Legal Memorandum: Property Owner's Liability in VI

Issue: In the Virgin Islands, what is a supermarket owner’s liability for injuries sustained by a customer who slips and falls in the supermarket?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Property owner's liability; Dangerous condition existing on the property; Distraction doctrine
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 493 S.E.2d 403; 198 F. Supp. 2d 632; 124 S.E.2d 688; 774 A.2d 700; 647 A.2d 573; 185 A.2d 554
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343 (1965)
Date: 03/01/2006

  A property owner’s liability for a dangerous condition existing on the property is set forth in § 343 of the Second Restatement of Torts.

A possessor of land is subject to liability for physical harm caused to his invitees by a condition on the land, if, but only if, he (a) knows or by exercise of reasonable care would discover the condition, and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to such invitees, and (b) should expect that they will not discover or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it, and (c) fails to exercise reasonable care to protect them against the danger.

Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343 (1965).  Furthermore, “[a]n invitee is entitled to expect that the possessor will take reasonable care to ascertain the actual condition of the premises and, having discovered it, either make it reasonably safe by repair or to give warning of the actual condition and the risk involved therein.”  Id. § 343, cmt. d.  Thus, a storeowner is liable for a customer’s injuries if it knew or should have known of the dangerous condition and failed to adequately correct it.  Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001); David v. Pueblo Supermarket, 740 F.2d 230, 237 (3d Cir. 1984).

In the absence of evidence of actual knowledge, a storeowner’s liability depends on constructive notice of the defect.   SEQ CHAPTER h r 1Issues of constructive notice, including the length of time […]

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