Premises Liability

Grounds for Justice:
Navigating the Terrain of Premises Liability

In the sunny expanse of Southern California, where business and recreation abound, the legal concept of premises liability is essential knowledge for property owners and residents alike. Premises liability law holds property owners and occupiers responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on their property. This article provides an overview of premises liability in the context of California law, highlights common injuries, and offers statistical insights to underscore the importance of understanding and adhering to these legal standards.


An Overview of Premises Liability

Simply put, premises liability is a legal concept that usually comes into play in personal injury cases where the injury was caused by some type of unsafe or defective condition on someone’s property. Basically, it’s about holding a property owner responsible for accidents that happen on their property.

Here are three different examples which illustrate premises liability:


  1. Slip and Fall at a Grocery Store: Imagine you’re walking down the aisle of a grocery store, and you slip on a puddle of spilled liquid that wasn’t cleaned up and left unmarked without a warning sign. The store could be held liable for your injuries because they have a duty to keep the aisles safe for customers. If they knew about the spill and didn’t clean it up in a reasonable amount of time, they could be responsible for any harm that comes from it.
  2. Dog Bite in a Neighbor’s Yard: Let’s say you’re invited to a neighbor’s BBQ and their dog bites you. If the dog has a history of aggression or the owner hasn’t taken steps to ensure the dog is secure or warns guests, your neighbor could be held liable for your injuries. In California, dog owners are strictly liable for bites, which means they are responsible for the harm their dog causes, whether or not they were negligent.
  3. Injury at a Pool Party: Consider you’re at a pool party, and there’s a broken tile at the edge of the pool. You step on it, it gives way, and you get injured. If the host of the pool party knew about the broken tile and didn’t fix it or at least warn you, they could be held responsible for your injury because they didn’t maintain their property in a safe condition.
  4. Falling Merchandise in a Retail Store: Imagine you’re shopping in a department store and an overhead display isn’t secured properly. As you walk by, an item falls and hits you, resulting in an injury. The store may be liable for your injuries because they are responsible for safely securing merchandise. If they failed to do so and that negligence led to your injury, they could be held responsible.
  5. Accident on a Rented Property: Let’s say you’re renting an apartment, and you’ve repeatedly written your landlord that the railing on your balcony feels unstable. The landlord doesn’t take any action to repair it. One day, you lean on it, and it breaks, causing you to fall and injure yourself. In this case, the landlord could be held liable because they were aware of the unsafe condition and did nothing to fix it, which is a breach of their duty to maintain a safe living environment.
  6. Injury in a Parking Lot: Consider you’re walking through a parking lot of a shopping center when you trip over a large crack in the asphalt and get injured. If the parking lot owner neglected the maintenance of the lot and allowed the crack to become a hazard, they could be liable for your injuries. Property owners are responsible for the upkeep of their premises, including parking lots, to prevent such accidents.


In all these examples, the key point is that the owner or person in control of the property has a responsibility to keep it safe for others. If they fail to do this and someone gets hurt, they can be taken to court and may have to pay for the injured person’s medical bills, pain, suffering, and other damages.


Premises Liability in California: The Legal Framework

Under California law, premises liability arises from California Civil Code 1714(a), which defines the responsibility for an injury, “occasioned to another by their want of ordinary care or skill in the management of their property or person.” The law covers various scenarios ranging from slip and fall accidents to defective construction or maintenance.


Common Injuries in Premises Liability Cases

In Southern California, where foot traffic in commercial and public spaces is high, injuries in premises liability cases include:

  • Slips, trips, and falls resulting from wet floors, uneven surfaces, or poorly lit areas.
  • Injuries from falling objects or merchandise.
  • Dog bites or animal attacks, particularly in residential areas.
  • Swimming pool accidents, which are prevalent due to the region’s warm climate.
  • Injuries from fires or exposure to toxic fumes, often linked to negligent maintenance.
  • Assaults or other injuries resulting from inadequate security on the premises.


Tread Carefully: Leading Cause of ER Visits

The National Floor Safety Institute has reported that falls account for over 8 million hospital emergency room visits, representing the leading cause of visits (21.3%). Additionally, floors and flooring materials directly contribute to more than 2 million fall injuries each year.


Property Owner’s Duty of Care

In California, the property owner’s duty of care includes regular inspection, maintenance, and prompt repair of the premises. If a hazard exists, the owner must provide adequate warning until the hazard is rectified. The level of care expected can vary depending on the property type and the foreseeability of an injury.


Visitor Status Under California Law

The duty owed by a property owner in California also varies according to the status of the visitor:

  • Invitees: Individuals invited onto the property for commercial benefit to the owner, such as customers in a store, are owed the highest duty of care.
  • Licensees: Guests who are on the premises for social reasons, without any commercial benefit to the owner, must be warned of non-obvious dangers the owner is aware of.
  • Trespassers: While traditionally owed the lowest duty of care, California law requires property owners to refrain from willful or wanton harm to trespassers.


Filing a Premises Liability Claim in Southern California

To file a premises liability claim in California, the injured party must prove that the property owner was negligent concerning the ownership and maintenance of the property. This includes demonstrating that the owner knew or should have known about the hazardous condition and failed to repair it or provide adequate warning.


Assert Your Legal Power – Reach Out to Harsh Law

If you have been injured on someone else’s property in Southern California, know that the law is on your side, and compensation may be available for your injuries. Harsh Law is dedicated to providing expert legal representation to those affected by premises liability issues. We encourage property owners and injury victims alike to contact us for more information or to discuss a potential claim.

Call Harsh Law at (909) 793-6261 today for your complimentary consultation.