Being on someone else’s property, with foreign objects and unpredictable scenarios, is a slip-and-fall case waiting to happen. But when it actually happens, the victim has the burden of proof. Their premises liability claim must establish how the proprietor breached their duty of care by failing to address dangerous conditions in their premises despite being aware of them, and thereby causing an accident with risk of injury and other damages.
However, a useful tool for claimants could be a legal doctrine called the “mode of operation.” This rule shifts the burden to the property owner. The presumption is that they are negligent, unless proof rebuts it by showing that they did what any reasonably cautious person would do when faced with potential danger.
But as in every situation, there are exceptions.
The rule’s applicability in limited circumstances
A New Jersey Supreme Court ruling limited the rule’s applicability with the following factors:
- Only for businesses with self-service models for their customers
- Only within areas where self-service operations and other relevant activities take place, but extended zones may be possible depending on the situation
- Encompasses customer and employee mishandling, the product’s inherently risky composition, or the manner goods have been stored or displayed
With the mentioned elements, the usual establishments involved are groceries and restaurants with self-service bars. But, in some cases, the court may decline the mode of operation rule if it deems no connection exists between the slip or fall and the alleged hazard. Accordingly, businesses may contend that their company policy prohibits product tampering, which justifies their safely sealed packaging.
Keeping abreast with the law
Knowing about legal concepts that may help build and reinforce your case proves vital, especially against businesses with relentless insurance companies. If you work with your legal team in utilizing available resources, you may soon recover compensation for your injuries and losses.