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Liability of owner of premises for slip and fall

By Atty. Kenneth Reyes

At one time or another, we have all made a trip to the local market. Whether it is to purchase food or other daily necessities, our expectation is that upon departing, our needs will be fulfilled. Rarely, if ever, does a person’s expectation in making a trip to the market include slipping on something on the market’s floor and sustaining injury. Unfortunately, the foregoing situation is an all-too-common occurrence. A question that naturally arises after one slips and falls due to something on the floor is whether the market can be held responsible for injuries suffered.

Perhaps the most important concept to understand in answering the aforementioned question is that an owner of a market is not an absolute insurer of a visitor’s safety. An owner’s liability is limited by his duty to exercise reasonable care. This duty is adequately performed when the owner keeps the premises in a reasonably safe condition or gives warning of dangerous conditions that he knows of, or should know of in the exercise of reasonable care. An owner can only be held responsible for injuries sustained as a result of a slip and fall when it can be shown that the owner had notice of a dangerous condition that caused injury in sufficient time to correct it, yet failed to either correct it or adequately warn visitors of such condition. For example, if the owner knew of a slippery substance on the floor, had ample time to mop it up or warn yet did not, and a visitor subsequently slipped on the substance, the owner can be held liable.

Quite obviously, an injustice would result if an owner could avoid liability by merely failing to inspect the premises for dangerous conditions, and thereafter asserting he had no notice of a condition that causes injury. To prevent this situation, the law provides for liability of the owner in cases in which it is shown that the dangerous condition causing injury existed for such sufficient period of time that the owner should have known of the condition. In such cases, the owner is deemed to have constructive notice of the condition and may be held liable. Modifying the previous example, if the owner did not actually know of the slippery substance on the floor, but should have known of the substance through reasonable inspection, liability may attach.

The burden is on the injured party to show that the owner had notice of a dangerous condition in sufficient time to correct or warn. Again, notice is key. The issue of notice is determined on a case-by-case basis. Facts and circumstances are usually different in each case, and conferring with a lawyer may help one in determining whether he/she has an actionable claim.

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Darrick Tan is an attorney with the Law Offices of Kenneth U. Reyes, P.C. He is a Board of Governor with the Philippine American Bar Association. A graduate of Southwestern University School of Law and UCLA, Mr. Tan has been admitted to practice in California and Nevada. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH U. REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 700, Los Angeles, California 90010. Telephone (213) 388-1611 or e-mail at tandarrick@gmail.com.

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