Articles Posted in Premises Liability

A state appellate court was recently tasked with deciding whether an amusement park could be held liable in a California product liability case after the plaintiff was injured while riding on a waterslide. The issue was whether the defendant amusement park was providing a service rather than a product. Ultimately, the court concluded that the record was insufficient to show the amusement park primarily delivered a service, and therefore, summary judgment for the defendant on the product liability claim was denied. Thus, the plaintiff’s case will be permitted to proceed towards trial or settlement negotiations.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured going down a waterslide at the amusement park. After slipping from a seated position on the inner tube onto his stomach, he fractured his hip and pelvis when his feet hit the bottom of the pool. Among other issues, the plaintiff claimed that the waterslide was a defective product that caused his injuries.

The amusement park claimed that it could not be held liable under a product liability theory because it provided a service, rather than a product. A successful product liability claim can hold a supplier or producer of a defective product liable, and also allows a plaintiff to recover compensation for injuries resulting from the defective product. However, product liability claims do not apply when the defendant is delivering a “service” to the consumer rather than supplying a product. For this particular case, the court needed to determine whether guests pay the admission fee to the amusement park to use the waterslides, in which case products liability applies, or if the admission fee is paid to obtain a service which may include the use of waterslides.

Recently, a California appeals court issued an opinion addressing a plaintiff’s evidentiary burden in a premises liability lawsuit. The appeal stems from a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of a 16-year-old girl who died after a freight train hit her. The teenage girl routinely crossed a railroad to reach her bus stop. On the day of the accident, the railroad crossing was flashing warning lights and bells to indicate an oncoming train. However, the girl continued on the path with her head down, and as she stepped onto the tracks, the freight train struck her. The girl died on impact.

The girl’s family filed a premises liability and negligence lawsuit against the freight train company, alleging that the freight train company owned the crossing, knew it posed a danger, and failed to ensure appropriate safety measures, such as pedestrian barriers. The freight train company moved for summary judgment, arguing that it did not possess a duty to make the premises safe because they did not own, possess, or control the railroad tracks or the land surrounding the area. Further, they claimed that they did not negligently operate the freight train.

In support of their motion for summary judgment, the train company provided evidence of a shared-use agreement between the train company and the entity that owned the land. The agreement stated that the freight train company only possessed the right to use the tracks and warning systems, but did not own or operate the railroad or surrounding property.

Under California premises liability law, landowners and public entities can be held responsible for dangerous conditions that result in injuries or death to another person. In order to successfully hold a property owner accountable for an injury-causing hazard, however, certain requirements must be met. In a recently published decision, the California Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s judgment in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit filed by a plaintiff who was injured in a Southern California trip and fall accident.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case was injured when she walked into a concrete pillar near the Los Angeles Convention Center. The plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged that the pillar, which was placed in front of the convention center to prevent vehicles from driving into a pedestrian zone, was a dangerous condition negligently constructed in a public thoroughfare.

The City of Los Angeles, which was the defendant in the case, claimed that it was immune from liability under a doctrine known as design immunity. Design immunity is a defense available to public entities that shields these entities from liability if they can demonstrate that a public authority reasonably exercised discretionary authority when approving the design at issue. The trial court granted the city’s summary judgment motion and disposed of the plaintiff’s claim, resulting in the plaintiff’s appeal.

In April of 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California premises liability case discussing the application of the state’s “firefighter’s rule.” Ultimately, the court concluded that the case did not implicate the firefighter’s rule.

The firefighter’s rule is an exception to the general rule that landowners have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for visitors. Originally, the firefighter’s rule applied to firefighters and emergency personnel who put themselves at risk while engaging in the necessary functions of the job. Essentially, the firefighter’s rule prohibits a firefighter from pursuing a claim against a landowner because the firefighter is said to have assumed the risk of injury by agreeing to work in that capacity.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a site manager at a home in Beverly Hills. The home was architecturally unique in that there was a cantilevered concrete platform that extended from a steep hill, designed to look as though it was floating. The owner of the property, the defendant, rented the home for special events.

In a recent state appellate opinion, a California appellate court dismissed a plaintiff’s claim that arose after the plaintiff was injured at a carnival which was held on school grounds. The issue before the court was whether the school district could be held liable based on the placement and operation of an inflatable slide, which the plaintiff claimed was a hazardous condition.

According to the court’s opinion, a school booster group held the carnival at the school as a fundraising event. The group organized the event, and chose the company that provided the inflatable slide, and supervised its set-up and use. During the carnival, the plaintiff’s three-year-old son climbed up the slide, but was scared to go down, so the plaintiff ascended the slide in order to retrieve his son. As the plaintiff was on the slide, it suddenly deflated and tipped over. The plaintiff sued the school district for his injuries, alleging that the district was at fault because the slide was not tethered to the ground and because it was placed in a dangerous location.

Under Section 38134 of California’s Education Code, a public school is designated as a “civic center,” which means that it must allow nonprofit organizations to use school grounds for youth and school activities. Section 38134 specifically divides liability between school districts and the entities that use school grounds. The statute provides that a school district is liable for injuries that result from the school district’s negligence “in the ownership and maintenance of the school facilities or grounds.” In contrast, an entity that uses school facilities or grounds is liable for injuries that result from the entity’s negligence “during the use of the school facilities or grounds.” In addition, an entity using school grounds is responsible for obtaining insurance to protect against the risk of 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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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