Slip and Falls - Mode of Operation Rule
As a personal injury attorney I handle many slip and fall cases which occur within various and different establishments, including grocery stores, malls, casinos and residential premises. I have found over the years that there is a common misconception: just because you fall and are injured, does NOT mean that you will ultimately be compensated.
Like any other negligence action, a slip and fall requires proof of liability (fault) and damages (injuries). Assuming the damages/injuries are met, for example a broken leg, or a herniated disc, generally, the more difficult issue involves liability. In this regard, one must show the establishment knew or had reason to know of the condition which caused the fall. Every case is different. A slip and fall on a grape in the produce aisle, is much different -- and more likely to occur -- than a slip on a grape in the greeting card aisle of that same store.
New Jersey law recognizes the Mode Of Operation Rule, that is, the law permits an inference of negligence when there is a "substantial risk of injury inherent in a business operator’s method of doing business.” So, for example, if a grocery store patron slips and falls in a self-serve style produce aisle, where it is reasonable to assume fruit and produce will fall on the floor, the plaintiff is relieved of showing actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition.
Instead, the plaintiff is entitled to an inference of negligence, shifting the burden of production to the defendant, who may avoid liability if it shows that it did “all that a reasonably prudent man would do in the light of the risk of injury [the] operation entailed.”
The key is, and always has been…reasonableness. If you or anyone you know has slipped and fallen in a retail establishment, you can contact our firm for a free consultation.