Articles Posted in Premises Accidents

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Many California businesses ask their patrons to sign waivers of liability when the patrons use their facilities. These waivers are especially common in recreational businesses such as gyms. While these waivers may absolve companies of liability when people are injured, they do not offer absolute protection to the businesses. In cases in which juries find that the actions of the businesses amounted to negligence per se or gross negligence, the companies may still be liable to pay damages despite the waivers. In Ziegler v. The Bay Clubs Company, LLC, et al., Los Angeles Superior Court case no. BC638802, a plaintiff prevailed in her negligence claim against a gym despite having signed a waiver of liability.

Factual background of the case

Patricia Ziegler, a 71-year-old retired woman, visited the Bay Clubs Company’s gym in El Segundo on Jan. 31, 2016. While she was walking through the gym, she attempted to take a shortcut between two treadmills. People at the gym often took a shortcut between the treadmills instead of walking the long way around on the aisles. The gym had a metal wireway on the floor between the treadmills that was approximately six inches by six inches. The wireway had an unsecured lid. While Ziegler was walking through the area, her foot caught underneath the lid, causing her to fall. She fractured and dislocated her elbow and filed a lawsuit against the company for her injuries, alleging negligence per se and gross negligence. The plaintiff allegedly had signed a waiver of liability when she joined the gym.

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Mop bucket and caution sign

California companies have a duty of care to keep their premises in reasonably safe conditions for their visitors. (NOTE: For a full summary of California law on accident and injury claims on commercial property, click here). There are limits to this duty of care, however. In Peralta v. The Vons Company, Cal. Court of Appeals, case no. B282130, the extent of the duty of care owed to visitors was explored.

Background of the case

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personal-injury-law-CaliforniaThe California Supreme Court recently ruled in Regents of the University of California v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County that universities in the state have a duty to protect their students from violent acts that are foreseeable. The case involved a lawsuit that was filed by a student at UCLA who was stabbed by a classmate while she was in an on-campus lab. People who have been attacked on college campuses might want to consult with a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer about the rights that they might have.

Factual background of the case

Damon Thompson was a student at UCLA who began experiencing persecutory auditory hallucinations and delusions that other students were plotting against him and talking badly about him. Thompson had transferred to UCLA in 2008. He emailed his history professor after his final and stated that other students had made offensive comments during the test that angered him. The professor sent the email to the chair of the department, who advised him to recommend that Thompson get help from the school’s counseling department.

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automatic-gate-accident-attorney-los-angelesAutomatic gate accidents in Los Angeles can cause serious injuries or deaths. In these types of cases, there are several parties that might be liable. The property owners or lessors may be responsible if they negligently retain or repair the gates or if the knew or should have known about an existing defect and failed to repair it. If the automatic gate failed because of a defective part, the part’s manufacturer may be liable to pay damages. Finally, people who are injured in gate accidents may also share liability. In Park v. Oh, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC569323, the plaintiff and the property owner shared liability.

Factual background of the case

Around 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 13, 2013, Chon Ho Park drove down the driveway of his apartment complex. As he drew near to an automatic gate, he noticed that it was working improperly. Oh watched the gate as it opened and closed multiple times and called his landlord to ask what he should do. His landlord told him to turn the switch on the automatic gate to the off position so that the landlord could inspect it later on during the day. Park looked for the switch but could not see it. He walked around to the outside of the gate to look for it. The switch was located inside of the motor’s exterior plastic housing. While Park stayed on the phone with his landlord, he reached through some metal bars in order to try to turn the switch off. When he did, the gate closed on his wrist and arm, breaking them. Park filed a lawsuit against his landlord alleging that the landlord had negligently maintained the gate.

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batting-cage-accidentProperty owners and operators in California owe duties of care to protect people who are legally present on their properties from dangerous conditions. Property owners must either know about the existence of the hazardous condition or should know about it for liability to attach. They must take steps to correct hazards about which they know or should have known and to warn visitors to their property about their existence. In Lefebvre v. NC Valley Baseball, LLC, Stanislaus County Superior Court No. 2019247, the court considered the concepts of notice and of assumption of the risk in a case involving a man who was injured at a batting cage by a baseball.

Factual background of the case

Craig Lefebvre was a 23-year-old coach for a team from NC Valley Baseball, LLC. On Jan. 21, 2016, Lefebvre was getting ready to leave the batting cage location in Modesto when he was stopped by a parent to talk. As Lefebvre stopped on the walkway between two of the batting areas, a foul ball flew through the protective netting and struck him in the groin.

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Property owners owe a duty of care to people who are lawfully present on their premises to prevent injuries from existing hazards by correcting them if they know or should know about the dangers. This duty does not extend to public streets that abut the properties, however. In a recent case, the California Supreme Court examined whether or not a property owner who owned a parking lot across the street from the primary property owed a duty of care to help people to cross the street in order to prevent injuries.

Issue: Whether a property owner owes a duty of care to invitees to prevent injury when they cross over a public street from a privately owned parking lot to the owner’s premises

Grace Family Church is located in Sacramento County in an unincorporated area along a five-lane street named Marconi Street. There was an intersection that was located between 50 to 100 feet east of the church that did not have a marked crosswalk. There were not any other crosswalks across the street in the vicinity. The church used a private swim school’s parking lot as an overflow lot by agreement with the swim school.

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In California, employees of host businesses may be able to file lawsuits against negligent third parties such as subcontractors or vendors who cause them injury while they are working. Third-party injury lawsuits may be filed even when the property owner is not at fault if the third parties create dangerous conditions at the location. In Cynthia Forgays v. Jorge Vivo, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC549455, a server at a restaurant, was able to recover full damages from a negligent videographer who set up his equipment in a negligent manner at the restaurant where she worked.

Factual background of the case

Cynthia Forgays, a 59-year-old server, had worked at Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills for more than 12 years. While she worked there, her normal income was more than $50,000 per year. On Oct. 24, 2013, the restaurant was hosting a charity dinner and auction, and Forgays was working at the event as a server. There were monitors and televisions placed throughout the restaurant for the event by outside vendors. An audio consultant named Jorge Vivo set up video tripods that supported speakers for the event.

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swimming-pool-accident-claims-CaliforniaWhen visitors to the properties of others are injured in California, they may be able to recover damages by holding the property owners liable in a premises liability lawsuit. However, it is important for people to note that just because they might be injured by a dangerous condition that exists on the property does not necessarily mean that they will be able to recover damages. In Jacobs v. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Company,2d Civil No. B277832, the court found that victims who are injured in accidents that are unforeseeable are not able to hold the defendants liable under a theory of premises liability.

Issue: Is climbing on a diving board to inspect property over an empty pool foreseeable?

In the case, the plaintiffs were being shown a bank-owned home that they were interested in buying as an investment property. The home had an empty swimming pool with a diving board, and the listing agent had noted that prospective buyers should exercise caution around the edges of the swimming pool. Prior to the showing, an inspector had inspected each room of the home, the swimming pool and the diving board, and did not see any problems with the diving board such as cracks or other indications that it was in an unsafe condition. While being shown the swimming pool area, the plaintiff climbed on the diving board so that he could see over the fence because he wanted to determine if trespassers would be able to jump over the fence that surrounded the pool area. While he was standing on the diving board, it broke, causing him to fall into the empty pool.

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fire-photo-2-300x193The tragic Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, California resulted in the deaths of 36 people. The warehouse had been illegally converted into living and working spaces for artists, and the victims of the fire died during a music concert that was being held in the building. The fire demonstrates the problems that can happen when buildings are used for purposes for which they were not intended. Unfortunately, the high real estate prices and rents in cities such as San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles has contributed to people using these spaces to work and live even though the buildings are not intended for doing so. Experienced personal injury attorneys may hold the landowners liable by filing lawsuits against them, helping to deter the negligent conduct even when code enforcement may be difficult.

Use of illegally converted buildings

The illegal conversion of buildings into spaces for entertainment, work and living quarters has been a growing problem in Southern California and in the Bay Area. This is because the real estate prices and rents are high enough that some people, including artists, have trouble finding affordable places to live. Some building owners have reacted by allowing people to rent and use the spaces as living quarters despite the fact that the buildings are not zoned for residential purposes. The state legislature is now trying to determine how to handle the growing problem through stepped-up enforcement of codes and zoning laws. Unfortunately, the resources are not available to cities and municipalities to adequately investigate all potential zoning and code violations. The civil justice system may provide an alternative means to deter landlords and leaseholders from committing code and zoning violations by holding them liable for negligence under the state’s tort law.

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People who are injured while they are working are allowed to file claims for workers’ compensation benefits through their employers. When a worker is injured while working at a site that his or her employer does not own or control, the worker may also have a claim that he or she may file against the property owner in certain cases. A recent California case in San Luis Obispo County demonstrates how property owners may be liable when a worker is injured while working on their properties.

Factual background of the case

A 54-year-old fire alarm technician was working as a part of a two-man crew to inspect the fire alarms at the Bella Vista Transitional Care Center. While he was conducting the inspection, the care center provided him with an extension ladder to use. He fell off of the ladder 12 feet to the ground, breaking both of his feet and suffering orthopedic injuries. He also suffered a compression fracture in the lumbar area of his spine that could not be corrected with surgery. He filed a premises liability lawsuit against the care center in June 2014, and the case reached a verdict following a trial in May 2016.

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