Does a Property Owner’s Knowledge of Risks Increase Liability?
Premises liability generally arises where a property owner, or someone in possession or control of real property, has actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition, and fails to take proper steps to repair and/or warn people about the risk. However, the law does generally require the defendant to have either actual knowledge or constructive knowledge before liability will attach.
“Constructive knowledge” is a legal term that refers to knowledge which is imputed by law because of what a person should have known, given the surrounding facts and circumstances. It’s possible to have constructive knowledge of a fact or condition without having actual knowledge of it–and in almost all cases, constructive knowledge gives rise to liability in exactly the same way actual knowledge would.
Constructive knowledge exists in the premises liability context any time the exercise of due care would have revealed the dangerous condition, risk, or hazard. This is true even if the defendant had no actual knowledge of the condition or risk.
Property owners have a legal duty to take reasonable care when managing, maintaining, and controlling property, and this includes a duty to perform reasonable inspections and a duty to keep an eye out for potentially hazardous or defective conditions.
Liability may also arise when the property owner has imputed knowledge of a hazardous condition. Imputed knowledge most commonly arises when a hazardous condition is created by an employee of the property owner–for example, through negligent maintenance or repair of the property. Knowledge of that condition is generally imputed to the property owner, and may give rise to legal liability.
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