Outback Steakhouse Landlord Found Liable for Patron’s Sidewalk Slip and Fall Injury
A New Jersey appellate court reversed the decision of a lower court to grant a request from one of Outback Steakhouse’s landlords for indemnification from the restaurant in a slip and fall case. A patron who slipped on a sidewalk and suffered an injury while leaving the eatery petitioned the case.
In a per puriam opinion, the Superior Court Judges Stephanie Ann and Thomas W. Sumners Jr. overturned the trial court’s decision to fulfill Hartz Mountain Industries’ request for reimbursement from Outback.
The appellate court said that it is “entirely plausible” that Hartz should have been found entirely responsible for the jury. Hartz had non-delegable duty for the sidewalk maintenance and was obligated by a contract to uphold the location’s condition.
Hartz and Outback had settled the claims made by Kamal Daswani, the patron, who suffered the slip and fall accident because of the presence of black ice on the sidewalk while leaving the restaurant. The incident took place in January 2016 and left Daswani with a critical right ankle fracture and surgery. As per the opinion, Daswani is not a participant in the appeal.
The Superior Court said, “By settling the claim, and thereby obviating any allocation of fault by the trier of fact, there is simply no basis to require Outback to indemnify Hartz for some unknown percentage of fault.” Judges Stephanie Ann and Thomas W. Sumners Jr. agreed with the argument of Outback that there was an absence of any language in an indemnification agreement from 2005 that called for the restaurant to compensate Hartz for its negligence.
Since the indemnification agreement neither excluded nor mentioned the negligence of Hartz, the trial court called for Hartz’s reimbursement. However, the appellate court found that the failure to prove any reference to Hartz’s negligence nullified its claim.
The decision stated that the example set by the Azurak v. Corp. Prop. Inv’rs case “is one of inclusion, not exclusion.” The judges added that the contract did not specifically allow for compensation to parties against losses incurred, as the intention behind indemnification is not expressed.
The appellate court rejected the argument put forth by Outback that a lower court erred by contesting the motion of the summary judgment’s issue of liability.
As per the common law, the appellate judges said that the commercial tenants are responsible for injuries due to accidents occurring at the adjoining sidewalk.
The opinion stated, “The judge correctly found that Outback had a duty to maintain safe premises, which included areas of ingress and egress, and there were issues of fact concerning whether Outback breached its duty that precluded summary judgment.”