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Any good slip and fall summary would begin by stating what might not be so obvious to many, which is that: the mere existence of a defective condition in a store or public place of business does not, as a matter of law, render the proprietor liable for an injury caused by the defective condition unless the proprietor knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care ought to have known, of the defect, i.e. the slippery substance that caused the slip and fall.

Thus, in a situation where someone slipped on small-sized spot of clear liquid on floor where store employee had inspected floor for hazards 10 to 15 minutes before customer’s fall, the store owner would not be liable even though an employee was nearby at time of fall. Likewise, although a customer who slips and falls in a restaurant may have established that she was without knowledge of substance on floor, she must still establish that the restaurant had actual or constructive knowledge of any substance on floor to succeed on a negligence claim. To constitute constructive notice, a defect on the premises must be visible and apparent and it must exist for a sufficient length of time prior to the accident to permit defendant’s employees to discover and remedy it

The length of time a substance must remain on the floor before the owner should have discovered it, for purposes of premises liability, and what constitutes a reasonable inspection procedure vary with each case, depending on the nature of the business, the size of the store, the number of customers, the nature of the dangerous condition, and the store’s location.

In sum, the general rule in a slip and fall case is this: to succeed you must first prove that there was a dangerous substance, that the owner or proprietor knew of the dangerous substance, or should have known of the substance in the ordinary course of business, and the dangerous substance wasn’t open and obvious and easily avoided.


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