The term "premises liability" refers to the liability of certain persons for injuries and damages to others arising from the ownership or possession of real property. In California, premises liability is based on general principles of negligence and is controlled both by statute and case law. Despite a business or property owner’s best efforts, visitors, customers, and other invited guests sometimes get hurt on their property or in their stores every year. Most of the resulting accidents are minor, but a few are major catastrophes that cause death, disability, or serious injury. The Simmons Law Firm is experienced in vigorously defending businesses and property owners against such claims.
The Simmons Law Firm also understands that the difference between a favorable outcome and a devastating one are the policies a business or property owner has in place before the accident. While proprietors who open their doors to the public generally know that they have a legal duty to make sure their premises are free of avoidable dangers, they often do not realize that doing so is not enough, they must be able to prove this was done. We work with our clients to establish ongoing documentation procedures for maintenance and basic safety measures that can be used as part of a defense should the need arise.
Slip and Fall/Trip and Fall. Premises liability actions have traditionally involved "slip and fall" or "trip and fall" causes of action. Premises liability is not, however, limited to such causes of action and includes, among other things, construction accidents, dog bite cases, and injuries caused by the negligent or willful conduct of third persons on the premises involved.
Negligence. As in any other negligence action, the injured person must establish the following: (1) the existence of a duty on the part of the defendant to use due care; (2) a breach of this legal duty; and (3) the breach as the proximate or legal cause of the resulting injury.
In determining who is liable in a premises liability action, the crucial elements are ownership, possession, and control of the premises. The person who owns, possesses, or controls the premises is the one responsible for any injuries arising from a condition of the premises. Without the crucial element of control over the subject premises, no duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent injury on the property can be found.
In determining whether the possessor of land owes a duty to the injured victim, a court must balance a number of considerations; the major ones are:
- the foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff;
- the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury;
- the closeness of the connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury suffered;
- the moral blame attached to the defendant’s conduct;
- the policy of preventing future harm;
- the extent of the burden to the defendant and consequences to the community of imposing a duty to
- exercise care with resulting liability for breach; and
- the availability, cost, and prevalence of insurance for the risk involved.
An owner or possessor of premises is under a duty to others by virtue of that possession or ownership to act reasonably to keep the premises safe and prevent persons from being injured. A greater degree of care is generally owed to children because of their lack of capacity to appreciate risks and to avoid danger.