You probably don’t think about the possibility that you could get injured while shopping in a store. Perhaps a worker may have left part of a store display on the floor, or maybe a spill was not cleaned up. Unfortunately, accidents do occur.
A business has a duty to provide a safe place for its customers. This duty of care requires a business to discover and eliminate dangerous conditions, to maintain the premises in a safe condition, and to avoid creating conditions that would make the store premises unsafe. A business is generally not liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions of which they were not aware. Accordingly, the burden is upon the injured party to prove that the store had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition that caused the accident.
An example of actual knowledge of a dangerous condition would be if a customer showed a store representative that someone spilled a soda on the floor but then the store employee left the mess on the floor and did not make sure that the area was cleaned up. Constructive knowledge will be found if the condition had existed for such a length of time that the business should have known of its presence. When the very nature of a business’s operation creates the hazard, however, the “mode-of-operation rule” creates an inference of negligence and the burden shifts to the store to negate the inference by showing evidence of due care. This inference means that the injured person does not have to prove that the business had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition and instead requires the store to show that it did all that a reasonably prudent man would do in light of the risk of injury the mode of operation entailed. If the store provides no explanation, the facts raised by the injured party should allow a jury to find from the condition of the premises and the nature of the business that the store did not use due care in operating the business, and that the negligent operation of the business was the cause of the injured person’s injuries.