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In California, an injury that occurs due to a dangerous condition on a property might constitute a premises liability case. If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you may be able to seek compensation for your damages. However, the dangerous condition itself is not enough to prove the property owner’s liability. The injured party must be able to show that the injuries resulted from dangerous conditions the property owner had a duty to prevent.
If a property owner’s failure to properly maintain, inspect or repair their property resulted in an unsafe condition, which then injured a person, the property owner can be held liable for the victim’s damages. The key to a premises liability case, as in many other personal injury cases, is whether or not the defendant was truly negligent.
Who is Liable in Premises Liability Cases?
The liable party in a premises liability case must be an owner-operator of the property. This means someone who owns, possesses or controls the property. Generally this is the person who actually owns the property, but not always. Because “control” of the property is a significant requirement for liability, the liable party might not be the actual owner of the property. For instance, a store owner might be leasing the space for his shop from a landlord. However, that store owner is responsible for cleaning his own floors, and is therefore most likely responsible in the event that someone slips on his wet floor.
What Properties Are Subject to Premises Liability?
The owner of a property has the duty of ensuring the conditions of the premises do not result in injury to others. Most types of property can be subject to premises liability. Some examples are:
- Retail stores
- Office buildings
- Parking lots
- Theme parks
In order to prove negligence by a property owner, the plaintiff must prove the following:
- The property owner owed a duty to the injured person.
- The owner exercised a breach of the duty of care.
- An injury occurred.
- The injury was a direct result of the property owner’s negligence.
What is the Duty of Care?
The duty of care owed by the property owner depends largely on the circumstances of the incident. A store owner obviously owes customers the highest duty of care, as they have invited customers onto their property. Thus, store owners can certainly be considered negligent for injuries resulting from unsafe conditions. A property owner who invites guests over to their home could also be considered negligent for an injury that resulted from a danger the owner knew about, such as a defective handrail on the staircase. In contrast, a property owner will not likely be considered responsible for an injury sustained by a trespasser to their property. One exception could be if a property owner purposely created a hazard that would harm trespassers.
Some examples where a property owner could be considered liable for injuries include:
- Slippery surfaces with no visible warning
- Falling merchandise
- Unsafe escalators, elevators or stairways
- Dog attacks
- Faulty electrical wiring
Was the Duty of Care Breached?
When assigning liability, it must be determined whether the property owner breached their duty of care. The jury will need to answer the following questions:
- Was the harm reasonably foreseeable? The jury will need to determine whether the negligence exercised by the defendant was likely to result in the kind of injury suffered by the plaintiff.
- Was the plaintiff’s injury closely linked to the property owner’s conduct? If the injury suffered was very loosely or indirectly connected to the alleged negligence, it is unlikely the jury will consider the harm to be foreseeable. However, if the injury is directly correlated to the property owner’s negligence, the harm was likely foreseeable.
- What is the property owner’s moral culpability? If the property owner intentionally caused the harm, or had knowledge of the harmful consequences of their behavior, his actions could be considered morally blameworthy. This is also true if the jury believes the property owner acted in bad faith or with reckless indifference, or if he engaged in inherently harmful acts.
- What measures should the landowner have taken to prevent the injury? The jury will need to take several things into consideration; for instance, how burdensome would these measures have been on the property owner? If the preventative measures would have been significantly burdensome, the courts may be less likely to impose the duty on the owner.
Of course, the actions of the injured person will also be considered in these cases. If the dangerous condition should have been obvious to a reasonable person, a jury is unlikely to hold the property owner 100% liable. Moreover, California’s comparative fault rule still applies in premises liability cases. This means that the jury could find the plaintiff partly at fault for the injury. If this is the case, the plaintiff’s damages will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
If you have been injured on someone’s property and believe that it was a result of owner-operator negligence, you should consult with a personal injury attorney to determine what steps to take to seek damages.
“Premises liability can be complicated, but our firm has ample experience in defending victims who have suffered due to negligent property owners,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.
Liability Case Attorneys in Rancho Mirage
Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.
DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.