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Legal Memorandum: Store Owner's Duty of Care in VI

Issue: In the Virgin Islands, does a store owner owe its customers a duty to safeguard its premises from dangerous conditions it should have discovered by the exercise of reasonable care?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Duty of care of a store owner; Reasonably safe condition; Exercise of reasonable care
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343 (1965)
Date: 12/01/2008

The Virgin Islands Supreme Court recently re-affirmed that “the proprietor of a store owes a duty of care to its customers to exercise reasonable care to keep the store in a reasonably safe condition for the contemplated uses thereof.”  Bright v. United Corp., No. 2007/80, 2008 WL 2971769, at *3 (V.I. July 22, 2008). 

Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343 provides:

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 the 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) (emphasis added).

The comments to this provision are instructive in determining what constitutes “reasonable care” in this context. 

In determining the extent of preparation which an invitee is entitled to expect to be made for his protection, the nature of the land and purposes for which it is used are of great importance . . . .  [O]ne entering a store . . . is entitled to expect that his host will make far greater preparations to […]

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