Premises liability is a legal doctrine that requires property owners to keep property reasonably safe. It allows an injured party in California to sue a property owner after being injured by defective property or a lack of maintenance. However, determining fault can be tricky, and winning a lawsuit depends on various factors.
Duty of care and visitor status
The main factor applied in many premises liability cases is the duty of care, which often depends on visitor status. An invitee is someone the owner invites or who has implied consent to be there, such as customers. The property owner is obligated to uphold the highest duty of care to invitees, since they benefit from them.
A licensee commonly has permission to be there, but it is for business reasons, such as a utility worker. While a property has a lesser duty of care to licensees, they still have a responsibility to:
- Warn about conditions they know exist
- Warn licensees about things they may not discover
A trespasser is someone who doesn’t have permission to be on the property, so the owner doesn’t owe a duty of care. However, the owner still does not have a right to threaten harm or make the property unsafe for them on purpose.
Proof of negligence
To have a chance of winning litigation, the plaintiff must show that the owner was negligent, which breached their duty of care. They must have been aware of the problem in a reasonable time but failed to make the repairs. For example, if they had known about a leak and didn’t fix it, they could be liable.
California may apply comparative fault, which makes the injured party somewhat responsible for the injury and reduces compensation. The law makes the assumption that parties should be aware of their surroundings and exercise caution.
Just because someone fell doesn’t mean that the owner automatically has liability for their injuries. Some property owners may settle out of court, but others need legal action against them.