Eating Out: What You Need to Know About Restaurant Safety

What you need to know about restaurant safety while eating out

We all enjoy a great night out at a high-end restaurant, grabbing a few beers at the bar while watching the game, or a brunch on the weekends at the neighborhood joint. We never want anything to ruin our experiences when we go out. But sometimes bad things happen and injuries can occur. Here are a few legal and safety issues people should consider about restaurant safety and what to do in the event of an injury.

A restaurant, like any business open to the public, owes a duty to keep the premises safe for the customers who eat and drink there. The types of risks at a restaurant range from improperly cooked food, spillage of food or beverages on the floor, failure to maintain parking lots and walkways, to the excessive service of alcohol to patrons. The duty on a restaurant does vary depending on the risk, but at a minimum, restaurants must warn its customers of risks that it has not, or cannot, timely remedy.

In a classic example of an injury at a restaurant, a customer slips on a wet floor caused by a spilled drink or a dropped plate. To pursue a claim against the restaurant, the patron needs to establish that the restaurant caused the floor to become wet and/or was aware of the wet floor, that the restaurant failed to remedy the wet floor and/or failed to warn customers to avoid the wet condition, and the customer suffered an injury due to the wet floor. A key factor in whether a restaurant is responsible for an injury resulting from a “slip’n’fall” is when the restaurant received notice of the condition and how long the restaurant had to remedy the condition before the injury occurred.

Food safety is another concern. A restaurant sells food and beverages and ensures that the food and/or drink is safe to consume. Patrons implicitly trust that the food was properly stored and cooked. The law reflects this heightened level of trust and restaurants can be liable if they serve food or drink that harms a patron. Patrons also can look to state and local governments to inspect restaurants for potential health and safety concerns.

There are a number of online resources patrons can refer to when inspecting restaurant safety. In Rhode Island, the Department of Health maintains a database of inspection reports for restaurants: http://ri.healthinspections.us/RI_EH/. The website contains years’ worth of inspection reports for restaurants throughout the state. These inspection reports are useful not only as a preventive measure to evaluate a restaurant before you eat there, but in the event of an injury at a restaurant, prior inspection reports may prove valuable in establishing that a restaurant was aware of a risk and failed to take an appropriate corrective action. Another good source of information are social media sites like Yelp that provide restaurant reviews and can be an additional source of notice to a restaurant of a condition that impacts patron safety.

Finally, restaurants can owe a duty not only to its patrons, but to third parties who are injured due to the actions or failure to act of the restaurant and/or its employees. The most prominent example is when a restaurant serves too many alcoholic beverages to a patron and that patron causes injury to another, such as an accident caused by a drunk driver. In this kind of case, known as a dram shop action, a restaurant may be legally responsible if they served booze to an individual the restaurant knew to be intoxicated.

In the unfortunate event that you or a loved one suffers an injury, feel free to contact the attorneys at Decof, Decof & Barry, P.C. to discuss your case. They have decades of experience reaching successful results for injured persons and their families in a broad range of personal injury cases, including for injuries that occurred at restaurant.

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