Automatic 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.
The plaintiff argued that his landlord was negligent in the maintenance of the automatic gate. He contended that the gate was unsafe and that his landlord did not have a reasonable schedule for inspecting the gate.
The defendant argued that the property was regularly inspected and that every time a problem with the gate was discovered, a gate repair company was called. The defendant also argued that the plaintiff was solely liable for causing his own injury because he placed his arm between the bars of the gate while it was moving.
Property owners have duties of care under the law to keep their properties reasonably safe for their visitors. This duty includes the responsibility to keep the property maintained in a safe condition, including automatic gates. As we have previously explained, property owners and possessors have the duty to correct problems and to warn people who are on their property of hazardous conditions. One way that plaintiffs can show that a landlord was negligent is by presenting evidence that the condition had existed for a sufficient length of time that it should have been discovered by the property owner. In this case, the plaintiff argued that the landlord did not have a reasonable inspection system in place for the automatic gate. When the plaintiff called the landlord about the gate, the landlord instructed him to flip the off switch, which the plaintiff attempted to do.
Because the plaintiff reached through the bars of the moving gate, he also shared some fault for the accident. California follows the pure comparative fault standard. Under this rule, plaintiffs who are found to share fault for their accidents are not barred from recovering damages. Instead, their damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is determined to be theirs.
Trial and verdict
The trial lasted for seven days before the jury was given the case. The jury deliberated for one day before returning a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The jury returned a gross verdict in the amount of $1,017,500, but it found that the plaintiff was 45 percent at fault for his accident. He was awarded a net verdict in the amount of $559,625. Following the verdict, the plaintiff and the defendant settled for $500,000 and waived costs, which precluded the defendant from appealing.
Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles
Automatic gates are used throughout Los Angeles. When they malfunction, they can seriously injure or kill people who are caught by them. If you have suffered a serious injury from an automatic gate, or your loved one has been killed, it is important for you to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. California has a two-year limitations period for personal injury cases. If you wait too long to file a lawsuit, you may be barred from ever recovering damages for the losses that you suffered. Contact our law firm today to schedule your appointment.