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Actual Versus Constructive Notice

In the area of law known as premises liability, a property owner can be liable for dangerous conditions on the property which cause injury when the property owner either knew or should have known about the dangerous condition but did not act to fix the hazard or warn others about the danger. When the property owner actually knows about the danger, he or she is said to have actual notice. But what does it mean to say the owner “should have known” about the danger? This is the doctrine of constructive notice.

What is Constructive Notice?

Under the law, we say that a person has constructive notice of a fact when it is so obvious that the person should have known about it. In the case of premises liability, the property owner has a duty to know the condition of the property. This duty may include making periodic inspections of the property and either fixing dangerous conditions such as broken steps or handrails or tears in the carpet, or providing a sign warning of the danger. This is especially true of business establishments where the public is invited in for the benefit of the property owner.

A dangerous condition like a broken step will be there until it is fixed, but some hazards are only temporary or appear without warning. Many dangerous conditions may even be created by another customer. Examples include food or drink spills in grocery stores or restaurants, or merchandise in a clothing store dropped on the floor. This is why it is so important for retail stores and others to establish regular inspection routines and train their employees to be on the lookout for tripping or slipping hazards.

Why Constructive Notice?

It is not always possible to prove actual notice, but constructive notice can be shown in many ways. If you trip over a box in the aisle, you may not be able to prove that the owner knew the box was there, but you may be able to show approximately how long the box was there and that it should have been picked up before you tripped over it. Proving constructive notice is often essential to a successful premises liability case. Through careful and thorough investigations, we are often able to show that the defendant either knew or should have known about the dangerous condition but did not take reasonable steps to fix it. If you have been injured because of a hazardous condition on another’s property, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation with a New York City premises liability attorney.

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