CALIFORNIA PREMISES LIABILITY LAW
Go to Home Page
Return to Areas of Practice
Duty to: (1) Keep Safe; or (2) Warn of the Danger:
A possessor of land has a duty to use reasonable care to maintain his or her property in safe condition or, alternatively, adequately warn of the danger.
“Premises” means land, the building on the land, or other structures on land.
“Possessor” means the person who owned, possessed [leased, occupied] or controlled the Premises. Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 134; Alcaraz v. Vece (1997) 14 Cal.4th 1149, 1162
Liability for harm to Persons and/or Property
A Possessor is liable by negligently using and/or maintaining the premises which causes harm to a person or property (See CACI 1000).
Negligent means that the Possessor did not exercise “ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person…[CA Civil Code § 1714(a)] thereby exposing persons to an unreasonable risk of harm. (Brooks v. Eugene Burger Management Corp. (1989) 215 Cal.App.3d 1611, 1619; Alcaraz v. Vece (1997) 14 Cal.4th 1149, 1156.
Stated another way, the Possessor must use reasonable care to keep the Premises in reasonably safe condition or adequately warn of the danger. Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 674. Thus, a Possessor has a duty to use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions and to repair, replace, or give adequate warn of the unsafe condition.
Duty to Inspect for Concealed Dangers
“ [A] landowner’s lack of knowledge of the dangerous condition is not a defense. He has an affirmative duty to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition, and therefore must inspect them or take other proper means to ascertain their condition. And if, by the exercise of reasonable care, he would have discovered the dangerous condition, he is liable.’” (Swanberg v. O’Mectin (1984) 157 Cal.App.3d 325, 330.
A property owner generally has a duty to keep its premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn those coming onto the property of latent or concealed perils. (Lucas v. George T.R. Murai Farms, Inc. (1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 1578, 1590.
Open and Obvious Conditions and Comparative Negligence
Where, a "danger is so obvious that a person could reasonably be expected to see it, the condition itself serves as a warning" and the property owner has no duty to warn of the condition (Krongos v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 387, 393). However, he or she may still have a duty to remedy the dangerous condition, with the obviousness of the danger relevant to the issue of the injured person's comparative negligence. Donohue v. San Francisco Housing Authority(1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 658, 665; Osborn v. Mission Ready Mix (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 104, 114-122.
A plaintiff may prove a dangerous condition existed for an unreasonable time with... ‘evidence that…the dangerous condition was present for a sufficient period of time to charge the [store] owner with constructive knowledge of its existence.” Ortega v. Kmart (2001) 26 Cal.4th 1200, 1205, 1206, 1210.
Preventing Criminal Acts
Further, defendant property owner is negligent if he/she/it allows a dangerous condition on its property or failed to take reasonable steps to secure its property against criminal acts by third parties.” (Delgado v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc. (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 1403, 1406, fn. 1.
“[O]nly when ‘heightened’ foreseeability of third party criminal activity on the premises exists-shown by prior similar incidents or other indications of a reasonably foreseeable risk of violent criminal assaults in that location does the scope of a business proprietor’s special-relationship-based duty include an obligation to provide guards to protect the safety of patrons.” (Delgado v. Trax Bar & Grill (2005) 36 Cal.4th 224, 240.
“Even when proprietors ... have no duty ... to provide a security guard or undertake other similarly burdensome preventative measures, …there are circumstances (apart from the failure to provide a security guard or undertake other similarly burdensome preventative measures) that may give rise to liability based upon the proprietor’s special relationship.” (Delgado, supra, 36 Cal.4th at pp. 240-241.)
“Once a court finds that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff, it is for the factfinder to decide whether the security measures were reasonable [and ‘adequate’] under the circumstances. (Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 131 [211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653], internal citation omitted.)
Reasonable Person Test
“The proper test to be applied to the liability of the possessor of land ... is whether in the management of his property he has acted as a reasonable man in view of the probability of injury to others ....” (Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 119.
Status of Visitor
Under the common law, a visitor’s status on the property-as a trespasser, a licensee, or an invitee determined the extent of the owner’s duties to the visitor. Under current law, status may be relevant to the specific nature or scope of those duties or to the foreseeability that the visitor might be harmed. (Ann M., supra, 6 Cal.4th at pp. 674-675.) See also Beauchamp v. Los Gatos Golf Course (1969) 273 Cal.App.2d 20, 25.
See also Invited Areas of Premises.
The law rejects the distinction between artificial and natural conditions (Sprecher v. Adamson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 358, 371.See Sidewalk Liability
See also Trivial Defect Law
Further, see Inadequate Lighting of Premises
Also, see Premises Liability at Medical Facilities
Moreover, see No Prior Similar Accidents
If you've been the victim of a premises liability incident, contact Christian lawyer, Matthew B. Tozer for a free consultation.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is informational, only. The subject matter and applicable law is evolving and/or constant state of change. This advice is based on California law. No legal advice is given and no attorney/client or other relationship is established or intended. The information provided is from general sources, and I cannot represent, guarantee or warrant that the information contained in this website is accurate, current, or is appropriate for the usage of any reader. It is recommend that readers of this information consult with their own counsel prior to relying on any information on this website.
Go to Home Page
Return to Areas of Practice