Articles Posted in Premises Accidents

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Hotel Accidents; California; Personal Injury LawI saw an interesting appellate decision out of the California Fourth District Court of Appeal (Southern California) regarding tort liability of hotel operators.  The case was Lawrence v. La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, Inc. – decision rendered October 31, 2014 (Reference Daily Appellate Report @ 14737).

Facts of the Case: On October 5, 2008, Jeff and Nan Lawrence checked into the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club Hotel with their three sons.  This was a family vacation and a celebration of the sixth birthday of their two twin boys.  Nan made a request to be placed on the first floor of the hotel but, at the time of check-in, was informed that there were no first floor rooms and was given a room on the second story of the building.  Nan opened the window in their room to hear the ocean.  The three boys were playing and eating grapes inside the room.  Jeff was working on his computer and Nan was planning a schedule when they heard a scream from one of the children.  They ran to the window to find that their son, Michael, had fallen out of the window and onto the concrete pavement below.  Michael suffered major head and brain injuries.

It appeared that when the little boy fell against the window, the screen popped out and fell to the ground.  The window sill was approximately 25 inches above the floor and about 4-6 inches deep.  The plaintiff testified in a deposition that he had placed his foot on the window screen and leaned forward to look out of the window just before falling out.

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Dodger Stadium Assault LawyerThe trial of Brian Stow vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers began last week in L.A.   Almost three years ago, Mr. Stow was severely beaten in the parking lot after a game between the Dodgers and the Giants.  Two assailants, Marvin Norwood and Louie Sanchez, have long since pleaded guilty to the beating and have been sentenced to prison for the attack, which left Mr. Stow with permanent brain damage.  The civil suit alleges that the Dodgers organization, through their former owner, Frank McCourt, were negligent in the security operations of the stadium and should be held accountable, at least in part, for the personal injuries sustained by the beating victim.  The plaintiff is seeking approximately $52 Million in damages under theories of civil liability for negligence, specifically, premises liability and negligent hiring/retention/training of security personnel.

What is the standard for holding a business responsible for criminal conduct on their property in CA?

In order for an injured person to hold a property owner responsible for their bodily harm, a plaintiff must prove the following four things:

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California, Law, Personal Injury, Serving AlcoholThe California Supreme Court is set to decide a case which may expand the liability of California homeowners for social gatherings where alcohol is served and people sustain injuries or are killed.  The case was filed on behalf of a party-goer who was killed at a social event hosted by the homeowner’s teenage children and has been litigated and appealed from the trial court level all the way to the Cal. Sup. Ct.  (See Los Angeles Times story here).

Legal Background of Social Host Liability and Immunity Laws in California

Prior to the early to mid 1970’s, California case law had several opinions which held party hosts liable for serving alcohol if this resulted in injury or death to any of the attendees to the party. (E.g. Coulter v. Superior Court, 21 Cal.3d 144 – California Supreme Court held that a non-commercial supplier of alcohol [apartment complex owner and manager] could be held liable for injuries caused by drunken participants to third parties harmed by the intoxicated person).  The California Legislature decided that it wanted to limit such legal exposure for social hosts and amended California Civil Code 1714 to read as follows:

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injury on property in CAThis is another in my continuing series of blogs about California personal injury cases that set precedents and established law across the U.S.  Today, I discuss the seminal California Supreme Court premises liability case of Rowland v. Christian 69 Cal.2d 108 .

Traditional “Common Law” Categories of People Coming Onto Land And The Duty of the Landlord to Those Entrants

American Tort Law has always required landowners or lessees to protect people coming onto their property to some degree or another.  If a person is injured while on the property of another, the law has required that the injured person be compensated for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost income and other damages if it can be shown that the property owner was negligent. American jurisdictions, however,  have sought to balance the interests of landowners with the rights of persons injured upon their property.  Traditionally, under the so-called “common law” that developed in the U.S. from the original English law, all states put persons coming onto property who sustained injury into one of three categories: Licensees, Invitees and Trespassers.  Invitees were persons invited onto the property to “do business” and there with the owner’s consent such as patrons of retail establishments.  Licensees were persons on the property with the permission of the landowner but, for their own purpose such as a  repairman or even a social guest and, trespassers were people who had entered the property with no express or implied permission.  The law required a property owner to safeguard the well being of invitees by making the property safe for their use.  Therefore, landowners were charged with the highest duty of protection for invitees.  With regard to licensees, landowners or occupiers were required to only protect and warn regarding known dangerous conditions on the property.  Trespassers were afforded the least protection and the landowner was only rarely liable for “intentional, willful or wanton” conduct on his or her part which caused injury to the person there without permission.

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Elevator Accident Attorney CaliforniaI recently read an article in the “Fair Warning” blog regarding the startling number of fatalities related to elevator accidents in the U.S.  (See Story Here).  The blog chronicled a tragic story of a three year old boy who was crushed when he opened the “swing door” and was trapped by the elevator car coming down upon him from the second floor of his family home.  The incident resulted in permanent brain damage, spinal damage from being pinned inside the elevator compartment for almost 10 minutes before his family could pry him loose.  The boy is now left a quadriplegic who is unable to speak or move and will remain so for the rest of his life.

How Frequent Are Elevator Accidents Resulting in Serious Injury and Death in California and Elsewhere in the U.S.?

According to the statistics quoted in the Fair Warning article, as verified by Associated Press news accounts of such incidents, there have been at least nine accounts of fatalities involving children related to swing door elevators installed in commercial and residential structures in the U.S. within the last 7 or 8 years and there have been 34 reported incidents of children maimed or killed in these apparatus since 1995 in Southern New York and New Jersey alone (based upon Otis elevator statistics produced in discovery in an incident in that area in 2001).  Other consumer advocacy groups have estimated that approximately 27 people every year are killed while riding on an elevator due to some type of malfunction or mishap. (See Los Angeles Times Blog – citing Consumerwatch.com).  While statistics are hard to come by, the information available seems to indicate that elevator mishaps are more than just a trivial problem and result in maiming and death to many individuals every year in California and throughout the U.S.  Large urban areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco have higher number of incidents simply due to having more multi-story buildings with lifts carrying passengers than other, more rural areas of the country.  However, these incidents are not limited to skyscrapers.  In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recently issued a statement indicating that they are conducting an active study into the increase in home elevator incidents, many of which involve children. (See CPSC Statement Here).  This high number of child home elevator incidents seems to stem from the fact that you have a gap between the outer “swing” door and the inner door with no infrared sensor like most elevators have in commercial structures.

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