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New Jersey Supreme Court orders retrial in slip-and-fall case

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Monday that a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Cherry Hill will have the chance to defend itself against slip-and-fall charges in a retrial. The supreme court justices ruled that a lower court provided improper instructions to the jury that decided the previous case, which found the KFC negligent and liable for the slip-and-fall event.

In the previous trial, the jury awarded the injured plaintiff $138,000 relating to injures she suffered when she slipped outside of a KFC restroom in Southern New Jersey. During the trial, the lower court improperly informed the jury that a burden of proof exemption existed in the matter, but the exemption does not apply to restaurants like KFC. According to the appellate court, the exemption only applies to establishments where patrons handle food equipment and products themselves.

The plaintiff, who hails from Delaware, did not immediately go to the hospital after the fall, but when she returned to Delaware, she went to the emergency room complaining of pain, tingling and/or numbness in her back, legs and arms.

According to the woman’s attorney, KFC employees negligently tracked grease that their shoes had collected in the kitchen, and brought that grease into restaurant bathrooms used by patrons. In most situations like this, customers must prove that the business knew about the dangerous and slippery conditions in order to prevail. However, in some situations an exception that does not require this burden of proof exists — which jurors were told was the situation in this case.

According to the appellate court, this exception was applied in error, so it vacated the previous judgment and will give KFC another chance to defend itself in the case. It is not uncommon for defendants to challenge a positive award for damages in a slip-and-fall case. If a previous award is vacated and a retrial is ordered, then it will be necessary for the plaintiff prove his or her claims for damages again — perhaps using a slightly different legal strategy the next time.

Source: nj.com, “N.J. Supreme Court orders new trial in KFC greasy floor injury case,” Samantha Marcus, Sep. 28, 2015

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