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California Premises Liability

Guy Falling DownProperty owners are required to take reasonable care to ensure that other people on their property are kept safe from injuries. This may include building maintenance, taking adequate security measures, providing lighting, and other property upkeep. California’ San Joses premises liability law holds that the owner, lessor, occupier, or controller of property can be held liable if he or she does not maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition for visitors.

Licensees, Invitees, and Trespassers

California differs from many states in how it addresses the issue of premises liability. The traditional law in this area, which California used until 1968, distinguished among three classes of visitors on property: licensees, invitees, and trespassers. Under this approach, the property owner’s duty of care varied depending on the visitor’s status.

An invitee, who is a person invited onto the property for a business purposes, was owed the highest duty of care. The owner had to exercise ordinary care to avoid injuring an invitee. The other two categories, licensees, or social guests, and trespassers, were owed a lesser duty of care. Property owners merely had to refrain from wantonly or willfully injuring them. Licensees and trespassers generally had to take the premises as they found them, and were held more accountable for their own safety.

Current Standard

In 1968, however, the California Supreme Court changed this standard. Under the new law, property owners must take care that the premises do not have known hazards that could cause serious injury or death. In order to recover damages, a person injured on another’s property must prove the property owner’s negligence. The victim must prove that the owner did not take reasonable care to discover and repair, replace, or warn of any dangerous conditions.

In whether a property owner took reasonable care, courts consider the totality of the circumstances. They may consider factors including:

  • The property’s location;
  • The likelihood of someone entering the property in the manner that the injured person did;
  • The likelihood of harm;
  • The likely seriousness of the harm;
  • Whether the owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition;
  • The difficulty of protecting against the harm;
  • The extent of the owner’s control over the dangerous condition; and
  • Any other relevant factors.

It is important to note that the property owner, in most cases, must have actual knowledge of the dangerous condition in order to be held liable. But if a property owner does not properly inspect his or her property, the owner may still be liable for harm caused by dangerous conditions of which he or she should have known.

The new law provides that trespassers are also owed a duty of care. This is because everyone’s life and health are important. Life and limb do not become less valuable simply because a person is on property without permission, or who are lawfully on property but not for a business purpose.

If you have been injured because of a dangerous condition on another person’s property, you may be able to be compensated for your harm. Please contact the dedicated San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free initial consultation, to recover the compensation you deserve.

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