Who is responsible for accidents that occur on or around buildings and grounds?
We often refer to personal injury accidents that are caused by a defective condition or a dangerous condition on property, either outside, such as a sidewalk or parking lot or inside a building, as “premises liability” accidents. These premises liability accidents can occur at commercial buildings (stores or offices), commercial venues (amusement parks or water parks) residences (private homes or rentals), or on public property (parks, streets, or public transportation facilities).
Many circumstances can cause a dangerous condition on premises, such as — unsafe design, poor construction or poor building materials, improper maintenance, improperly managed amusement rides. Dangerous conditions on premises can lead to many types of personal injury accidents including slip and fall, trip and fall, being hit by an item falling on you or any number of ways.
It may surprise you to learn that in order to recover for personal injuries suffered on another’s property you must prove that they were negligent in the use and management of their property. Sometimes the property owner / possessor of property is responsible and sometimes not. Premises liability personal injury claims are very dependent on the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.
Generally the owner or possessor of a property has a duty to anyone who enters the property not to expose that individual an unreasonable risk of harm because of condition, construction or design of the property. The logic for the rule is understandable: The owner or possessor of the premises has complete control over of the premises and is in the best position to maintain and control the premises. A visitor at someone else’s property has a right to assume the property is in a reasonable safe condition for its intended use and purpose.
Nevertheless, a visitor must use the property properly. This can be somewhat moderated depending upon the age of the visitor. However, as a rule the conduct of the injured person can be an issue. By way of example, if a person gets injured while acting in an unexpected, unauthorized, or dangerously careless way, the property owner or occupier will probably not be responsible for the injury.
Under California law the owner (owner, possessor, renter, governmental entity) of a premise or location is not “automatically responsible” for the injuries suffered by a customer or a pedestrian. The California Supreme Court in Ortega v. Kmart (2001) 26 Cal.4th 1200 [114 Cal.Rptr.2d 470, 36 P.3d 11] set forth the law for slip and fall / trip and fall claims. Ortega involved a store in which a patron suffered an injury because of a slip and fall accident.
The Court stated that “It is well established in California that although a store owner is not an insurer of the safety of its patrons. (Ortega, supra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 1205.” The Court went on to state “Because the owner is not the insurer of the visitor’s personal safety, the owner’s actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition is a key to establishing its liability.” (Ortega, supra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 1206). The Court further held that “Courts have also held that where the plaintiff relies on the failure to correct a dangerous condition to prove the owner’s negligence, the plaintiff has the burden of showing that the owner had notice of the defect in sufficient time to correct it.” (Ortega, supra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 1206.)
In the case of Getchell v. Rogers Jewelry (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 381, 385 [136 Cal.Rptr.3d 641], the Court held that “Generally speaking, a property owner must have actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition before liability will be imposed. In the ordinary slip and fall case, . . . the cause of the dangerous condition is not necessarily linked to an employee. . .”
If you have been injured because of a premises accident at a commercial building (store or office), or at a commercial venue (amusement park or water park), or at a residence (private home or rental), or on public property (park, street, or public transportation facility), you may be thinking “Do I have a case?”
Consider this an owner / possessor of property will be found negligent in the use or maintenance of their property if 1) a condition on the property created an unreasonable risk of harm; 2) the owner / possessor knew or, through the exercise of reasonable care, should have known about the dangerous condition; and 3) the owner / possessor failed to repair the condition, protect against harm from the condition, or give adequate warning of the condition.
The Law Offices of Richard M. Katz has had many successful claims against property owners over the years we have had successful results against governmental entities, private homeowners, builders, amusement parks and venues. Some of these cases resulted in death and serious injury. If you or someone you know has been injured or killed possibly on someone else’s premises please give me a call for a free consultation. Please contact Richard M. Katz, Esq. at 626-796-6333 so that my office can help protect your legal rights.