What are common defenses used in Minnesota slip and fall cases?
To hold a party liable for injuries related to a slip and fall, it is often necessary for the Plaintiff to show that the at-fault party knew, or should have known, of the dangerous condition. This “notice requirement” is a commonly used defense in slip and fall cases.
This defense asserts that the at-fault party (the defendant) lacked notice of the dangerous condition. The theory being that since the defendant was unaware of the condition, there was nothing they could have done to repair the condition or prevent the injury.
As plaintiff’s attorneys, we may be able to counter this defense. It is important to understand what exactly the term “notice” means in the legal context of the word. There are two types of notice: Actual notice and constructive notice.
The defendant also has the responsibility to reasonably inspect the premises to discover dangerous conditions. However, this requirement is limited. Please continue to read below for a short description and example of each of these concepts.
The concept of actual notice applies when the defendant is deemed to have actually known about the condition because they observed or interacted with the condition. Often this is the easiest form of notice to prove. These are cases we frequently deal with.
Hypothetical: Person A owns a home in Minneapolis. As she is leaving her driveway she notices that it is covered in ice. Her car then slides down the driveway on the ice. She also knows that her maid is coming over that day to clean. Upon arrival, her maid slips and falls on the driveway and suffers severe injuries from her fall. Person A was on actual notice because she knew the driveway is icy from her observations that morning. Thus, the defense that she lacked notice would not apply in this case because she was on actual notice of the condition.
The concept of constructive notice applies when the defendant is deemed to have known about the dangerous condition because it existed for some time or the nature of the condition is apparent. Constructive notice also exists where a condition has reoccurred for several years or where it is obvious that the condition would come about.
Hypothetical: Person B owns a business in St. Paul. It is the winter and there is an ice storm that night that causes the sidewalk to become frozen over. Every winter for as long as Person B has owned the business the sidewalk freezes over throughout the winter. The next day a customer slips and falls on the sidewalk sustaining injuries. Person B was on constructive notice for two reasons. First, the fact that there was an ice storm would be enough to show that Person B should have known about the icy sidewalk. Second, the fact that the sidewalk has always become icy in the winter, thus showing that Person B should have known that the dangerous condition would exist. Once again, the lack of notice defense would not apply because Person B was on constructive notice.
The theory of reasonable inspection means that an at-fault party cannot escape liability through the notice requirement defense because they failed to reasonably inspect the premises. One cannot claim that they did not know of a dangerous condition if they never inspected the premises. However, they reasonably could have.
Hypothetical: A child spills water in the aisle at a local grocery store. The store employees fail to notice the puddle for the entire day. Person C is shopping at the store and slips on the water 8 hours after the initial spill. The at-fault party cannot argue that the notice requirement defense applies because they failed to reasonably inspect the store to look for dangerous conditions. The fact that the defendant did not know of the spill is irrelevant. This is because they had a duty to look for dangerous conditions such as this, especially if it was apparent for a significant amount of time.
Contacting Sand Law
Our skilled personal injury attorneys focus a significant portion of their practice on slip and fall matters. We handle these cases in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area as well as throughout the State of Minnesota. To schedule your free case evaluation, contact us online or call 651-291-7263 or stop into our St. Paul, Minneapolis, White Bear Lake, or Woodbury offices today.