In every 1L Torts class, new law students encounter cases involving plaintiffs who slipped on banana peels. Each case assesses the liability of premises owners based on a variety of factors, such as the condition or location of the peel. But just how many rogue banana peels are out there, anyway? Maybe it is time for casebooks to start updating their material.
They can start with the case of the woman suing a steakhouse chain after slipping on a peanut.
According to a report out of the El Paso Times, a Texas woman is seeking $1 million from Texas Roadhouse after slipping on a peanut shell thrown on the floor by a patron. The restaurant passes out peanuts to patrons and permits the shells to be discarded on the floor. The woman claims that Texas Roadhouse is responsible for the shells and should have either warned her of their presence or removed them.
Aside from the peel/shell distinction, this case is remarkably different than those read in law school. For starters, unlike the banana peel cases, this case doesn’t involve a single item mistakenly left on the floor. For anyone who has ever dined at these “Texas-style” steakhouses, peanut shells are scattered throughout the floor. Their condition is open and obvious.
More importantly, this case involves an object known by the landowner to be on the floor. Questions involving the condition of the shell or how long it has been left on the floor are moot. Instead of debating such minutiae, the inquiry can shift to whether the shells constituted a hazard and whether the plaintiff should have been aware of their presence.
These are, of course, questions that we actually encounter from time to time in our practice.