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Business owners may owe customers highest duty of care

In Connecticut, injuries that result from a trip, slip or a fall are not uncommon. However, whether there is an actionable claim for negligence against the property or business owner depends on multiple factors. One such factor is the relationship between the property owner and the injured person.

The highest level of duty a property owner may owe a person on his property may be due those visitors known as invitees. Invitees are different than licensees or trespassers, both of whom typically receive a lesser duty of care. Invitees enter the property usually for a business purpose and for the benefit of the property owner (or business owner), even though often for his or her own benefit as well. Invitees can be customers or others present in connection to a business relationship with the property or business owner.

Business owners owe duty to customers

The business or property owner owes the invitee or customer several duties that may include:

  • Liability for property defects that should be discoverable via inspection
  • Inspection of premises to the extent reasonable
  • Assembly of safeguards if needed for reasonable safety
  • Proper warnings of discovered defects

A latent defect is one that a property owner could not discover despite its due and reasonable care. As such, the property owner may not be liable for damages stemming from a latent defect.

Burden is on customer to prove a case

When a customer claims injury from a defect on the property of the business owner, that invitee has the burden of proving that the business owner or his agents had notice of the dangerous condition or defect. That knowledge may be actual or constructive.

By constructive notice, the law intends that a property owner that had reason to know of the defect, or should have known of it, had the notice the law requires, even if he or she did not actually know of the defect.

Slip and fall lawsuit involves tennis sport

As reported by USA Today, there is an ongoing lawsuit between a tennis great and the United States Tennis Association. The claim alleges that the USTA was a negligent business owner responsible for the premises.

The tennis player, involved in tennis related business dealings with the USTA, alleges that a slippery substance on the locker room floor caused her to fall and suffer serious injuries. Generally, the plaintiff tennis player will have to prove that the USTA had notice of the slippery floor and time to correct it.

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