Property Owner/Operator Liability Requires Notice of the Dangerous Condition on the Premises

Premises liability requires the owner/operator to have knowledge of the dangerous condition prior to the injury occurring.

If you have suffered an injury due to a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to recover damages for your injuries. A Memphis personal injury lawyer can assist you in determing whether you have a case and will be able to successfully hold the property owner or operator liable for your injuries.

In a Tennessee premises liability case, a successful claimant must prove that the property owner or operator negligently allowed a dangerous condition to exist on the premises, and that the claimant was injured as a result of the dangerous condition. One of the specific requirements of proving that a property owner or operator negligently permitted a dangerous condition to exist on the premises is showing that the owner or operator had notice of the dangerous condition prior to the claimant being injured. This requirement is distinct to premises liability cases, and exists because owner/operator liability for an injury on the premises is not based simply on the ownership or ocupancy of the place where the injury occurs, but because the owner/operator is more knowledgable about the premises than someone who is there for a short time on business or just visiting and is in a better position to prevent the injury from occurring.

Notice of the dangerous condition can be proven in two (2) ways – actual notice orconstructive notice:

What is actual notice?

Proving actual notice of a dangerous condition simply means showing that the  condition was actually created or caused by the owner or operator of the premises, or their agent or employee, or if created by someone else, that the owner/operator was aware of the dangerous condition prior to the injury occurring and failed to take proper steps to remedy the condition and prevent injury.

Examples of actual notice:

1. A homeowner builds faulty steps to their front door, then when a visitor attempts to walk up the steps the steps give way and cause injury to the visitor.

2. A patron of a hardware store accidetnally spills a can of oil in the aisle of the store. The patronn then reports the spill to the store manager. Rather than cleaning it up in a timely manner, the store manager leaves it for an employee to clean up later, however, prior to being cleaned up a patron steps in the spill, falls and injures themselves.

In the two examples above, the owner/operator had actual notice of the dangerous condition prior to the injury and can be held liable for damages.

What is constructive notice?

In the simplest terms, constructive notice of a dangerous condition occurs when the owner/operator of the premises does not have actual notice of the dangerous condition, but due to the specific circumstances of the incident, they should have had notice of the dangerous condition prior to the occurrence of the injury. Constructive notice can be established in two ways: 1.) by showing that the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time prior to the injury that the owner/operator should have become aware of the condition; or 2.) by showing that the dangerous condition was a recurring incident or a continuing condition. An example of each type is listed below.

Examples of constructive notice:

1. A patron at a buffet spills gravy in the floor. Although no one reports this spill to the employees of the buffet, the spill remains on the floor for about an hour, then another customer walks through and slips and falls in the spilled gravy. This passage of time between the spill and the fall would likely be enough to establish constructive notice on the part of the buffet.

2. A service station repeatedly has slick oil and gas spills in its parking lot due to all of the cars coming through on a daily basis. Despite this recurring problem, the service station does not take steps to fix th slick spots in the lot. Ultimately, a customer slips and falls on one of the oil spots when attempting to walk into the store and injures themselves. This recurring problem of slick spots in the parking lot may be sufficient to show constructive notice on the part of the owner/operator of the service station.

The issue of a premises owner or operator having notice of the dangerous injury causing condition is almost always the most difficult issue to prove in a case. The experienced and skilled Tennnessee premises liability lawyers at Bailey & Greer understand this issue and would be happy to explore this, or any other matter, further with you. To learn more about your legal options or to ask us questions about premises liability cases, schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a friendly Bailey & Greer attorney. Just visit our Free Consultation page or call Bailey & Greer now at 901-680-9777.