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California Homeowner’s Liability: Duty of Care

cracked jagged broken sidewalkIf you fall on a slippery floor and are injured at another person’s home, can you sue for damages? This area of litigation would be based on theories of premises liability in which property owners and/or managers may be held culpable in the event that their negligence created an unsafe condition that resulted in injury.

The mere fact that you were harmed by a dangerous condition – such as broken step, uneven flooring or an exposed cord — does not in and of itself give rise to a premises liability lawsuit. The injured party (known as the plaintiff) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the homeowner was negligent in some manner. Examples include:

  • Failing to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition
  • Failing to make reasonable efforts to keep visitors safe from probable dangers
  • Failing to identify a hazardous condition
  • Failing to take measures to repair or replace the dangerous condition
  • Or, failing to provide warning to visitors about the unsafe condition

Homeowner’s duty of care

California homeowners have a legal responsibility, known as a “duty of care,” to keep their property safe for visitors. In this respect, visitors can be family members, friends, colleagues, casual acquaintances, hired workers, or any person who is invited into your home. Most homeowners don’t give much thought to serious accidents that can occur on their property, but even good friends and relatives have been known to sue after suffering injury they claim to be the fault of their host.

Under California law, this basic duty of care is defined as follows:

“Any person who owns, leases or controls property is negligent if he or she fails to use reasonable care to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition … This person must use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions and to repair, replace, or give adequate warning of anything that could be reasonably expected to harm others.”

Factors that parlay into whether the homeowner used “reasonable care” include:

  • Location of the home and property
  • The chances that someone would enter the property in the same manner as the injured party
  • The likelihood of physical harm
  • The seriousness of such harm
  • Whether the homeowner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition
  • The extent of the homeowner’s control over the hazard that created a risk of harm
  • Whether the homeowner knew this condition would pose risk of harm
  • The extent of difficulty the homeowner would face protecting against the risk of harm

Responsibility to keep visitors safe

There are many situations in which a homeowner could face legal action from a visitor. California homeowners must abide by state laws pertaining to swimming pools and drowning hazards. This may include erecting a fence or barrier around pools to ensure small children cannot enter unattended.

In addition, homeowners may face liability for structural problems such as broken or hazardous flooring surfaces that could cause a visitor to trip and suffer injury.

For instance, if a homeowner knew that one of their wooden porch steps is damaged (but may not be apparent to guests), they may be held responsible if they do not alert visitors of this condition and someone is injured when the step breaks.

Los Angeles premises liability attorney

Homeownership comes with myriad benefits, but it also entails many responsibilities. Injuries suffered on another person’s property can result in significant medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering. To learn more about your rights to compensation in the wake of such an accident, it’s best to speak with an experienced Los Angeles premises liability lawyer at the Salamati Law Firm. Schedule your free consultation by dialing 888-259-4060.

Additional “California Homeowner’s Liability” Resources:

  1. Justia, California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 1003. Unsafe Conditions https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/1000/1003.html
  2. Justia, California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 1003. Unsafe Conditions 1001. Basic Duty of Care https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/1000/1001.html
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