Articles Posted in Slip & Fall

When someone is injured as a result of another’s risky or negligent behavior, state law allows them to bring a California personal injury suit to recover for their injuries. In order to establish liability in California, the plaintiff must prove the elements of negligence. First, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed her a duty of care. Next, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached that duty. Third, the plaintiff must prove that she was injured, and then the plaintiff must establish that the defendant’s breach of duty was a proximate cause of her injury. While this may seem straightforward, a plaintiff can be barred from recovery if she fails to prove just one of these elements.

For instance, take a recent California appellate court case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was visiting the defendants’ home in Sonora, California, when she fell on a step leading from the house to the garage. She fell to the floor and suffered injuries to her right wrist and to her humerus. It was later discovered that the garage step violated several provisions of the Uniform Building Code (UBC), although defendants were unaware of these violations at the time of the accident.

The plaintiff brought a lawsuit against the defendants, arguing that they were negligent and that the garage step, due to the UBC violations, was an unreasonably dangerous condition that caused her injuries. While it may seem at first glance that the plaintiff had a strong negligence claim, the court ultimately dismissed her claim because she could not prove that the defendants breached their duty. According to the court, the defendants did owe a duty of care to the defendant, who was visiting their property. Landowners breach this duty of care if they do not take reasonable precautions to ensure that dangerous conditions do not exist on the property, or that visitors are warned if they do. However, in this case, the defendants did not know about the UBC violations. The court found that the plaintiff had not met her burden to prove that the defendants should have known or been on alert for the dangerous condition created by the garage step. As such, missing a critical element of negligence, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed and she was unable to recover.

Recently, the California Court of Appeal reversed a trial court judgment in favor of the defendants that had granted their motion for summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ negligence allegations.  After a victim suffered injuries at work and eventually died, the relatives brought a negligence claim against his employer and another employee.  On appeal, the court assessed whether the trial court had erred in finding there had not been a triable issue of material fact regarding the employer’s negligence. Specifically, the issue was whether the court had wrongly excluded dying declarations that the deceased made concerning details of his accident.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged the employer negligently stacked and loaded potato pallets, since they operate a potato packing operation.  This negligence caused a pallet to topple on and crush the deceased. When opposing the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs contended that the potato boxes had not been properly wrapped together.

The plaintiffs submitted declarations, which provided the deceased’s version of facts as he told them to relatives while he was in the hospital. The defendants objected to the statements in the personal declarations as hearsay.   The trial court analyzed whether the evidence supported the finding that the deceased had been relating facts concerning the cause of his death, rather than a hearsay account of another event, unrelated to his death.  The court sustained the objections to the personal declarations and held there was no proof of negligence on the part of the defendants.

In a California premises liability case involving whether the trial court properly applied the Medical Injury Compensation Act’s (MICRA) one-year statute of limitations for professional negligence, the appellate court held that it had been an error to apply the one-year statute of limitations for professional negligence. The court assessed whether the statute of limitations applied to bar her case, since the plaintiff argued that her injury was not caused by rendering professional services but in fact was caused by ordinary negligence.

The facts indicate that the plaintiff had been at a medical clinic, with the goal of reviewing test results with a nurse-practitioner. After her consult, the plaintiff left the treatment room in order to exit the building.  She tripped on a scale that, she alleged, partly blocked the path from her room to the hall. As she tripped, she fell and suffered serious injuries.

The plaintiff’s complaint was filed nearly two years after the incident, and the health center alleged her injuries were caused by “a negligent act or omission in rendering professional services.” As a result, they contended she was subject to the one-year statute of limitations for professional negligence, and her complaint was time-barred.

In an appeal before the Second Appellate District, the California Court of Appeal addressed an appeal brought by the City of Long Beach after the lower court awarded $99,000 in pain and suffering damages to the 81-year-old plaintiff in a Southern California trip and fall case.  After reviewing the jury’s award and supporting evidence, the court affirmed the award in favor of the injured plaintiff.

The 81-year-old plaintiff and his daughter were at a boat parade in Long Beach, and while walking to their car after the festivities, the plaintiff’s foot caught a curb, which caused him to fall into a crosswalk in the street. The plaintiff’s injuries included a broken shoulder. He received treatment non-surgically. The plaintiff then brought a complaint for premises liability against Long Beach on the grounds that it was negligent and created a dangerous condition of public property.

After deliberations, the jury found that the City was 51% at fault for the incident, and the plaintiff was 49% at fault.  The jury determined that the plaintiff’s pain and suffering was $194,118. This included $174,706 for past pain and suffering and $19,412 for future pain and suffering. The final judgment awarded the plaintiff $99,000.

In a lawsuit for negligence and premises liability, the California Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants because they had no notice of the allegedly dangerous condition.  In this opinion, the court analyzed the elements of a premises liability claim and assessed whether the plaintiff had met her burden of showing that the defendants had notice of the allegedly dangerous step in their home.

The plaintiff in this case was touring a home offered for sale when she fell on a stair and injured herself. The stair was one step down into a living room, approximately 5.6 inches in elevation change. At the time of her fall, the defendants, including the homeowners and their real estate agents, were not in the house.  In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants (the real estate agent, as well as her husband, a broker) knew or should have known that the dangerous condition (which was the step-down change in elevation of a single stair) created an unreasonable risk of harm.  Her complaint alleged that the defendants failed to remedy the condition or failed to adequately warn of the condition. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that the step was open and obvious, and the defendants did not have a duty to warn.  They also contended that the step had not presented any danger, and they had no notice of any dangerous condition.

The trial court entered summary judgment for the defendants, persuaded that the homeowners did not have notice that the step inside their home constituted a dangerous condition requiring a warning. As a result, the court found they had no duty, and the other real estate defendants should be granted summary judgment.

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The California Court of Appeal, Second District, affirmed a verdict in favor of the City of Los Angeles after an injured individual alleged the City had been negligent and was liable for injuries sustained while walking on a public sidewalk on West 89th Street.  Turning to the notice requirement set forth in Government Code section 835, the court in this opinion assessed whether the plaintiff had been prejudiced by the trial court’s exclusion of certain testimony concerning the uplift in a sidewalk that constituted an allegedly dangerous condition.  The court found the testimony that had been excluded was irrelevant to proving constructive notice, and it upheld the jury’s verdict in favor of the City.

The plaintiff in this case hurt her foot while walking on the sidewalk when, allegedly, the roots of a tree next to the sidewalk created a crack that uplifted a section several inches, causing her to hit her foot on this “uplift.”  Within a year of the date of the accident, the plaintiff brought a tort claim against the City, alleging a dangerous condition of the sidewalk led to her injury.

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Recently, a California Court of Appeal issued an unpublished opinion in a premises liability and negligence lawsuit brought by an individual who suffered a serious fall in an AMC movie theater bathroom. The appellate court, on review, assessed whether the plaintiff’s evidence showed conduct constituting negligence, based on premises liability. After assessing the facts and testimony, the court held that the plaintiff had merely shown conjecture or speculation, and this would not be sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find the defendants knew of a dangerous condition on their premises.

The facts of this case indicated that the plaintiff had been found on the restroom floor, next to a urinal that had occasionally malfunctioned by overflowing. There were no substances found on the floor aside from the plaintiff’s blood.

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The California Court of Appeal recently addressed whether the owner of a restaurant owed a duty to protect against harm caused by removing a snow grate. In this opinion, the court emphasized the balancing test of the foreseeability of harm against the burden imposed on a proprietor to protect against potential harm. In this case, the lower court had held the owner had no duty to take additional preventative measures, since third parties had not formerly removed the grate. The appellate court affirmed the judgment in favor of the restaurant, holding that the plaintiff had not shown the removal of the grate was reasonably foreseeable, and therefore, there was no triable issue regarding the owner’s duty to undertake preventative measures.

After falling through a snow grate that had been removed near the entrance and exit to a restaurant, the plaintiff in this case brought causes of action against the restaurant owner for negligence and premises liability. In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged the owner breached its duty to avoid harm to patrons. The complaint also alleged that it was reasonably foreseeable that third parties would engage in pranks, vandalism, or malicious conduct, unless the premises were secured, since the premises had a history of such misconduct.

The facts indicated that individuals congregated near the public door on the deck, removed the snow grate, and exposed the opening in the deck. This opening is where the plaintiff fell when he stepped out of the door, about nine seconds after the grate was removed.  Security guards were on duty that evening, but they did not see the fall take place.

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In a recent unpublished opinion regarding an underlying premises liability lawsuit, the California Court of Appeal upheld a judgment in favor of a Southern California supermarket chain after the plaintiff alleged a defective floor caused her to slip and fall and suffer injuries. The court reviewed the evidence presented before the trial court, relying on the rule of law that states that property owners are not responsible for defects that are deemed “trivial” as a matter of law.  In this lawsuit, the plaintiff had not shown the defect to be material, and her opposition to the defendant supermarket’s motion for summary judgment did not create a triable issue of material fact.

The plaintiff brought a lawsuit against Hughes Markets, Inc. dba Ralphs. She alleged premises liability and negligence. Ralphs moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court. The plaintiff appealed.

The facts indicated that while the plaintiff was exiting a Ralphs Store in Sherman Oaks, she slipped and fell.  She filed this complaint and contended that the floor was uneven and defective. In their summary judgment motion, Ralphs argued the floor defect was trivial as a matter of law. They supported their motion with a declaration of the former store manager, who had inspected and measured the floor.  The plaintiff relied on a declaration by a civil engineer in support of her opposition to summary judgment. Ralphs alleged that they could not be found liable because there was no condition that created a substantial risk of injury. They argued that the floor defect was trivial.

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In a recent opinion, the California Court of Appeals upheld summary judgment in favor of a fitness center following allegations of gross negligence after an individual slipped and fell in the shower facilities. The court held there were no genuine issues of material fact, and the Release and Waiver of Liability and Indemnity was valid and a complete defense to the negligence cause of action that was alleged in the first amended complaint.

Plaintiff Kirk Anderson, in his early 60s, signed a membership agreement at L.A. Fitness, a health club in Glendale.  The language of the agreement included a release and waiver of liability and indemnity.  He suffered injuries at the health club when he went to shower and slipped and fell on the floor, eventually requiring surgery to repair his humerus.

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