Premises liability refers to personal injury claims asserted against a defendant who owns, possesses, or controls the premises when an injury occurs. Slip and falls in markets, restaurants, office or apartment buildings are classic examples of premises liability lawsuits.
The key issues in personal injury slip and fall cases are whether the owner or possessor had notice of the injury causing condition and whether appropriate steps were taken to protect those persons who are reasonably expected to be on the premises, including properly warning them.
The first key issue is to show that the owner or possessor had notice of the condition through actual or construction notice [knowledge]. How do we show actual notice? If, for example, a shopper in a Department store slips on wet floors in the men’s restroom which had been recently mopped by the janitorial crew, the store is deemed to have had actual notice of the condition because its employees created the condition.
However, defendants rarely admit to having been aware of a dangerous condition on their premises. Hence, more commonly, we have to show that the owner or possessor had constructive notice of the condition. ‘Constructive notice’ means that the condition was present for a sufficient period of time so that the defendant owner or possessor would have been aware of it if they had conducted a reasonable inspection of the premises.
There is no hard and fast rule and every case is decided on its own facts.
For example, a drink spills in a Supermarket aisle on mid-day Sunday (the busiest time of the week for the market) and goes undiscovered for 30 minutes. In a personal injury action against the Supermarket, a jury could find that the Supermarket had constructive notice of the spill because it was present for a sufficient period of time so that it would have been discovered if the Supermarket had inspected its premises. However, if the same spill occurs on late-night Wednesday (slowest time of the week) and left undetected for 30 minutes, a jury might find that a sufficient period of time had not lapsed for the store to have detected the spill. Why would a jury rule differently in these two personal injury actions? In the first scenario, the jury may find that because of the increased number of shoppers, there was a greater likelihood that a spill could occur and hence, the Supermarket should have inspected its premises earlier, and if it had, it would have discovered the spill.
The second key issue is to show that you were injured because appropriate steps were not taken to protect you, a person who was reasonably expected to be on the premises. For example, the restroom was not closed when the floors were wet, or the area of the spill was not cordoned off, or that the warning was not sufficient enough to place you on notice that the area posed a danger and that you should stay away.
As with the first issue, each case is decided on its own facts.
Because of the key issues discussed above, it becomes imperative that you proceed with an experienced lawyer in premises liability and slip and fall actions. This article strictly talks about California law. Laws in other states may differ. This article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to serve as legal advice. You should always contact an attorney to discuss any legal matter.
If you have a personal injury case, such as an accident, slip and fall, dog bite, etc., and want to get an honest assessment of your case and be educated as to your options, please give us a call.
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