In 2016 a hotel guest raised claims against her travel agency due to an incident at the breakfast buffet involving pepper.
A lot can happen due to faulty supervision in today's highly technologized world. If a mechanic forgets to check your tires, it can result in bodily injuries as well as damage in property. The same goes for architects who overlook a miscalculation in a building plan, an IT-engineer who slips an error into his program code or a lawyer who overlooks a deadline.
Errors like that will of course be punished and the culprit will be held responsible for his mistakes. Rightfully one could argue, following the famous saying "with great power comes great responsibility".
But according to the Austrian Supreme Court, it doesn’t even need mediocre power to be held responsible. Sometimes a piece of vegetable is all it takes.
In 2016 a hotel guest was about to get her well-deserved breakfast from the buffet when the accident happened. Fully focused on the culinary delights unfolding in front of her, she didn't notice the malicious piece of pepper that somehow found its way to the floor and slipped on it. For the suffered injuries the women then raised claims against the travel agency.
The Supreme Court ruled that, if a well visible piece of pepper is already on the floor when the employee inspects the buffet area and he doesn't remove it, it's to be seen as a breach of due diligence and therefore damages claims are to be granted. Furthermore the court stated that it doesn't depend on how long the vegetable was lying on the floor, as long as the act of picking it up can be seen as a reasonable and effective measure to avoid such an incident. According to Austrian law this justifies not only the liability of the employee, but also of the hotel as well as the travel agency, although the court decided on joint guilt to an extent of 50% as it can be expected from a guest to keep an eye on the floor while walking. (1 Ob 158/16s)