Slip and fall injuries are typically caused by some unreasonably dangerous condition like a puddle of water or ice. In order for a victim to recover, the defendant must have had some actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition. Actual notice is exactly what it sounds like: the defendant was actually informed of the condition either by being told or seeing it in person. Constructive notice however, is a slightly more complicated concept. Constructive notice for slip and fall claims is when the defendant, while exercising reasonable diligence, should have known about the dangerous condition under the given circumstances. If the victim cannot prove that the defendant had either actual or constructive notice, there is typically no liability.
Constructive notice for slip and fall claims gives the victim another means of collecting against the defendant. Without constructive notice for slip and fall claims, the defendant would be able to claim they never had actual notice of the dangerous condition and rely on their own ignorance of the dangerous condition to avoid liability. By allowing a victim to claim that the defendant had constructive notice of the dangerous condition, it imposes a duty on the defendant to be on the lookout and inspect their premises for potential dangerous conditions.
However, constructive notice for slip and fall claims is limited due to the existence of certain factors. Some examples are: the amount of time that the condition exists on the property, where the dangerous condition is on the property, or what type of dangerous condition it is. For example, if a shopper drops a gallon of milk in a grocery store and within seconds, another shopper slips on the mess, it would be hard to prove that the grocery store had constructive notice of the dangerous condition. However, if the same accident occurred and several hours passed, it is reasonable to assume that the store was put on constructive notice of the dangerous condition since it should have known through a reasonable inspection of the hazard.
Although this example seems to make constructive notice for slip and fall claims pretty clear, things can start to get hazy depending on the differing circumstances and time frames that exist in each individual scenario. Generally however, the longer the period of time of the existence of a dangerous condition, the higher the likelihood of constructive notice.
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James Minick is a criminal defense attorney in Asheville, NC and is the owner of Minick Law, P.C.