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"Mode of Operation" within premises liability context

FGA, Inc. v. Giglio

In FGA, Inc. v. Giglio the primary issue before the court is whether the "mode-of-operation" approach, to premises liability, might extend to that of a sit down restaurant. Generally speaking, a business owes its customers a duty in keeping its premises in a reasonably safe condition. When an employee, or agent of the business, causes a foreign substance to be on the floor and a patron is injured liability will typically be found. Additionally, where the owner, employee, or agent did not cause the substance spillage but had actual or constructive notice of the substance and injury resulted, then liability may also fall on the business. The mode-of-operation approach expands these limitations on liability.

The mode-of-operation approach essentially extends premises liability in contexts where the owner of an establishment has replaced the roll of employees with that of the customer; via self-service, or perhaps by way of technology. In this context the customer essentially becomes the employee for purposes of liability. So that if the negligence of a customer creates a hazardous or dangers condition liability will extend to the owner in the same way in which it would if an employee had created the condition. For example, self-help grocery stores wherein the customer completes their own checkouts in lieu of employees.

Here, the Supreme Court declined to extend the mode-of-operation approach to that of the sit down restaurant. Finding an absence in proof that business owners created an increased risk of potentially hazardous conditions by having the customers perform activities typically carried out by employees, the court would not extend mode-of-operation liability.

Categories: Personal Injury