Brief Fact Summary. Joye (P) slipped on a banana peel and fell, at A&P’s supermarket.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Unless a defendant has constructive notice of a dangerous condition, or is reasonably proved to have neglected his duty to inquire about or know a fact or condition of his property which could have reasonably been expected to pose a substantial risk of injury, which he could have known if he had used reasonable prudence, he cannot be held liable for falling short of a reasonable standard of care.
It has been held in numerous cases in other States, that in order for a customer to recover damages for injuries sustained by falling on some vegetable matter in an aisle, there must be proof that the storekeeper had actual knowledge of the presence of debris upon the floor, or that it had been on the floor long enough to charge the storekeeper with constructive notice of its presence.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is it possible under law to hold a defendant liable for negligence unless he had constructive notice of the dangerous condition?
Held. (Craven, J.) No. A defendant cannot be held liable of not upholding a reasonable standard of care if he had no prior responsible knowledge of a dangerous condition. In the present case, the key point is the lack of circumstantial evidence to establish the presence of constructive knowledge on the part of the defendant. The available evidence could not prove whether the banana had been on the floor for any time sufficient to provide a basis for constructive knowledge. The verdict was reversed.
Discussion. The verdict seems to be at variance with the one in Anjou v. Boston Elevated Railway Co., 94 N.E.386 (1911). In both, the evidence centered on brown and dirty bananas. The defendant in Anjou was held liable perhaps on account of a higher standard of duty since it was a public or common carrier. Whereas the court contended that the proof did not run to establishing the exact duration the banana lay on the floor, the real issue would seem to be rather whether the jury could decide from the evidence whether the banana had been lying there too long to be consistent with the duty of reasonable prudence.