Actual and Constructive Notice in New Mexico Premises Liability Cases

Legal News GavelWhen someone is injured on another’s property in a New Mexico slip-and-fall accident, or other type of premises liability accident, the injury victim may be entitled to monetary compensation for their injuries. However, in order to succeed in a New Mexico premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to establish the elements of their claim.

A New Mexico premises liability claim is a type of negligence claim. Thus, a plaintiff must establish the same four elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages. In New Mexico, all landowners owe a reasonable duty of care to those who enter their property, with the exception of trespassers. Thus, for all invited guests to whom a duty is owed, landowners must take action to protect guests against both known and foreseeable harms.

When it comes to establishing that a breach occurred, courts look to whether the landowner had knowledge of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injury. If the defendant landowner did not know of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injuries, then the plaintiff’s claim will fail. However, even in situations where a defendant landowner does not have actual knowledge of the hazard, a plaintiff may still be able to succeed by establishing that the landowner had constructive knowledge, or “should have known” of the hazard’s existence.

A recent case illustrates constructive knowledge in the context of a premises liability lawsuit that was filed against a municipality based on the hazardous condition of a sidewalk.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking along a sidewalk that was maintained by the defendant city when she tripped and fell, breaking her arm. The plaintiff explained that she did not see anything in her way before her fall, but afterwards she noticed that two adjoining concrete slabs were uneven, and created about a two-inch lip. The plaintiff could not definitively say the lip is what caused her fall, but she “just knew that her feet hit something.”

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant city. The city sought dismissal of the plaintiff’s case based on the fact that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence that the city had knowledge –actual or constructive – of the hazard. In support of her claim, the plaintiff presented the court with a photograph of the raised lip caused by the two uneven platforms. The plaintiff argued that, given the state of the sidewalk as shown in the pictures, even a “cursory sidewalk inspection” would have revealed the dangerous condition.

The court, however, disagreed, dismissing the plaintiff’s case. The court explained that the plaintiff was required to establish that the city knew or should have known of the hazard’s existence. And while the court acknowledged a photograph can help the court determine how long a hazard has been in existence, a photograph just shows what the hazard looked like at a single point in time. Thus, without other corroborating evidence, the court explained, the photograph was insufficient to establish the city’s knowledge of the hazard.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a New Mexico slip-and-fall accident, you should contact the dedicated New Mexico personal injury lawyers at the Fine Law Firm. At the Fine Law Firm, we represent New Mexico injury victims in a wide range of claims, including slip-and-fall accidents, dog bite cases, and other New Mexico premises liability claims. To learn more about how we can help you pursue the compensation that you deserve, call 505-889-FINE to schedule your free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Applies Coming and Going Rule in Recent Car Accident Case Seeking to Hold Employer Liable, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, July 18, 2018.

Car Dealership’s Insurance Policy Did Not Provide Coverage to Test-Driving Motorists, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, August 6, 2018.