San Francisco Premise Liability Lawyer
When someone gets injured at another person’s property the owner of that property may be liable for such injuries. The legal doctrine of premise liability holds that the owner of real property must act reasonably to keep the property in a safe condition for residents, visitors or guests. Premise liability covers every type of real property whether private, commercial, or public, including:
- Retail shops and malls
- Apartment buildings
- Grocery stores
- Office buildings
- Parking lots
- Farm and open land
Most premise liability cases arise out of accidental injuries caused by some defect at the premises. However, in some circumstances, the owner of real property may also be responsible for intentional wrongful acts (such as assault, battery, rape etc.) done by strangers who enter the premises and harm a resident, visitor or guest.
Typical premise liability claims include:
- Slip and falls
- Unsafe structures, products or services
Liability of Owner of Real Property for Negligence
An owner of real property is not automatically liable just because a person was injured on their premises. Rather, the cases turn on whether or not the owner of the real property, as well as any of his employees, acted reasonably in preventing foreseeable injuries to others. Negligence in each case depends on the unique set of facts and the judge or jury will analyze whether or not the owner acted like a reasonable person under the circumstances given a number of factors, including his knowledge of any defect, the ease with which the defect could have been discovered, the severity of the defect, and the risk of harm the defect or dangerous condition may pose to others. An obviously rotted-through step on a flight of wooden stairs at the entrance of an apartment building is more likely to lead to owner liability than a pothole in the back yard of that same apartment building, even if the resulting injuries are the same – for example a broken ankle.
Owner’s Duty to Inspect
Part of the negligence analysis is whether the owner used reasonable care to discover unsafe conditions on the property. This duty exists in order to prevent an owner from trying to save money on costs of repairs by remaining willfully blind and refusing to look for defects. A typical example is the duty of a grocery store operator to have his employees regularly patrol the isles to see whether anyone spilled any liquids on the floor, and then having them promptly place warning signs and clean up the liquid to eliminate the unsafe condition.
Not all responsibility rests on the owner. The resident, visitor or guest must also act reasonably to prevent injuries to themselves by paying attention and avoiding danger. In the previous example, a tenant of an apartment building may not be able to avoid a rotted step on a flight of wooden stairs leading to the entrance of their apartment building, but the tenant would be able to avoid the potholes by not playing sports in the back yard. If a reasonable person would have discovered the defective condition and avoided it, but the injured person didn’t, then the injured person could be partially at fault for the injury. This doctrine is called “comparative fault” and means that the percentage of fault will be allocated between the owner of the property and the injured person. For example, fault could be apportioned 70% to the owner of the premises and 30% to the injured person. Comparative negligence has the practical effect of reducing the overall award of damages to the injured party by their percentage of fault.
Bay Area / San Francisco Premise Liability Attorney
Each case is unique and the issue of owner’s negligence can be straightforward or very complicated, depending on the facts of the case. Success is often dependent on the experience and skill of the attorney handling the case.
The Zurada Law Firm has significant experience handling premise liability cases and we would be happy to meet with you for a free consultation. Please call us at the phone number above or just fill out our contact form. If you are unable to visit us, we will be happy to visit you in your home or at the hospital. We handle premise liability cases on a contingency basis, meaning that we do not get paid unless we win your case and obtain money for you.