Handling Premises Liability Cases for People throughout California
There are many reasons that a person can be injured while on the premises of another. One common accident that can occur is when the person slips and falls or trips and injures themselves.
These type of accidents happen for a number of reasons including:
Failing to clean up a spill
Failing to warn about of a slippery surface (e.g. a newly mopped floor)
Loose items such as tiles, stairs, or railings
Raised surfaces that are not easily spotted
Failing to pick up items off the floor that create a hazard
Uneven walkways or other uneven surfaces
Inadequate lighting that masks hazards
The injuries that can be incurred can range from minor injuries such as a sprained ankle or wrist to the more serious such as spinal cord injuries, broken bones, or traumatic head injuries.
If you or a loved one has been injured because of a defect or other hazard on the property of another person or entity, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries. Please call the law offices of Dennis F. Minna.
Slip & Fall Liability in California
Under California law, "everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself" Cal. Civ. Code 1714(a). Thus, in general, those who own or possess land are obligated to maintain that property so that visitors are not injured because of a defect or other type of neglect.
However, there are a number of things to be aware of when determining who is liable for an injury including:
Land ownership: As mentioned, in California it is expected that landowners will "maintain land in their possession and control in a reasonably safe condition" Ann M v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center, 6 Cal.4th 666, 674 (1993)., 6 Cal.4th 666, 674 (1993). This includes private residences, commercial spaces, retail stores, and government buildings, among others.
Public spaces: Generally, those in possession of land do not owe any duty to those who are not on their property, such as a public sidewalk. There are exceptions this rule, however. For example, a property owner must not do anything to create a hazard, that is, "[a]n abutting owner has always had a duty to refrain from doing an affirmative act which would render the sidewalk dangerous to the public" Selger v. Steven Brothers, Inc., 222 Cal.App.3d 1585, 1592 (1990), 222 Cal.App.3d 1585, 1592 (1990).
Leasor and leasee: In a situation where a person or company is leasing property, liability depends on who is in possession and control of the property at the time the injury occurs. In general, tenants are responsible to maintain their property so that it is safe for visitors. For example, a person renting an apartment throws a party and a guest is injured after slipping on a wet section of tile. Though the renter does not own the property, it is under their control, thus they could be liable for the guest's injury. The owner of the apartment complex would likely not be responsible for any damages incurred by the guest.
However, these cases do not mean that the property owner can never face liability. If the tenant or another individual was injured because of a defect in the rental property then the landlord could be held liable for that injury. In addition, landlords have a duty to maintain the common areas (such as a lobby or stairwell) and can be held responsible for injuries that occur in these locations.
Factors Affecting Liability
In addition to determining who is liable for an injury that occurs because of a property's negligent maintenance, there are other factors that can affect liability.
One of these is the guest's purpose for coming onto the property. Traditionally, there were three categories of guests:
Trespassers: An individual can be considered a trespasser "is a person who enters or remains upon land of another without a privilege to do so." Rowland v. Christian, 69 Cal.2d 108, 113 (1968). A landowner owes the least duty of care to trespassers.
Licensees: A licensee is an individual, "like a social guest who is not an invitee and who is privileged to enter or remain upon land by virtue of the possessor's consent owed a greater duty of care than a trespasser." Id. A licensee is owed a greater duty of care than a trespasser.
Invitees: An invitee is "a business visitor who is invited or permitted to enter or remain on the land for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings between them." Id. An example of an invitee is a customer at a retail establishment or restaurant. Landowners and those in possession of a property owe the greatest duty of care to invitees.
Trespassers are typically owed little to no duty of care from a landowner. Licensees used to be owed a lesser duty of care than invitees, but as the law has evolved this distinction is no longer as relevant as it once was. A person who owns or possesses land now generally owes to use reasonable care to keep his or her property safe. CACI 1001. Failing to keep the property in a safe condition for guests can result in liability for the property owner.
If you or a loved one has been injured because of defect or other negligent condition on another's premises, please do not hesitate to contact Woods Williford, P.C. today. Our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients recover just compensation for their injuries.