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Does Your Business Shift The Burden Of Proof (NJ)?

August 18, 2023

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<p style="text-align: justify;">New Jersey Courts have widely recognized the “mode-of-operation rule”. Under this rule, if the very nature of a business’ operation creates the hazard, then the burden of proof for a negligence claim shifts to the business owner to negate the inference of negligence by providing evidence of due care. Self-service restaurants and supermarkets are all businesses that fall under the “mode-of-operation rule” due to the inherent operation style.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In a recent case, the Appellate Division reviewed a summary judgement motion decided by the lower court arising from a trip and fall incident that occurred inside a bagel shop. <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Aly.pdf">Aly</a><em> v. A &amp; H Bagels &amp; Deli Inc.</em>, A-2726-21, 2023 WL 3295414 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. May 8, 2023). Plaintiff allegedly fell on her way to throw out her trash due to a brown substance on the floor inside an A&amp;H Bagel. The Appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision of granting defendant A&amp;H Bagel’s motion for summary judgment. The appellate court found that A&amp;H bagel could fall under businesses with self-service nature, expanding the type of businesses affected by the “mode-of-operation rule”. The court stressed that at the bagel shop, customers carry their food to their seats after purchasing and later dispose their trash in a receptacle. Such business operation style of customers serving and waiting themselves therefore invokes the “mode-of-operation rule”.</p>
Thanks to Yifan Lin for her contribution to this post. Please contact <a href="haquino@wcmlaw.com">Heather Aquino</a> with any questions.

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