Many Texans mistakenly believe that if they are injured on a commercial property that the owner of the property is automatically liable for their injuries and damages. Such is not the case. When a patron enters a business they become what is known as a “business invitee“. The owner or operator of a business owes certain duties to their invitees. The owner must make reasonable efforts to discover dangerous hidden defects and either correct the defects or warn customers of the defects. The business has no duty regarding “open and obvious” defects.
Regarding hidden defects the claimant may prove either actual or constructive notice. Regardless of the facts of the case a business owner rarely admits actual notice of a dangerous defect. Even when businesses create dangerous situations they often continue to deny knowledge of the dangerous condition. Thus notice is often proved by constructive knowledge. A premises owner or operator is charged with knowledge of any premises defect that a reasonably careful inspection would have revealed. Furthermore, the Texas Supreme Court has held that constructive knowledge of a defect may be established by a showing that the condition or defect had existed for a long enough period of time that the owner should have discovered the defect.
There is no case where it is more important than in a premises liability case to obtain immediate evidence regarding the condition of the scene of the accident. It is a common practice in the business world to correct a dangerous condition immediately following an accident and then deny that the condition ever existed. In a day when virtually everyone with a cell phone also has a camera premises liability victims would be well advised to have someone take pictures of the scene before the victim leaves the scene of the accident.