Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California personal injury case involving the question of whether a landlord of a building that rents space to a health club has a duty to ensure that the club has a defibrillator device on hand. Ultimately, the court concluded that while the operator of a health club is legally obligated to provide the defibrillator devices under a state statute, that duty does not extend to the landlord.

Boxing GlovesThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a man who died of a heart attack while working out at a boxing gym. The defendant was the owner of the building where the gym was located. Following the death of their loved one, the plaintiffs filed a case against the defendant landlord. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant was negligent in failing to ensure that the boxing gym installed defibrillator devices, as is required under Health and Safety Code section 104113.

Specifically, section 104113 requires that all “health studios” maintain defibrillator devices on hand. The statute defines a health studio as “a facility permitting the use of its facilities and equipment or access to its facilities and equipment, to individuals or groups for physical exercise, body building, reducing, figure development, fitness training, or any other similar purpose, on a membership basis.”

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As a general matter, California landowners have an obligation to ensure that their property is safe for those whom they invite onto their land. The extent of the duty owed by a landowner to a visitor depends largely on the relationship between the parties and the reason for the guest’s visit.

Snowy CabinIn California premises liability cases, courts require a plaintiff to establish four basic elements, as outlined in California Civil Jury Instructions section 1000:

  • The defendant owned, leased, or was in control of the property;
  • The defendant was negligent in the maintenance of the property;
  • The plaintiff was harmed; and
  • The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injuries.

Of course, there are many nuances to premises liability law that can alter the apportionment of liability. For example, if a dangerous condition is so obvious that a person could reasonably be expected to notice it, the landowner has no duty to warn the guest of the hazard. That being said, these determinations are made by courts on a case-by-case basis, and anyone considering a premises liability lawsuit should consult with a dedicated California personal injury attorney to discuss their case in more detail.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case involving the aggressive actions of a third party and how they can affect a defendant’s liability. Ultimately, the court concluded that the unpredictable actions of a third party precluded a finding of liability, and it affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

Dark Parking LotThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and his wife visited a taco truck that leased a parking lot from the defendant. When the plaintiff pulled into the parking lot, he noticed that it was very crowded and that there were no spaces to park. The plaintiff put the car in reverse and began to back out of the lot to find a parking spot elsewhere. However, as the plaintiff backed out, he collided with another vehicle.

The driver of the vehicle got out of the car and was visibly angry with the plaintiff. Despite the plaintiff’s apology, the other driver refused to exchange vehicle information with the plaintiff. Instead, the other driver got back in the car, put it in reverse, and sped out of the parking lot at a high rate of speed. In so doing, the other driver ran over the plaintiff and dragged him into the street, resulting in serious injuries.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California premises liability lawsuit discussing the element of causation and which evidence must be presented to survive a defense challenge for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant met his initial burden of showing that the plaintiff would be unable to establish causation, and the plaintiff failed to present any evidence to the contrary. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff’s case was properly dismissed.

Lit MatchThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs lived in a second-floor apartment in a building owned by the defendant. One day, a fire started in the plaintiffs’ apartment, causing several of the tenants to suffer burn injuries. The plaintiffs filed a premises liability lawsuit against the landlord, claiming that a wall heater in the apartment was defective.

The defendant presented two experts who testified that the cause of the fire was the wall heater. However, neither expert could definitively say whether the wall heater was defective or whether combustible material – such as a blanket or couch – was placed too close to the heater. The plaintiffs did not present any evidence during the motion.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California premises liability case requiring the court to discuss under which circumstances a person who attempts to come to the aid of another person, but fails to help them, can be held responsible for any preventable injuries. The court ultimately concluded that under the “negligent undertaking” theory of liability, the hotel may have assumed a duty of care to provide reasonable assistance to the hotel guest by assuring the guest’s husband that a hotel employee would check on his wife in her hotel room.

Hotel RoomThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff checked into the defendant hotel, which was about an hour away from the couple’s residence. The plaintiff and her husband had been visiting the hotel for a number of years and owned timeshare privileges at the hotel. After the plaintiff arrived, her husband tried to reach the plaintiff on her cell phone. However, the plaintiff did not answer.

Fearing that his wife was hurt, the plaintiff’s husband called the front desk and asked them to check on his wife. The front desk attendant called the room, and no one answered. Then, the attendant asked a maintenance worker to perform a welfare check on the plaintiff. The maintenance worker knocked on the door, opened it, and saw that the room was dark. He then returned to the front desk, reporting that the plaintiff was not in her room.

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California is fortunate to have some of the most diverse and beautiful scenery in the country. Not only does the state’s landscape provide for excellent sight-seeing, it also gives the more adventurous the opportunity to engage in a wide range of recreational activities. From swimming and surfing to skiing and camping, Californians are known for getting out there and enjoying what their state has to offer.

Ski LiftMany times, when someone participates in a recreational activity, the owner of the land or the provider of the service will require the participant to sign a release-waiver prior to engaging in the activity. These waiver forms generally act to limit a participant’s ability to file a California personal injury lawsuit should anything go wrong when the participant is enjoying the activity.

A recent opinion issued by a federal appellate court discussed the validity of these waivers and the factors courts will consider when determining if they are enforceable.

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Earlier this month, the state’s supreme court issued a written opinion in a California premises liability case brought by a man who was seriously injured as he was crossing the road from an off-site parking lot to the defendant church. The case required the court to determine whether the church owed the plaintiff a duty of care to prevent the type of injury he sustained. Ultimately, the court concluded that the church did not owe the plaintiff a duty.

Busy RoadThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was planning on attending an evening service at the defendant church. As the plaintiff arrived at the church, he was directed to an overflow parking lot across a five-lane highway. When he pulled into the parking lot, he found a parking spot and exited his vehicle.

The plaintiff needed to cross the street to get to the church. However, the parking attendant did not tell the plaintiff that the church had volunteers stationed at the intersection about 100 feet away. Rather than walk to the nearest intersection, the plaintiff attempted to cross the street mid-block. As he was navigating the five-lane highway, he was struck by a passing motorist.

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Earlier this year, the Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District issued a written opinion in a California premises liability lawsuit discussing the rule of appellate procedure that any grounds cited on appeal must have been raised at trial. Ultimately, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s case based on the fact that the plaintiff’s theory of liability on appeal (which was only slightly different from the theory of liability at trial) was not raised below.

Swimming PoolThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and his wife were looking to buy a rental property and were working with a realtor to help them in their search. The realtor had a home in mind that she thought the plaintiff would like. The home was one that the realtor had previously listed, and it had a pool in the backyard. Prior to listing the home, the realtor conducted a 30-minute visual check of the home, including the backyard and pool. The realtor also arranged for the pool to be emptied and contacted a pool maintenance company to conduct any necessary repairs.

When the plaintiff and his wife went to see the home, the plaintiff climbed atop the diving board that was adjacent to the pool to see over the home’s fence. After about 30 seconds, the plaintiff felt the diving board come loose from its base, and the plaintiff fell into the empty pool, resulting in serious injuries.

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