Articles Posted in Premises Liability

In a recent case before a California appeals court, the court considered whether a public college hosting a volleyball tournament could be held liable in a California premises liability claim for an injury suffered by a visiting athlete.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff attended Los Angeles Pierce College, a public community college, and traveled to another public college, Grossmont College, for a volleyball tournament, as a member of the college’s volleyball team. The plaintiff was allegedly injured during a volleyball game when she dove into the sand and her knee hit a rock in the sand.

The plaintiff filed a complaint against Grossmont College, alleging negligence, gross negligence, and dangerous condition of public property. The plaintiff claimed she was injured because of a dangerous condition at the college’s beach volleyball facility. The college argued that it was protected by immunity because the plaintiff’s case fell under California’s field trips and excursions immunity.

Continue reading

In a recent case before a California appeals court, the plaintiff claimed that a California ski resort was liable for the serious injuries she sustained in a tragic snowboarding accident at the resort. According to the court’s opinion, the woman collided with a snowcat that was pulling a snow-grooming tiller, and she got caught in the tiller. She suffered severe injuries, including several skull fractures and her left leg was later amputated as a result of the collision.

The plaintiff and her husband sued the ski resort, alleging gross negligence and loss of consortium. The trial court granted the ski resort’s motion for summary judgment finding that the woman assumed the risk of her injury, and the plaintiffs appealed.

The Doctrine of Assumption of the Risk

The court explained that the doctrine of assumption of the risk is often referred to as a defense, but it actually negates the duty element, which is an essential element of a negligence claim. In cases involving the express assumption of risk, the individual expressly agrees to assume the risk involved, for example by signing a written release. A release that expressly releases the defendant can waive the defendant’s liability for negligence. However, a waiver cannot cover a defendant’s gross negligence. Gross negligence is considered an aggravated type of negligence. It typically amounts to an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of care others in the defendant’s shoes would take in a given situation.

Continue reading

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California personal injury case involving a plaintiff who allegedly sustained a serious injury after taking a yoga class from the defendant instructor. Ultimately, the court concluded that corrections the yoga instructor made to the plaintiff’s poses during the class “were within the standard of care for yoga instructor teaching a restorative yoga class.” Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

The Facts

The plaintiff arranged to take a yoga class from the defendant yoga instructor. During the class, the defendant instructor made several corrections to the plaintiff’s poses, including pushing down on her lower back and twisting her neck. The plaintiff later filed a personal injury lawsuit against the instructor and the studio where the class was taught.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and presented two witnesses who testified that it is common and expected for a yoga instructor to adjust students’ poses throughout the class. The plaintiff – who did not call any expert witnesses – objected to the defendants’ experts as “inherently unbelievable.”

Continue reading

In a recent California personal injury case, the plaintiff brought a premises liability claim against a restaurant after she was bitten by a spider while eating lunch there. The plaintiff had been eating lunch with a friend on a patio when a spider bit her on her back. She was hospitalized for about six days and suffered from numbness and weakness in her extremities after spider venom reached her spinal fluid. She suffered permanent damage and could not fully use her left hand and leg.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging general negligence and premises liability. She claimed that the restaurant knew or should have known that spiders were prevalent in the patio area and that they posed a risk to customers. She alleged that the restaurant was negligent in failing to warn of the danger of the spiders and in failing to reasonably prevent spiders from coming into contact with customers. The plaintiff claimed that prior to her injury, there were thirteen reports of spider sightings at the restaurant, and three were identified as black widows.

The restaurant contended that it did not have an absolute duty to ensure the safety of its customers, and that it did not owe the plaintiff a duty to protect her from an alleged black widow spider bite. It claimed that it followed pest control protocols that exceeded industry standards, that it did not know there were any black widow spiders on the dining patio, and that the costs of a duty to protect customers outweighed the benefits.

Continue reading

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.

The 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.”

Continue reading

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.

In 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.

Continue reading

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.

The 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.

Continue reading

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.

The 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.

Continue reading

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.

The 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.

Continue reading

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.

Many 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.

Continue reading

Contact Information