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.