Premises liability is the area of law in which owners and possessors of real property can be held liable for a personal injury caused by the unsafe condition found on their property. A California premises liability lawsuit is usually based in negligence. Premises liability claims may arise out of many different circumstances, including the following:
- Slip and fall
- Dog bites
- Falling objects
- Dangerous conditions
- Defective furniture
- Sidewalk defects
- Roadway defects
- Poorly lit stairs
- Tripping over sprinklers
- Carbon monoxide leaks
- Unfenced swimming pools
- Toxic substances on the property
Premises liability claims may arise anywhere somebody owns or possesses property. Some examples include:
- Amusement Parks
- Retail Stores
- Parking lots
- Parking structures
- Private houses
Most premises liability claims are based in the law of negligence. To win a negligence action, a plaintiff must show by a preponderance of the evidence the following:
- Duty – the owner had a duty to the plaintiff to keep the premises safe.
- Breach – the owner breached his duty and failed to keep the premises safe.
- Causation – the owner’s breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
- Damages – the plaintiff suffered damages due to the owner’s breach.
DUTY OWED BY POSSESSOR/OWNER
The duty owed to the plaintiff by the owner or possessor of land changes based on the status of the plaintiff as an unknown trespasser, a known trespasser, a licensee, or an invitee.
- Unknown Trespasser: the owner of land owes no duty to make the premises safe for the unknown trespasser.
- Known Trespasser: where the owner knows that trespassers are likely, he must use due care when acting affirmatively. Furthermore, he must warn of known dangerous conditions that are not obvious or may go unnoticed.
- Licensee: licensees are people who are allowed to enter the premises under the permission of the owner or possessor. Licensees include social guests, household visitors, and uninvited sales people. The owner or possessor must warn licensees of known dangers that the licensee is unlikely to discover. The owner must also conduct all activities with reasonable care.
- Invitee: an invitee is a person who enters a premises that is generally open to the public. Entry may be made in response to the owner’s invitation or for the business purposes of the owner (e.g. shopping at the owner’s store). Because invitees enter the premises for the owner’s benefit, they are owed a higher duty than licensees. The owner must make reasonable inspections and either warn of the known dangers or make the premises safe. A mere warning is likely inadequate if a condition presents a serious danger of personal injury or death.
Some premises liability cases are based on the doctrine of strict liability. In a strict liability instance, the owner does not have to be negligent for the plaintiff to recover damages. A plaintiff may recover under strict liability if the injury was caused by ultra-hazardous or abnormally dangerous activities being conducted on the defendant’s land. Examples of such activities include the following:
- Transportation, storage, or use of dynamite and other explosives
- Transportation, storage, or use of radioactive materials
- Transportation, storage, or use of certain hazardous chemicals
- Keeping of wild animals such as a tiger or elephant
- Keeping of domestic animals known to be dangerous, such as a pit bull that has bitten people in the past.
Claims Must be Initiated Within the Statute of Limitations
Under California’s statute of limitations, a plaintiff must bring a cause of action for negligence within two years of accrual. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1. Because the date of accrual may vary based on the circumstances, it is important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to ensure your rights are protected.
If You Have Been Injured on the Premises of Another, Seek Legal Advice
Personal injury matters are extremely time-sensitive. It is important to act promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the cause of the injury, and to file a lawsuit prior to the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations. If you or a loved one has been injured on the premises of another, contact Los Angeles personal injury attorney James R. Gillen at 877-619-3095 or by e-mail