Liability of Owner of Commercial Property for Defects, Snow and Ice Accumulation and Other Dangerous Conditions in Abutting Sidewalks
The law imposes upon the owner of commercial or business property the duty to use reasonable care to see to it that the sidewalks abutting the property are reasonably safe for members of the public who are using them. In other words, the law says that the owner of commercial property must exercise reasonable care to see to it that the condition of the abutting sidewalk is reasonably safe and does not subject pedestrians to an unreasonable risk of harm. The concept of reasonable care requires the owner of commercial property to take action with regard to conditions within a reasonable period of time after the owner becomes aware of the dangerous condition or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have become aware of it. If, therefore, you find that there was a condition of this sidewalk that was dangerous in that it created an unreasonable risk of harm for pedestrians, and if you find that the owner knew of that condition or should have known of it but failed to take such reasonable action to correct or remedy the situation within a reasonable period of time thereafter as a reasonably prudent commercial or business owner would have done under the circumstances, then the owner is negligent.
But, in this case, the property owner contends that he/she had no notice or knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition and, therefore, cannot be held responsible for it. In that connection, I must make you aware of this rule: The owner of commercial or business property is chargeable with a duty of making reasonable observations of his/her property, including the abutting sidewalk, in order to discover any dangerous condition that might develop or occur. The owner must make observations of his/her property, including the sidewalk, with the frequency that a reasonably prudent commercial property owner would in the circumstances. If you find that such a reasonable observation would have revealed the dangerous condition alleged in this case, then the property owner is chargeable with notice of the condition although he/she did not actually know about it; that is, he/she is as much responsible for the condition as if he/she had actual knowledge of its existence.
What actions must the owner of commercial property take with regard to defects/snow/ice accumulation/dangerous conditions? The action required by the law is action which a reasonably prudent person would take or should have taken in the circumstances present to correct the defect/snow/ice accumulation/ dangerous condition, to repair it/remove it or to take other actions to minimize the danger to pedestrians (for example, to give warning of it) within a reasonable period of time after notice thereof. The test is: Did the commercial property owner take the action that a reasonably prudent person who knows or should have known of the condition would have taken in that circumstance? If he did, he is not negligent. If he did not, then he is negligent.