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Legal Memorandum: Property Owner's Liability in VI

Issue: Under the laws of the U.S. Virgin Islands, where a patron at a shopping center has been injured by a dangerous condition on the premises, is summary judgment inappropriate where it is unclear whether the owner of the property had actual notice of the danger?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Property owner's liability to injured; Dangerous condition on the premises; Patron of shopping center
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 260 F.3d 228; 740 F.2d 230
Cited Statutes: 1 V.I.C. § 4; Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343; Restatement (Second) of Torts § 344
Date: 03/01/2004

A patron at a shopping center, a place open to the public, is indisputably an invitee.  The Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343, which applies to this question because of the absence of controlling local law, 1 V.I.C. § 4 (2001), sets forth the property owner’s duties:

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 (1977).  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, the property owner is liable for an inveitee’s injuries if it knew of 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). 

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