A popular San Francisco restaurant was recently ordered by a jury to pay $134,956 to a patron who was severely injured after he fell down a flight of poorly lit stairs. This is one of many premises liability lawsuits being filed against Northern California restaurants as a result of a growing trend of restaurants packing many patrons into unconventional dark bar spaces. Although reclaimed warehouses and other industrial spaces can create a unique rustic ambiance, restaurateurs should be careful not to sacrifice patron safety for the sake of style.
During trial, the restaurant patron was able to show that the restaurant was negligent in allowing bar patrons to stand around the bar's end cap. The edge of the bar was only a few inches from the stairwell, and the crowd around the end cap blocked the restaurant patron's view of the stairs behind them. The fact that the restaurant was dark also made it hard for the patron to notice the stairs before he fell.
The man fell down 13 stairs and suffered a compound forearm fracture, a separated shoulder and a torn rotator cuff.
Attorneys for the restaurant maintained that the stairwell was "open and obvious," properly lit, and up to San Francisco building code.
Source: Stephens vs. Bossa Nova, 41 Trials Digest 15th 17, 2012 WL 4846506 (Cal.Super.)