicable. District court disagreed, as did court of appeals.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed, finding mode of operation is applicable in slip-and-fall premises liability lawsuit.

Although defense had argued this notice requirement should only apply in self-service establishments, the state high court disagreed.

Because slip-and-fall litigation in Orlando can be more complex than it appears at first blush, one must contact an experienced injury attorney.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Sarkisian v. Concept Restaurants, Inc., June 23, 2015, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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