You Be the Judge: The Case of the Falling Filmgoer

Should a movie theater pay when a patron takes a spill?

By Vicki Glembocki
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine March 2014

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The Verdict

It took three courts four years to make a final decision in the case. In 2005, a state judge in Clayton County, Georgia, threw out the case, ruling that AMC had “properly positioned” the sign. The judge based his dismissal on a similar case that he said had set a precedent in trip-and-fall cases. In that 2002 case, the judge had found that a bakery wasn’t liable for a woman’s injuries because the Wet Floor sign she had tripped over hadn’t been down long enough for an employee to notice.

The Browns appealed, arguing that their case deserved to be heard because AMC had placed the sign in the path of a herd of people and should have known the sign would become a hazard.

In 2008, the Court of Appeals of Georgia agreed with the Browns and ordered a trial by jury. AMC appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia. “If a business fails to put a sign over a spill, they can be sued. If they do, they can be sued. What are they supposed to do?” Ziegler asked during the case. But the Supreme Court ruling went in favor of the Browns. AMC didn’t fulfill “its legal duty to avoid creating an unreasonable risk of foreseeable harm 
to the public,” wrote the court.

In 2009, the case went to trial in Clayton County, in front of the same judge who had reviewed it four years earlier. The jury deliberated for less than 30 minutes and then ruled that AMC was not liable and that Brown, who passed away in August 2012, would not receive any compensation.

Was justice served? Is the theater liable for Brown’s fall? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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  • Your Comments

    • anonymous

      They put up the wet floor sign, and that’s all they had to do. The person who knocked over the sign should have put it back up.

    • gtbmel .

      I agree with the ruling. This was an accident. Everyone is at risk to have something similar happen to them. Its life. If it were me I would have tried to avoid the big crowd by either leaving as soon as the movie finished or staying to watch the credits while everyone else rushed to the doors. I could have even stood against the wall out of the way of the crowd until it passed by. People just need to be aware and use common sense and if something unfortunate happens they shouldn’t start looking for someone to blame. *hit happens, deal with it.

    • Ron.

      The ruling was just. The case should not have gone on for as long as it did. A patron created the hazard by spilling a drink, the business cleaned it up and posted a warning for the public. I don’t have the best of eyesight, but I always look where I step, even a crowd. It’s the same as driving, you have to look in front, to the left and to the right and to the rear. I’m sure that the woman had good enough vision to see the movie, then she certainly should have been able to see an obstacle in front her!