Restaurants can be Liable for Customer using Unintended Door

A recent slip and fall case at a New York City restaurant held a restaurant owner liable when a patron exited through a “side” entrance that had a 7 ½” step down to the sidewalk.  The doorway used by the patron was not its regularly used exit, nor was it a required fire exit.  It was just an exit in the building that the patron happened upon and used.  The lesson here is that as a business owner, you are responsible for the safety of people in your establishment (employees, customers, repair people and other invitees) and you must protect against foreseeable dangers.  Use of a working door is a foreseeable event; even if it is not a door you intend for people to use.  The solution?  Block off the door from use or post a warning sign of the potential danger.  You may also consider having your insurance company perform a risk assessment (or giving you a checklist to perform your own risk assessment) to identify potential lawsuit situations and correct them before an injury occurs.