Constructive Notice in Washington, D.C. Slip and Fall Cases

Business owners generally have a duty to protect customers from known hazards under Washington, D.C. law. To prove a dangerous condition existed in a Washington, D.C. premises liability case, a plaintiff must show that the defendant either had actual notice or constructive notice of the hazardous condition. To prove constructive notice, a plaintiff has to show the condition existed for long enough that the defendant should have known of the condition and corrected it in the exercise of reasonable care. The duration of the hazard is an important factor, and the evidence in support of constructive notice often includes evidence of how long the hazard existed. Other evidence may include, for example, the frequency that a defendant inspects for hazards. However, whether notice is sufficient to amount to constructive notice depends on the facts of the particular case.

In a recent case before a state appellate court, the court considered whether a store may have had constructive notice of a puddle of water on the floor before the plaintiff slipped and fell in it. In that case, the plaintiff slipped and fell on the puddle of water at a supermarket. The plaintiff claimed that the plaintiff was negligent because of the existence of the dangerous condition. In the course of discovery in the case, the plaintiff’s sister was deposed, who was there when the plaintiff fell. In the sister’s deposition, the sister was asked only about where the water came from and whether the puddle appeared transparent. She stated that she did not know where the water came from and believed the water was clear.

After the defendant filed for summary judgment, the plaintiff submitted an affidavit from her sister. In the affidavit, the plaintiff’s sister stated that shortly after the plaintiff fell, she saw a pool of water on the ground near a cooler. She explained the puddle was elongated and appeared to have been stepped in by multiple people because there were track marks or footprints to and from the puddle. The store argued that the affidavit should have been stricken from the record, because the affidavit repudiated the sister’s deposition testimony.

However, the court held that the affidavit did not repudiate her former deposition testimony, because she was not asked any questions about, nor testified about, the shape or length of the substance or the absence or presence of marks. Based on this evidence, along with other evidence submitted, there was evidence showing that the pool of water accumulated because of a slow drip from the cooler. This meant that there was evidence the store may have had constructive notice of the liquid. Therefore, the court held there was sufficient evidence to preclude summary judgment and to have the case continue to trial.

Contact a Washington, D.C. Premises Liability Attorney

If you have been injured on someone else’s property and would like to discuss your claim with a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawyer, contact the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers. Our compassionate attorneys are proud to advocate for the rights of victims against negligent store owners, landowners, and other defendants. Our firm treats each client with the personal attention that they deserve. To set up a free consultation, call us at (410) 654-3600 or toll-free at (800) 654-1949, or by contacting us through our online form.

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