Florida statutory laws can be used to find a restaurant owner negligent, and therefore responsible to compensate a victim for his or her injuries.
Based on the theory of negligence, anyone injured inside a restaurant or outside within its property lines may have a case against its owners and operators for personal injury damages.
In the State of Florida, a claim for negligence requires an injury victim to prove four (4) legal elements with admissible evidence:
- the defendant’s duty of care to the plaintiff;
- the breach of that duty;
- this breach was the proximate cause of the accident; and
- the victim was harmed as a result.
However, if a plaintiff can show that a restaurant owner or operator violated any number of statutes, then the victim may be able to argue that a violation of the statute is in of itself evidence of negligence. This may eliminate the need to prove the above 4 elements to prevail in their injury claim.
Accident Claims Based Upon Florida Restaurant Statutes
For those injured in an accident on the premises of a Florida restaurant, the following safety and welfare statutes governing the restaurant industry here may establish a negligence claim and assist with the recovery of damages.
1. Proper State Food Service License; Food Standards And Requirements
Florida restaurants must be licensed by the state to serve food and drinks to their patrons. This is the license given to all “food service establishments,” no matter their size or location. The license must be current, and this law defines what is required to get (and keep) a restaurant license to operate.
This law also defines the duty of care for the restaurant to never serve food that is unfit for human consumption. The food service establishment also has a defined legal duty to never knowingly and willfully misrepresent the identity of any food or food product to any of the patrons.
2. Training Of Restaurant Employees
Florida law sets up the particular kind of training that everyone working at a food service establishment must have before beginning work at the restaurant. This is for public safety reasons. This statute also defines the duty of each restaurant to designate someone to provide the training (this person, usually a restaurant manager, must be certified to do so).
Additionally, this statute requires that all the restaurant’s employees finish their training within 60 days from the date they are hired.
The training is good for three years and must comport with a state-approved food safety training program.
3. Protecting Patrons From The “Undesirable Guest”
Florida legislation requires the restaurant operator to be alert to certain kinds of guests who pose a risk to the other patrons. The management must remove this “undesirable guest,” or to take steps to have them removed (e.g., calling the police).
Who is an “Undesirable Guest” in a Florida Restaurant?
Under the statute, these guests must be on the premises of the establishment before this duty of care applies to the restaurant. They are defined as anyone:
- illegally possessing or dealing in controlled substances as defined in Florida Chapter 893;
- drunk or intoxicated;
- using profane or lewd language;
- fighting or brawling;
- indulging in “any language or conduct which disturbs the peace and comfort of other guests,” which is a separate type of conduct from swearing or using profanity;
- indulging in “any language or conduct … which injures the reputation, dignity, or standing of the establishment”;
- who does not pay for food, beverages, or services;
- anyone whose “continued entertainment of whom would be detrimental to such establishment,” as long as this is not discriminatory (e., based upon race, creed, color, sex, physical disability, or national origin).
The duty of the restaurant is to (1) notify the undesirable guest that the establishment no longer “desires to entertain the guest,” and (2) request that he or she “immediately depart.” from the establishment. If the notice is given in writing, the statute includes specific language that must be included in the document:
“You are hereby notified that this establishment no longer desires to entertain you as its guest, and you are requested to leave at once. To remain after receipt of this notice is a misdemeanor under the laws of this state.”
This is a serious legal duty, to police the premises on behalf of the patrons. The statute mandates that any guest who remains or attempts to remain in any such establishment after being requested to leave by the restaurant management is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree as provided in Florida Statutes 775.082 – 083.
This means that the restaurant management must call the police if the “undesirable guest” refuses to comply with the notice to depart.
4. Protecting Patrons From Choking
Under Florida law, every food service establishment must post an Emergency First Aid Sign for Choking. It must (1) illustrate visually and (2) describe in words how to perform the “Heimlich Maneuver” to someone who is choking.
The restaurant employees must be ready to render emergency first aid to any choking victim who is (1) in a “conspicuous place” in the establishment that is (2) accessible to the employees.
Florida restaurants have a legal duty to train and familiarize employees with the Heimlich Maneuver method of first aid.
However, there is a specific limitation on this duty in the statute. The law states that it cannot be read to impose upon a restaurant or its employee a legal duty to render emergency assistance.
The law also states that neither the establishment nor its employee shall be held liable for any civil damages as the result of such act or omission, when the establishment or employee acts as an “ordinary reasonably prudent person” would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.
5. Protecting Patrons From Fire
Under this law, there is a legal duty to have sprinklers in place to fight a restaurant fire and protect patrons (and employees) only if the establishment has a fire area occupancy load of 200 patrons or more in its dining area.
6. Protecting Patrons From Contagious Disease
If any worker at the restaurant gets sick, the restaurant has a legal duty to make sure they stay home until they are well. It includes any waitperson, busboy, hostess, etc., who may have a boil or sore on their hands, arms, or feet.
Specifically, under the law this applies to anyone “suffering from any contagious or communicable disease, while a carrier of such disease, or while afflicted with boils or infected wounds or sores.”
This employee cannot work at the restaurant in any task or job where there is a chance that his or her disease could be transmitted to others. This is a legal duty placed upon the restaurant. Along with it is a duty to notify the proper state or local health authority if the management thinks the employee is so ill as to pose a public health risk (which arguably extends this duty of care way beyond the patrons and employees).
7. Protecting Patrons From Unsanitary Conditions In Restrooms And Toilets
Under Florida law, all restaurants and “food service establishments” must have potable water supplied to the premises, with a plumbing system meeting the requirements of the Florida Building Code.
This duty also means that the restaurant must provide adequate “sanitary facilities” for the employees. This includes things like sinks and handwashing basins, as well as restrooms and toilets. If the type of establishment means the employees need a shower on the premises, then the restaurant has a legal duty to provide one.
As for restaurant patrons, there must be separate public bathroom facilities that comply with the Florida Building Code. They must be approved by the local building authority.
Each food service establishment shall provide soap, as well as clean towels or other approved hand-drying devices, in both employee restrooms and bathroom facilities designated for the patrons.
This statute also extends this legal duty imposed upon the restaurant to the underlying sewage system for the establishment. Under this law, the owner or operator must make sure that the restaurant’s wastewater or sewage is properly treated onsite, or discharged into an approved sewage collection and treatment system.
8. Protecting Patrons From Heat And Darkness
All Florida restaurants must have proper utilities provided for their guests. Under this Florida Statute, the food service establishment shall be properly:
- Cooled and
Moreover, there is an overall legal duty imposed here that the restaurant must be operated with “strict regard to the health, comfort, and safety of the guests.” In the law, that single word “strict” brings a great responsibility upon the restaurant: it makes this a primary responsibility for the owner and operator.
Making sure that there is enough light for the guests to see is given special consideration. The statute makes it clear that “….proper lighting shall be construed to apply to both daylight and artificial illumination.”
9. Protecting Patrons From Vermin
There is a specific Florida statute dealing with vermin and food service establishments. The operator must take “effective measures” to make sure that the restaurant is protected from (1) the entrance and (2) the breeding on the premises of all vermin. If any vermin are discovered, then the duty extends to having the establishment fumigated, disinfected, renovated, with other corrective action as needed until the vermin are exterminated.
The word “vermin” is not defined in the law itself. Under the Florida Pest Control Act, “vermin” are distinguished from “rodents” and arguably, “vermin” can include any animals or insects known to carry disease, such as rats, cockroaches, or fleas.
Federal Statutes Creating Legal Duties For Florida Restaurants
In addition to state laws (and local ordinances), there are several federal laws that apply to public accommodations and may arise in a Florida accident claim filed by someone who has been hurt or injured in a Florida restaurant. These include:
10. Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is civil rights legislation enacted by Congress in 1990 (and amended in 2008) to protect the rights of disabled Americans by outlawing, among other things, the exclusion of people with disabilities from enjoying a meal at a local restaurant.
This includes patrons who use mobility aides like wheelchairs, scooters, canes, or walkers, as well as those needing service animals.
Under the ADA, restaurant owners and operators have the duty of care regarding disabled patrons the following:
1.Insure there is adequate room to move and travel through:
- Seating areas
- self-serve stations
- ordering and pick-up counters.
2. Making sure that dining areas have:
- accessible seating for patrons with mobility aides (wheelchair, scooter)
- accessible areas for patrons with service animals.
The ADA defines an “accessible table” as a table-top surface that is no higher than 34 inches above the floor with clear space underneath at least 27 inches high (so those using wheelchairs can get their feet and knees under the table).
Note: There can be overlapping duties of care here. Under the ADA, the restaurant must ask the owner’s permission before moving a mobility device to an area that is safely out of the way for other patrons as well as wait staff to pass by the disabled patron’s table.
Slip And Falls On Restaurant Premises
The Florida Legislature has passed a specific law that controls all accident cases based upon slip and fall accidents (or trip and falls) that happen on restaurant property. This is the Florida Premises Liability law governing “transitory foreign substances in a business establishment.”
We have discussed the specifics of this premises liability law in detail and how the “negligence” doctrine operates in Florida restaurant slip and falls here:
What Should You Do?
If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident in a restaurant property or on the surrounding premises, then an experienced personal injury attorney may be of great help.
First, it can be advantageous to have a Florida personal injury lawyer help you make a demand for damages to the restaurant owner or operator. Knowing which documents and what information to include in your demand letter can save a lot of time and effort when dealing with an insurance adjuster. This is particularly true if the restaurant is a franchise or part of a chain that has significant past experience in negotiating injury claims.
If necessary, a Florida personal injury attorney can also file a personal injury lawsuit based upon the restaurant’s breach of its duty to care to you to force the restaurant to turn over any internal reports related to your accident as well as any video surveillance.
Therefore, a good piece of advice if you have a question about Florida’s restaurant laws and their application to a negligence claim, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and knowing how most insurance companies respond to these claims. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
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Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
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