Gilbert sets bench trial in slip, fall suit against Steak N' Shake

By Takesha Thomas | Mar 21, 2019

BENTON -- U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert scheduled a bench trial in a woman's case alleging she fell inside a Steak N' Shake restaurant and suffered a broken hip. 

On March 12, Gilbert denied a motion for summary judgment filed by Steak N' Shake Enterprises in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in a 2017 negligence case. The matter involving now-deceased Marilyn Mitchell and special administrator Michael Mitchell has been scheduled for a May 20 bench trial. 

Gilbert concluded that Steak N' Shake failed to “show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact." 

He added that while reviewing the material facts, "the court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, here, Mitchell, and draw all reasonable inferences her favor."

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In April 2017, Marilyn Mitchell filed suit against the restaurant, alleging she suffered physical injuries, pain and medical expenses as a result of Steak N' Shake's "failure to provide proper maintenance of the premises to avoid any accident." 

Additionally, she alleged the restaurant "failed to warn patrons of the dangerous condition and failed to put warning signs surrounding the wet condition." 

According to the complaint, after dining at a Steak N' Shake restaurant in April 2015, Mitchell fell on the floor as she was attempting to leave. She allegedly broke her hip as a result of the fall. The suit states that security footage from the restaurant shows employees mopping the floor in the area where Mitchell was sitting, near the cash register area and near the front door of the restaurant. 

In all cases, the suit alleges, employees put out yellow-caution signs indicating that the area was wet.

A store manager then processed Mitchell's receipt before allowing her to go up to the register, the suit states. 

However, "Mitchell stood up and slowly walked to the front door of the establishment—directly through the area that had recently been mopped—and suddenly slipped backward, breaking her hip," the suit states.

Attorneys for Steak N' Shake argued that the restaurant is not liable for Mitchell's injury, "because the recently mopped floors posed a known or obvious danger—specifically because Mitchell received warnings about the wet floors both from the yellow signs as well as alleged verbal warnings from employees."

Gilbert concluded that "although Steak N' Shake warned Mitchell of the recently mopped floors through the placement of the yellow signs, the video footage makes clear that Steak N' Shake should have expected that Mitchell would walk across that area anyway." 

"The general manager certainly knew Mitchell was about to stand up and leave, considering she admitted at her deposition that she took Mitchell’s payment up to the register for her because she did not want Mitchell to 'undertake the risk of walking from where she was sitting to where the cashier was,'" Gilbert added. "But after the transaction was completed, the manager then watched Mitchell stand up and across the recently mopped area in front of the front door anyway—which any customer would have to walk through in order to leave the building."

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