WCM New Jersey Office Partner Denise Ricci was quoted in the March 5, 2014 issue of the New Jersey Law Journal on the implications of the appellate division’s decision in the case of Prioleau v. Kentucky Fried Chicken. In the case, the plaintiff slipped and fell on her way to the bathroom in a KFC fast food restaurant. She alternately described water or grease on the floor as the cause of her fall. She specifically claimed that a kitchen employee may have carried grease on the bottom of his/her shoes from the kitchen (where the food is deep fried) on the way to the restroom. Employees testified that from time to time, grease does get on the kitchen floor. They used separate mops for the dining area and kitchen. The plaintiff attempted to use the mode of operations argument to reduce her required burden of proof. The majority of a three judge appellate panel held that the mode of operation doctrine is very limited and applies only when self service is involved. The dissenting judge felt that it could apply in this instance. Because of the divided panel, the plaintiff can appeal as of right to New Jersey’s Supreme Court.
The NJLJ asked WCM Partner Denise Ricci (who is familiar with the issue) to comment on the case. Denise was cited as saying that majority was correct and the doctrine is a very limited exception to the rule that a plaintiff must prove notice of the hazardous condition blamed for the injury. She noted that in Prioleau, there was no lettuce or other clearly identifiable part of KFC’s operations that caused the fall.
For more information about the Arroyo case, please contact Denise at firstname.lastname@example.org.