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Avoiding Summary Judgment in a New York Slip-and-Fall Case Alleging Constructive Notice

man falling downImagine that you are walking across the floor in a public place, like a cafeteria. Suddenly, your foot hits something wet and goes out from under you, and you fall to the ground. You know that you’re hurt, and you know that your fall was a result of something wet that you struck with your foot. You may ask yourself, what comes next? The answer to that should be to contact an experienced New York slip-and-fall attorney, who can help you begin to collect the evidence you’ll need and start putting together your case for damages.

The above scenario was basically what happened to one woman injured in Kings County. She slipped and fell in a wet spot on the floor of a cafeteria in Kings County. She was injured and sued for the harm she had suffered.

When you pursue a slip-and-fall lawsuit, the defense may have various different potential avenues for opposing your case. One of these is to argue that it did not have either actual or constructive knowledge of the hazardous condition. The law says that, in order for you to be entitled to recover compensation for the damages you suffered, the defendant must have either actual knowledge of the hazardous condition that caused your fall, or else what’s called “constructive notice” of the hazard. Proving constructive notice means demonstrating that the defendant, with the exercise of reasonable care, should have known about the problem.

The operator of the cafeteria argued exactly that:  it didn’t have actual knowledge, and it didn’t have constructive knowledge. Based upon these assertions, it asked the trial court for summary judgment in its favor. The trial judge rejected that request. On appeal, the Appellate Division upheld that ruling, meaning that the plaintiff could proceed to trial. The key to the plaintiff’s success in defeating the cafeteria operator’s summary judgment motion was highlighting the defense’s proof as insufficient. The cafeteria operator had, as its evidence, the testimony of the cafeteria supervisor. The problem (for the defendant) with that testimony was that the supervisor testified only to the general cleaning practices employed at the cafeteria. He did not testify to the actual times when cleaning or an inspection of the floor took place on the day when the plaintiff’s fall happened.

This was vitally important because, in order for a defendant to use a lack-of-constructive-notice argument to win summary judgment and defeat your slip-and-fall action, the defense must prove that the hazardous condition was on the floor for such a short period of time that the defendant did not reasonably have enough time to correct the problem. Without exact evidence of the actual times of inspections and cleanings, it would not be possible to identify with specificity the precise amount of time that the wet substance was on the floor before the plaintiff encountered it, which means that it would be impossible to determine whether or not it was on the floor for a short enough time to support a lack-of-constructive-notice argument.

If you’ve been hurt in a slip-and-fall case, talk to the knowledgeable Queens slip-and-fall accident attorneys at Newman, Anzalone & Newman. Our attorneys have been helping injured people get the advice and representation they need as they pursue the recovery that they deserve. To schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified attorneys, contact us toll-free at 718-896-2700 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

A Landowner’s Cleaning Evidence and Its Impact on Your New York Slip-and-Fall Case, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, March 15, 2017

Dealing With Destroyed Evidence in Your New York Premises Liability Case, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, Jan. 12, 2017

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