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Premises Liability Law Firm - California
Slip and Fall/Trip and Fall Law- Landlord Liability Law- Criminal Conduct of Third Party on Property Law
Under the law of premises liability, if you are injured due to a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to recover damages from the property’s owner.
SLIP AND FALL/TRIP AND FALL
A premises liability case often arises when someone slips and falls, or trips and falls, on the property of someone else. In order to be successful, you must establish these factors:
- The defendant owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property where you slipped or tripped;
- The defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
- You were harmed; and
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing your harm.
Under California law, a property owner has a duty to use reasonable care to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition. In addition, a property owner must use reasonable care to discover any unsafe condition and to repair, replace, or give adequate warning of anything that could be reasonably expected to harm others. Even when a dangerous condition exists, a property owner will often claim that the condition is “open and obvious,” or that it was so obvious that the injured person could reasonably be expected to see it and therefore no warning was required.
Although these types of cases are very common, it can be difficult to establish liability and to prevail on the cases. It is generally not enough to prove that a dangerous condition existed on the property, but instead you must usually establish that the property owner had notice of the dangerous condition. For example, if you slip on milk that was spilt on the floor of a grocery store by another customer, that is likely a dangerous condition. You cannot establish that the grocery store was negligent, however, unless you also establish that the owner had notice of the milk on the floor.
A property owner can have either actual notice or constructive notice of a dangerous condition. Actual notice is usually very hard to prove; however, if an employee saw the milk on the floor and went to get a mop but did not place a warning to customers, you can establish that the owner had actual notice. More typically, a case will turn on whether the owner had constructive notice of a dangerous condition. In order to prove constructive notice, you must prove that the dangerous condition existed long enough and was of such a nature that the owner, using reasonable care, had sufficient time to discover it and either repair it, protect against it, or warn against it. Extensive discovery is often necessary to establish such constructive notice, and the owner must produce documentation showing how often the floors of the store were inspected or cleaned. In addition, the employees, managers, and owners must be deposed to establish constructive notice.
To prevail on these types of cases, you must retain knowledgeable and experienced attorneys or your case could be dismissed on summary judgment before ever going to trial. It is also important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that any video recordings of the fall are maintained and not destroyed by the potential defendant.
LANDLORD LIABILITY TO A TENANT
If you rent an apartment or a house, your landlord has duties to you and may be liable if you are injured due to a dangerous condition in the rented unit or in the common area of the apartment complex.
Before giving possession of rental property to the tenant, and again before renewing a lease, the landlord is required to conduct a reasonable inspection of the property for unsafe conditions and must take reasonable precautions to prevent injury due to any unsafe condition. The landlord’s duty is not only to inspect the apartment itself but also to inspect any common areas under the landlord’s control. After the tenant takes possession of the rental property, the landlord has a continuing duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent injury due to any unsafe condition in the common areas under the landlord’s control if the landlord knew, or reasonably should have known, about the unsafe condition. This includes an exercise room, the swimming pool, and the laundry room.
Some examples of these types of cases are:
- Ceiling fan is negligently installed and falls from ceiling, injuring tenant
- Smoke detectors not properly inspected at time of lease and fail to alert tenant of fire in apartment
- Latch on gate to swimming pool broken for several weeks allowing young child to enter pool and drown
- Sliding gate to parking structure broken for several days allowing gate to fall and injure tenant
- Burned out light bulbs in stairwell not replaced, causing tenant to fall down stairs in darkened stairwell
CRIMINAL CONDUCT OF OTHERS ON PROPERTY
Under certain circumstances, the owner of property may be held liable for the criminal conduct of someone else that occurred on the property. Under California law, the owner of a business that is open to the public must use reasonable care to protect customers, guests, and tenants from another person’s criminal conduct on the property if the owner can reasonably anticipate that such criminal conduct will occur. If the criminal conduct can be reasonably anticipated, the owner must take steps to protect the customers, guests, and tenants.
The primary factor in establishing liability in these cases is the foreseeability that a criminal act will occur on the property. Your attorney will need to investigate the number of prior crimes at the property and in the immediate vicinity of the property as well as the history of violent occurrences at the property. These cases can be extremely difficult and require knowledgeable and experienced attorneys.
Examples of such cases include the following:
- Security guards at shopping mall with numerous incidents of violence go on break together at same time, violating their own policy, and young person is attacked with a knife
- Convenience store in high crime area fails to have security cameras on side of parking lot, and teenager is shot
- Nightclub with extensive history of violence fails to have adequate number of security guards, and customer is attached and beaten
- Tenant is shot by gang member in apartment complex where gang graffiti is present and security gate is broken
Economic damages are ascertainable monetary amounts, including lost wages and medical bills. Falls can cause significant injuries, including traumatic brain injuries and paralysis. If a defendant is found to be liable for your injuries, you are entitled to recover your past and future lost wages or loss of wage-earning capacity; your past medical bills; and the anticipated cost of the medical treatment you will likely need in the future.
Non-economic damages include items such as emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, physical pain and suffering, disfigurement, and humiliation. In some situations, a fall can result in death. In such a case, the deceased’s family members, or wrongful death beneficiaries, may be entitled to recover the medical bills as well as the funeral and burial costs. The deceased’s loved ones can also recover for their own damages due to the loss of love and society of the deceased person.
TIME LIMITS TO FILE A PREMISES LIABILITY CLAIM
In California, the statute of limitations for filing most claims is two (2) years from the date of the injury. If, however, the claim is against a state or local governmental entity, the deadline to provide notice of your claim may be as little as six (6) months. For this reason, if you believe you or someone close to you may have a claim for damages, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
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