While I no longer am a member of the SBL, occassionally somebody there will forward something to me from there to ask my opinion about it.
And that leads to today’s topic.
The story is that a guy was eating lunch, barefoot, with some friends in a restaurant when the manager comes up to him and calls him out about it.
Our Hero asks why, and is told “liability.” So he offers to sign a waiver. Nope. Because, he was countered, it’s against the Health Code.
He then explained that it wasn’t against the Health Code at all, and the restaurant manager switched to the usual, “It’s our policy.” So our hero went and got flip-flops.
What got the situation into my hands for an opinion was what happened afterwards.
It turned out that one of the guys he was eating with owned a pub, so Our Hero asked if he could eat at that pub barefoot.
And he got the same littany: “Health Code”. After that, “If you were injured, you could sue me.” And Our Hero said no, that the Georgia Supreme Court had ruled in a case involving a barefoot customer in a Kroger who had cut their foot, and that if the customer could have reasonably prevented the injury, Kroger wasn’t liable.
I have a few problems with this.
First, that doesn’t mean a business cannot be sued. A business can always be sued, for any reason, even stupid ones. You can sue them for having apples you think are too green. Of course, the case will be immediately tossed, but you still had the expense and bother of hiring lawyers to get it tossed.
Regarding liability, Our Hero is probably referring to the principle of contributory negligence, which applies, one way or another, in most states. That principle basically says that if the customer was more than 50% responsible for their injury, they collect nothing. And if they were partly responsible (but still less than 50%), the reward gets reduced by the amount of that responsibility. For instance, if the jury found the barefooter 20% responsible, and reward would be reduced 20%.
So, it does not mean that the restaurant could not be sued. In most cases there would have to be a trial that went to a jury to determine how liable the store was (and how responsible the barefoot customer was).
No, the real issue here, I think, is that I doubt there is a jury in the world that would award anything to a barefooter. Furthermore, if you look at accident statistics, what are really dangerous in stores and restaurants are high heels and flip-flops. Those account for a huge proportion of slip-and-fall injuries. Yet we never see a business banning them while spouting liability nonsense. What should be pointed out is that there is no good business reason for banning a barefooter, and that they are buying into some myth of barefoot lawsuits.
But there is one more issue here that I really need to highlight.
There is no such Barefoot v. Kroger case.
I did an extensive search in a legal database looking for it, or something that came close. There is nothing in Georgia with such a barefoot injury in any grocery store. There is nothing regarding Kroger nationwide. It simply does not exist.
Now, I don’t know if Our Hero really thought such a ruling existed, or if he made it up on the spot. But either way, it makes me very uncomfortable.
We are often the victims of people making up crap, from barefoot driving to health codes to liability. A lot of it comes because people don’t bother to take the care to get things right, and they rest upon their arrogance.
As far as I’m concerned, we must be above that. Suppose the other restaurant owner, who knows a lot of people, happens to ask a lawyer about it. That lawyer also will see that no such case exists and will tell the restaurant owner. And the restaurant owner will start to think that barefooters cannot be trusted and will say any old thing to get into and stay in a store.
I think we must be held to a high standard, and we have to get our facts right. Otherwise, we have nothing to complain about when others don’t, to our detriment.