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When accidents happen: California premises liability

  • Rated By Super Lawyers | Mauro Fiore, Jr.| Selected in 2017 | Thomson Reuters
  • Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles | CAALA
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California residents expect that the places they go to are safe. Be it the grocery store, an art museum, a theater, their doctor's office, or any other place, they do not expect the property's maintenance and upkeep to be so poor as to present a danger to their health or safety. If, however, they are injured, such as by falling on a wet floor or sidewalk, or if, for instance, one of their vehicle's tires is ruined because of a jagged pothole in the parking lot, they may wish to sue for monetary damages.

As FindLaw explains, the doctrine of premises liability holds that the owner and/or operator of a property is liable for any accidents and/or injuries that occur on their property. In other words, an owner and/or operator has an affirmative duty to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the property so that it presents no hazards for visitors.

What must be proven

A premises liability lawsuit is a civil suit against the person(s) and/or entity responsible for the property. The plaintiff is seeking money damages to compensate him or her for injuries sustained while at the property.

Per California's Civil Jury Instructions, the plaintiff must prove the following four things in order to prevail in a premises liability lawsuit:

  1. The defendant was the owner, lessee, occupant or controller of the property.
  2. The defendant maintained or used the property in a negligent manner.
  3. The plaintiff was injured while on the property.
  4. The defendant's negligence was a substantial factor that caused the harm to the plaintiff.

Proving these four things entitles the plaintiff to receive monetary damages. Such damages generally are to compensate the plaintiff for his or her pain and suffering and all expenses associated with the injuries sustained.

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