We’ve previously discussed many aspects of premises liability law in the state of Connecticut. Readers may remember that, in many cases, plaintiffs will attempt to recover under a negligence theory when they are injured on someone else’s property. Negligence requires a legal duty to the injured person, and we’ve touched on the various statuses people in Connecticut can have when on another’s land, namely, trespasser, licensee, and invitee. While the exact duties a landowner or possessor has to each of these types of individuals will vary, one component of a premises liability case usually remains the same: notice.
Notice is a legal term that indicates a party is aware of some fact, usually one upon which he or she can take action. In premises liability in Connecticut, notice generally applies to the land possessor and whatever hazard it is that the injured party claims caused the injury. The basic rule is that a property owners are not liable if they were not on notice that the hazardous condition existed.
Of course, this may sound a bit simpler than it actually is. Because the law doesn’t want property owners to escape liability by being willfully ignorant, there is a distinction between ‘actual’ and ‘constructive’ notice. ‘Actual’ notice occurs when a property owner (or one of his or her agents) knows specifically about the hazard, having seen it, or having been told about it, for example. ‘Constructive’ notice, on the other hand refers to conditions the owner should have known about, because they existed for a reasonable amount of time and were reasonably discoverable.
One possible example of constructive notice that may apply during Connecticut winters is the formation of ice on a surface. If temperatures have plummeted below freezing for a length of time, a property owner should reasonably be aware that ice may have formed on certain surfaces, and may have a duty to protect invitees and licensees from the hazard.
Every case of constructive notice is going to be fact-specific, so no exact time limit for the reasonableness of constructive can be given as a general matter. However, those that have experienced injury as the result of a hazard on another’s property may wish to consider calling an experienced Connecticut attorney.