CA Premises Liability Law Does Not Judge Injured Property Visitors

November 17, 2015 | Category: Premises Liability

Premises liability statutes across the U.S. hold property owners liable when visitors suffer injuries on their premises due to faulty maintenance or other negligent acts. In most states, however, that liability does not pertain to injuries sustained by trespassers or other visitors who are on the premises for suspicious purposes, such as burglary. California law makes no such distinction, but any Los Angeles accident attorney might agree that legislators have found other ways to help ensure that the law is fair to all parties.

CA Property Owners are Held to a Reasonable Care Standard

In a typical California premises liability case, neither a judge nor a jury considers whether the injured visitor was an invited guest or on the property illegally. Instead, they focus solely on whether the property owner took reasonable care to ensure that all visitors are safe. According to the California Civil Jury Instructions, the reasonable care standard is based on any combination of many factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • The likelihood that others might come onto the property in the same manner as the injured victim did
  • The chance that hazardous conditions were present that could cause serious harm
  • The likelihood that the property owner should have known of the hazardous conditions
  • The degree of difficulty required to protect visitors from the hazardous condition and the amount of control the property owner had over conditions that created the hazard

In many ways, this difference in the law serves to help ensure that all visitors benefit from safer property under normal conditions. For example, any store visitor is likely to have the right to pursue compensation after sustaining injuries caused by tripping over loose carpeting in the public area. The store owner's duty clearly includes tacking down the carpeting to avoid trip hazards for anyone, regardless of why they are on the premises.

Late-night burglars, on the other hand, might have no right to compensation if they sustain injuries from falling down unlit stairs, particularly if those stairs are in a non-public area of the store. A jury might find it unreasonable to expect the property owner to keep lights on in this area after the store closes.

Reasonable Care Decisions Are Not Always Objective

While some reasonable care decisions are obvious, juries must often rely on their own judgment when deciding the duty of care required of property owners in any given situation. This is why it is so important for premises liability lawyers to present solid, evidence-based cases, often employing testimony from building or engineering expert witnesses. A jury that understands the underlying causes of certain hazards and the relative difficulty or ease of fixing them is in the best position to make educated decisions in these cases.

Anyone who sustains injuries caused by property hazards should seek legal advice as soon as possible to help ensure that vital evidence supporting their claims is not removed or hidden. Call The Rudman Law Firm APC toll-free at (844) 478-3626 / (844) 4RUDMAN, at our Los Angeles office (213) 375-3777 or at our Studio City office (818) 769-6969. You can also use our convenient online contact form to reach us at any time.

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