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Thoma v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

Citation. Thoma v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, 649 So. 2d 277 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. Jan. 17, 1995)
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Brief Fact Summary.

In a slip and fall case, the Circuit Court for Leon County (Florida) granted Cracker Barrell Restaurant (Appellee’s) motion for summary judgment, dismissing Deborah Thoma’s (Appellant’s) complaint. Appellant challenged the order.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

To recover for injuries incurred in a slip and fall accident, plaintiff must show that the premises owner either created a dangerous condition or had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition. Notice of a dangerous condition may be established by circumstantial evidence, such as evidence leading to an inference that a substance has been on the floor for a sufficient length of time such that in the exercise of reasonable care the premises owner should have known the condition.


Appellant claimed to have suffered a back injury when she fell in a Cracker Barrel Restaurant in September, 1990. After eating breakfast, Thoma was walking away from her table when her left foot slid out from under her. She fell in the middle of a common aisle, near the passage from the kitchen to the restaurant. When Thoma got up, she noticed that area in which she fell was wet, covered in a small puddle of clear liquid. She contends the liquid was what caused her fall. Thoma was in the restaurant about thirty minutes prior to her accident, and during that time, she did not see anyone spill any liquid on the floor where she fell. She alleged that Cracker Barrel was negligent in failing to maintain the floor in that particular area of the restaurant.


Was summary judgment proper where, in viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, there existed a question as to whether employees exercised due diligence in maintaining the safety of the area in question?


No. Reversed and remanded. The court reversed the grant of summary judgment, holding that it was for a jury to decide whether appellant could establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Appellee created a dangerous condition in its restaurant.


To recover for negligence, a plaintiff must establish each of the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence: duty, standard of care, breach of duty, proximate cause, and damages. The standard of care in negligence law requires a defendant to act as a reasonably prudent person would in the same or a similar situation. If a defendant meets this standard, he is shielded from liability. Failure to act in such a fashion constitutes unreasonable conduct and, thus, is a breach of duty. The reasonable person standard is an objective one, comparing a defendant’s conduct to that of a reasonable person.
In Thoma, the court concluded that there existed enough evidence that a jury might infer negligence, thus there existed an issue of material fact sufficient to preclude a grant of summary judgment.

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