Actual vs. Constructive Notice in Maryland Premises Liability Cases
When there is a slip and fall at a store or similar business, premises liability enables the injured customer to recover from the business owner. In order to prove a claim of premises liability, the injured party must show that the store or business owner had actual or constructive notice concerning the dangerous condition. Additionally, the injured party must demonstrate that the store or business owner failed to correct the problem or warn visitors of the dangerous condition.
The term actual notice applies when a store or other business has real knowledge of a dangerous condition. There are generally two types of actual notice in this context:
- Personal Knowledge — It qualifies as actual notice if a customer tells a store employee about a dangerous condition. It also qualifies if an employee sees or otherwise learns about a dangerous condition.
- Employee Action — It qualifies as actual notice if a store employee creates the dangerous condition. It does not matter if the employee realizes that they created the dangerous condition.
In either case above, once a single employee has actual notice of a dangerous condition, the entire store is considered to have notice as well. Once the store has actual notice, then there is a duty to rectify the problem or at least issue a warning.
The term constructive notice applies when a store or other business should have known about a dangerous condition. Stated otherwise, the dangerous condition existed for so long that a reasonable actor would have learned about it.
This is a difficult standard to meet, as the injured customer must submit actual proof of how long the dangerous condition existed. It is not enough to provide estimates or guesses. The customer must use actual evidence to demonstrate the timelines in question.
If the injured customer can demonstrate that the store had constructive notice, then there is a duty for the store to rectify the issue or post a warning.
Duty to Rectify or Warn
If the store owner had actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition, then there is generally a duty to rectify the problem or post a warning. For example, if a jar of milk shatters at a grocery store, then the store must:
- Clean up the broken jar and mop the wet surface; and/or
- Post a warning to customers to avoid the dangerous area.
If the store fails to rectify the issue or post a suitable warning, then they have breached their duty of care to customers and other visitors. Any harm or injury resulting from that breach could subject the store to civil liability under the doctrine of premises liability.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you have legal questions about a premises liability incident in Maryland, it can be highly favorable to consult with a dependable personal injury attorney. The Baltimore premises liability attorneys at Iamele & Iamele, LLP understand how to mount a successful case in various personal injury matters, including premises liability and negligent security actions. If you need legal help, contact us today for a free initial consultation.