In recent times, it is fairly common for commercial premises owners to have social media accounts to communicate with potential clients, tenants, and to receive feedback. While there are many positives to maintaining a social media account, there are also drawbacks.
If premises owners are going to maintain a social media account, they have to be very diligent in monitoring the account for complaints, comments and/or assertions of any type of defect or hazard on the premises. Specifically, a social media account comment regarding a defect or hazard on the premises can destroy a potential lack of notice defense.
Oftentimes social media accounts are created with good intentions, but are not monitored on a regular basis. However, individuals can certainly post to the accounts and whether or not the premises owner or manager sees the comment is irrelevant to being put on actual or constructive notice with respect to a comment or complaint regarding a defect or hazard.
For instance, we recently resolved a case where there was seemingly a very strong lack of notice defense based on the premises being free of defects pursuant to an inspection, lease language, and sworn testimony from the premises owner. However, the lack of notice defense was quickly rebuffed when a social media complaint was produced that was dated prior to the alleged injury.
The social media complaints specifically outlined several defects to the premises before the incident occurred. Not only was this problematic because it created notice to the premises owner, but it was even more problematic because the premises owner had already taken the position in sworn discovery and deposition testimony that there were no defects and had been no complaints, therefore, there were no repairs of defects. As a result, defenses were significantly hindered, and a resolution had to be achieved.
Long story short, if you’re going to maintain a social media account regarding anything to do with a commercial premises, it must be maintained on a regular and consistent basis. Any complaints or comments must be responded to and addressed. If a premises owner lacks the time or staff to properly maintain the account, consideration should be given to simply discontinuing social media activities until an account can be properly staffed.
Christopher J. Scott is a partner in the firm's Flint office who focuses his practice in all areas of law concerning personal injury, property damage or commercial liability, including premises liability, construction liability ...
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