Do I need to demonstrate that the owner of a property had ‘notice’ in a slip and fall case?
- October 5, 2017
Slip and fall cases are notoriously difficult for courts because there are subjective factors involved. It’s not always easy to determine whether the defendant took reasonable care or was negligent and if the plaintiff demonstrated their own negligence that led to their injuries.
One of the key concepts in slip and fall cases is notice. This refers to the owner of the property knowing that there was a potential hazard on their property and failing to do anything about it. If you are seeking damages in a slip and fall case, proving notice can be very helpful for the court to rule in your favor, but you don’t necessarily need to demonstrate full notice on the property owner’s part.
Determining Liability in Slip and Fall Cases
It’s important to understand that there are different types of notice when it comes to slip and fall cases.
The first type is actual notice, which is the simplest to understand. This means that the owner of the property was aware of a potential hazard. Here are two examples, one on private property and one on commercial property:
• A homeowner’s tub has been leaking for a week. He called a plumber but didn’t want to pay the money to fix it. A guest slipped on the floor because of the leak. The homeowner had notice, but proving this can be a challenge. However, if the guest found out that the homeowner had previously called a plumber, they could use the plumber as a witness to verify the homeowner knew about the leak.
• A business owner spills a drink in the store and doesn’t have it cleaned up. A customer then slips and falls. The business owner obviously had notice because he was the cause of the dangerous condition, but again, the plaintiff’s case will be stronger with proof of this, such as security camera footage showing the business owner spilling the drink.
The second type of notice is constructive notice, and this is where things get tricky. This is essentially what a reasonable person should have known. You may not be able to prove that the property owner knew about the hazard, but you can try to establish that any reasonable person would have.
Let’s say that you slip and fall in the entryway to a business because it has been raining all week and the ground was slick. You can’t prove that the business owner knew about the ground being slick, but a reasonable person would have known about this potential hazard because of the rain.
A Plaintiff’s Negligence Can Also Come into Play
Just like you don’t need to establish actual notice to prove your slip and fall case, it’s not a guaranteed win for you simply because you demonstrate notice. If you were negligent, it can lead receiving less in damages or even seeing your case dismissed.
How might this play out? There are plenty of scenarios where a court could find you negligent.
Say you slip and fall in a store’s entryway because it’s wet and slick. Although this would normally be the property owner’s fault, that can change if you were text messaging while walking. A court could rule that your fall was caused by your own carelessness.
It’s a tricky situation if you were trespassing when the slip and fall occurred. A property owner still has a duty to keep their premises safe, but another factor that comes into play is whether they would be reasonably expecting other people on their property. If someone who lives alone doesn’t get to a repair right away and you fall as a result, but you were trespassing at that time, the court may determine that it isn’t the owner’s fault because they didn’t expect anyone to be there.
Notice may not always be the deciding factor in a slip and fall case, but it will always be important. An experienced personal injury lawyer can be a huge help when it comes to getting the best result with your case. It’s worthwhile to consult with one as soon as possible after you sustain injuries from a fall.