Tennessee businesses have a responsibility to keep their customers safe from unreasonably dangerous conditions on their property. In an August 18, 2017 case, the Court of Appeals reviewed a Tennessee injury claim brought by a plaintiff who slipped and fell at a local restaurant. After the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff filed an appeal.
The plaintiff in the case was picking up lunch from the restaurant for approximately 25-30 people, including drinks and bags of ice. After picking up a box containing food and a bag of ice, the plaintiff turned to leave and fell. She testified that the floor wasn’t wet when she entered the restaurant, but when she fell, she was lying in water on the floor. She also stated that the bag of ice felt mostly like water. The manager of the restaurant testified in his deposition that the ice had been set out for a while and that condensation from the bag of ice had dripped onto the floor. The plaintiff also offered testimony from her expert, who asserted that the industry norm is to store bags of ice in a freezer until the customer arrives to pick up the order.
In Tennessee, a negligence claim requires a plaintiff to prove: (1) a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff; (2) conduct by the defendant falling below the standard of care, amounting to a breach of the duty; (3) an injury or loss; (4) causation in fact; and (5) proximate causation. In a premises liability case, a business owner or occupier has a duty to exercise reasonable care with regard to customers on the premises. This duty includes the responsibility to remove or warn against hidden dangerous conditions of which the occupier was aware or should have been aware.