What Is Premises Liability Law In California?
Premises liability concerns what the responsibility of a property owner to protect another from injury or harm caused while rightfully on their property. The most common scenario would be a duty to protect persons from a defect in their flooring which may have an uneven surface resulting in an injury causing trip. California has what is called a, “trivial defect”, i.e. the uneven surface is minimal and we should not hold the landlord/property owner responsible for this minor defect and responsible to remedy such a small imperfection. A trip injury which occurred in Santa Barbara resulted in an appellate court ruling which has held that the a defect in an uneven floor must be greater than an inch and a half.
Another example of premises liability would be a pool drowning. As we approach the summer months, many children will be invited to the pools of another. That homeowner does have a responsibility to the other person’s child if they are a guest in their house. The California legislature has passed a statute that provides, if you are a parent on the property of another, as a guest, and your child drowns or dies, the property owner is not responsible. The rationale is, once you come to the home of another, you don’t give up your responsibility of caring for your child to the home owner. You are still responsible for making sure your child is safe and the homeowner is not a guarantor of your child’s safety.
Another area of premises liability, is the dog bite. The California statute for dog bites holds the dog owner responsible for the injury causing bite, provided that person did not trespass on your property when he or she was bitten. The dog may also get loose from the property and bite someone, the property and dog owner is on the hook for the injury causing bite. The responsible party’s homeowners insurance will ordinarily cover that loss. Throughout the years, insurers have limited their coverage to certain breeds of dogs and expressly exclude coverage of certain breeds such as the Chow Chow, Pit Bull, Akita and certain Shepherds. In those scenarios where there is no coverage extended, the dog owners personal finances are pursued to remedy the injured victim.
In a premises liability case unlike the rear-end automobile collision, proving fault is a bit more difficult. The injured party must prove that the property owner had notice or knowledge of the injury causing harm on their property and should have known about the danger and taken steps within a reasonable period of time to correct and avoid the injury causing defect on their property. This can be a difficult standard. For example, one who slips and is injured in an ice cream parlor as a result of another patrons spilt ice cream may be difficult to prove the parlor owner is responsible. If the slip on that ice cream occurs seconds later, it is hard to prove or hold the parlor owner responsible as there was insufficient time to remedy. If however, that spilt ice cream was on the floor for a significant amount of time where they should have noticed and remedied, the parlor owner can be responsible for the injury causing slip. It comes down to, “what is the reasonable amount of time that a shop owner should have to get that cleaned up to avoid harm to another?”
The injured victim through their attorney must prove or show that there was knowledge or that they should have known and their failure resulted in the injury causing slip. Surveillance video footage is great evidence to help prove this. It can help prove fault and show the magnitude of the injury as it will depict the severity of the slip and fall of the person as they strike the ground. The video surveillance can also show the length of time the injury causing defect existed and was not remedied.
As your attorney, we immediately send out notice asking the responsible shop (grocery store, ice cream parlor, restaurant, etc.) owner preserve the video surveillance footage, sweep sheets (a log of the interval the floor is cleaned). In the event we have sent out notice and the shop has failed to preserve the video surveillance or may have recorded over it, there is an evidentiary code section under California law that may shift the burden on the defense. Where there is a dispute as to the reasonable time period of the injury causing defect not having been remedied timely, the video surveillance is the best evidence. As your attorney we will argue the responsible party who was given notice to preserve the surveillance video footage failed to do so and when we asked for it, because it no longer exists as they may claim to have recorded over it or destroyed it, as attorneys for the injured victim we will seek of the court that the burden of proof shift from the plaintiff to the defendant as they dispute fault, yet they destroyed the vital evidence which would have resolve this.
In almost all premises liability cases, there is a very strong likelihood that the injured victim will have to file a lawsuit before there is any resolution. Many will be tried because of the onerous obligation on the plaintiff to prove notice on behalf of the shop owner. We are skilled trial lawyers and will represent your rights aggressively in all courts in the State of California.
For more information on Premises Liability Cases In California, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (714) 617-2225 today.
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