Celebrity chefs must cope with the same restaurant issues that any other chef encounters, as popular Food Network host Bobby Flay recently learned. One of those issues is ensuring that the walkways of the restaurant are clear of obstructions that might cause a patron to slip and fall. It would appear that Flay’s New York eatery, Mesa Grill, recently failed to adhere to these requirements under the law. One customer, who fell down a short flight of stairs has sued the restaurant for $5 million dollars.

To some, the amount of compensation requested may seem rather high, however the elderly woman who was injured suffered brain damage and internal bleeding from her fall and required two months of hospitalization. Often the medical bills for both the immediate treatment and the long-term recovery can be just as catastrophic as the accident itself.

Sandler sued Flay in September of this year, and two months later, records indicate that the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed-presumably because the woman received a settlement from Flay’s attorneys.

A Restaurant Owner’s Duty to Patrons

Restaurants and other public places have a legal duty to their customers to make the premises reasonably safe, and furthermore to warn visitors of any dangers that the customers might not otherwise notice. This duty extends to anything that the restaurant should know about, but which might not be immediately obvious. That means the restaurant has a duty to inspect its premises for any potential dangers.

In addition to those traditional legal duties, restaurants also have legal obligations under the laws of their local city and state, as well as regulations from national agencies, such as OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration). If these rules are not followed, that can be evidence of negligence on the part of the restaurant, as well.

If you have any questions about the legal obligations that govern restaurants or other public places, talk to an experienced attorney-particularly if you’ve been injured.