Articles Posted in Premises Liability

News reports have revealed a new surge of COVID-19 cases. CNN reported that, on June 23, California logged more than 7,000 new cases. That was a new record. The old record? Just over 5,000… on June 22. It’s clear the dangers of COVID-19 aren’t going away anytime soon, and that may lead you to a question: what happens if I become infected as a result of visiting a store, restaurant or other establishment? Do I have any legal recourse for that business’s failure to protect me? Depending on the facts of your case, you may have a basis for a civil lawsuit, so it is worth your while to consult a knowledgeable San Mateo personal injury attorney if that happens to you.

In California, as in every other state, there’s something called premises liability law. This is the area of law that applies to things like “slip-and-fall” cases, “trip-and-fall” cases, swimming pool accidents or a bedbug lawsuit against a hotel. It can apply in most situations where someone responsible for a property failed to act in a reasonable manner to keep the property reasonably safe. If there was a hazard that posed a foreseeable risk of harm and the person or entity who owned, leased, managed or controlled that property knew or should have known about the danger, but failed to take proper steps to address the hazard or else to post proper warnings about the dangerous condition, then that’s potentially a case of premises liability.

In the circumstance of a COVID-19 infection, the hazard (the coronavirus) is obviously well-known in the general public, as is the potential risk of harm (infection.) Nevertheless, a successful case will still require the harmed individual to prove that this general knowledge met the law’s standard for actual notice or constructive notice on the part of the property manager.

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Many of us have heard a lot on the cable news channels about the importance of “precedent” in the law in recent years. Precedent is, of course, very important. It means that, generally, if past rulings said that a defendant was not liable in a particular set of circumstances, then you typically won’t win your case if the circumstances surrounding your injury were substantially similar to those past cases. Sometimes, though, the law should – and does – change. Just because previous injured people have lost their cases that seem similar to yours, that alone is not reason to give up on your case. Instead of giving up, discuss your situation with an experienced San Mateo injury attorney to find out if there may still be possibilities for success for you.

A recent case involving a baseball spectator is an example of how changing standards in an industry may mean a change in the law. S.J. was a 12-year-old girl attending a baseball game in Long Beach. She and her mother were seated just beyond the protective netting behind home plate. A foul ball struck the girl in the face, causing massive damage including a cranial hemorrhage and severe damage to her optic nerve. The girl required the insertion of a metal plate behind her eye, which was the first of several surgeries she would require to treat fully the harm caused by the foul ball.

Historically, baseball spectators who suffer injuries after a foul ball hits them have had very little success in personal injury lawsuits. That’s because of a legal concept called “assumption of risk.” That concept says that, if you voluntarily engage in an activity that carries with it certain inherent risks, then you become the person responsible for any harm occurring as a result of that activity. That has often included baseball spectators, as voluntarily choosing to attend a baseball game carries with it the inherent risk that a foul ball (or a homerun ball) might hit you and hurt you, meaning that the player, the league/association or the stadium owner were not responsible.

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If your family is harmed in a serious accident, there are many hurdles you must clear to achieve a full and fair recovery through litigation. You must be able to prove exactly how extensively you and your family have been harmed. However, before you do that, you first have to choose correctly when it comes to naming a defendant in your case. Sometimes, the question of who was at fault may be murky. When that happens you and your legal team need to be sure you correctly assessed the situation and correctly identified the party (or parties) legally culpable. Naming the wrong defendants can delay or reduce your recovery, or possibly can lead to total defeat in your case. For making essential choices like this, be sure to rely on representation from an experienced San Mateo premises liability attorney.

A terrible accident in Southern California was an example of naming the right defendant and eventually obtaining a beneficial result for the family harmed in the accident. A.P., a 2-year-old girl playing at the Linda Vista Children’s Center, suffered massive injuries when a 20-foot eucalyptus tree branch fell and struck her. Her injuries injured a fractured neck, a cracked skull, a brain injury and a fractured leg, according to ABC 7.

When a child is seriously hurt in an accident, while she may be the only one physically injured by the incident, she may not be the only one harmed by it. That was the case for this California family. The girl’s mother told ABC 7 that both she and the girl’s father had to quit their jobs as the little girl required around-the-clock care.

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Many people injured in auto accidents, dog attacks, trip-and-fall accidents and slip-and-fall accidents resolve their cases by settling instead of proceeding to a verdict. Settlement may offer you the opportunity to acquire much-needed financial compensation without the stress and time that must be invested in pursuing a case all the way to a verdict. Your settlement will almost certainly come with a settlement agreement, which will probably contain some limitations about what you and your opponent can and cannot say about your case. It is very important to have a skilled San Mateo injury attorney by your side and that you understand and follow those contractual requirements. And, if your opponent does not follow them, then you may be entitled to recover additional compensation for your opponent’s breach of the contract.

Here’s an example from Southern California. E.L. and M.J. were neighbors in Los Angeles County. The neighbors’ legal battle began after E.L.’s dog killed M.J.’s cat. Each neighbor hired an attorney and, ultimately, the two neighbors agreed to a settlement where the dog owner paid the cat owner $2,000. The settlement agreement also contained a clause that said that neither neighbor was allowed to disparage the other.

Sometime after the two neighbors signed the agreement, E.L. posted a “hostile message” about M.J. on the website Nextdoor.com. M.J. then responded by suing E.L. (again.) This time, he sued for defamation, as well as breach of contract.

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When you are suing someone in a trip-and-fall accident, it is important that the defect that tripped you up not be so slight that the law defines it as “trivial.” That means that the defect was so minor or small that a reasonable person would have been able to navigate it without harm. If you can overcome this “trivial defect” argument hurdle, then you have an enhanced chance of getting your day in court to prove your case and recover compensation. To make sure you are clearing the “trivial defect” and all other hurdles, be sure you have a skilled San Mateo trip and fall attorney working on your behalf.

A pair of cases illustrate each side of this legal coin. M.M. was successful in her premises liability lawsuit because of the strong evidence she had, while C.H. was not successful in his case.

M.M. overcame the “trivial defect” argument in her case against a hotel due to her evidence regarding size. In some cases, California courts have held that defects as small as ½ inch were not trivial and allowed the injured person to proceed to trial. However, cases with defects of less than 1” often have a greater chance of overcoming this “trivial defect” hurdle if there are special or “aggravating” circumstances, like broken or jagged concrete edges, cracks or potholes.

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Too many times, people associate “slip-and-fall” accidents in a negative way. If this type of harm has never affected you, you may think of these accidents as ones involving trivially injured people exaggerating their injuries. The reality is actually very different. Slip-and-fall accidents often are very seriously harmful things. According to statistics published by the CDC, accidental falls were the #1 cause of injuries requiring hospital ER treatment in 2017. At almost 8.6 million incidents, the number of these falls was almost equal to the second, third and fourth causes combined.

Sounds pretty far from trivial, doesn’t it? So, the next time you’re hurt in a slip-and-fall, don’t dismiss it as nothing. Get the medical care necessary to protect your health and then get the legal representation you need to protect your rights by contacting an experienced San Mateo premises liability attorney.

J.P. was someone who suffered an obviously serious injury in a fall. While at an Asian buffet restaurant in Los Angeles County, J.P. went to the restroom. On his way back to his seat, J.P. slipped, fell and shattered his left knee in multiple places. After the accident, J.P. sued the restraint for premises liability. (Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC659957.)

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As you may know if you’ve attended certain events, property owners and event organizers sometimes may seek to use forms with titles like “release and waiver of liability” to limit their possibility of having pay damages for injury accidents that occur on their properties. If you are someone entering a property whose owner is requiring such a form, it is extremely important to make sure you understand exactly what you’re signing before you sign it.

However, even if you did sign, even if it is enforceable and even if it is broad in its coverage, that doesn’t mean that you are completely without options if you’re hurt while on that property. A recent ruling in a Northern California accident case is a good reminder that possibilities for success in a premises liability case can still exist, even in the face of a signed waiver. To discover what options you have for recovering the compensation you need, talk to an experienced San Mateo personal injury attorney right away.

The injured person in that recent accident case was G.V., an attendee at a two-day motorcycle race held in a remote part of San Benito County. He was there to watch his grandson participate in the race. When the grandfather and grandson entered, race organizers had each man sign a “Release and Waiver of Liability” form.

California law is quite clear about the responsibility that property owners have toward people legally on their property. The statutes here say that “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury … to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property.” When you are injured in a trip-and-fall accident, there are several key pieces to the “puzzle” of a successful legal action. One is proof of a legitimate hazard. Another is evidence that the person or entity responsible for the property failed to fix the problem, despite the fact that it knew or should have known the hazard existed.

There are many different ways to achieving this proof burden, but it comes down to obtaining the right evidence. To make sure you are getting all the evidence you need and that it is being put together into one coherent and persuasive case, be sure to rely on the skill and experience of a knowledgeable San Mateo injury attorney.

An example of how this process can work successfully was the recent case of A.N. (Yolo County Superior Court Case. No. CVPO-2017-916). Reportedly, A.N. suffered serious injuries in a trip-and-fall accident at her senior living apartment complex in West Sacramento. One day, while exiting the complex’s clubhouse, 80-year-old A.N. used a ramp to walk back to her apartment. A concrete parking block was situated at the base of the ramp. The resident tried to pass through this area, but she tripped. In the fall, she suffered a broken wrist, crushed patella and a “burst” fracture to one of her thoracic vertebrae.

When you are injured on the property of someone else, that person or that person’s insurance company may be well-represented by attorneys, who stand ready to make clever arguments that creatively use the law to try to get the defendant out of paying you any compensation. To make sure you are equipped to succeed in your injury case, you need an experienced San Mateo premises liability attorney who knows the law well and knows how to advocate for you and get results.

What do we mean by “creative” uses of the law? Here’s an example. E.H. was a man working as a “site representative” giving tours of a notable architectural residence in Beverly Hills when he was hurt in the fall of 2014. During his fateful tour, the representative fell from a platform that was “suspended over a hillside.” The fall caused E.H. to suffer very serious injuries, including multiple spinal fractures, from which he allegedly suffered more than $2 million in damages.

E.H. sued. When you sue someone in civil court, you will present your evidence showing that the defendant was liable and that you suffered compensable harm. The defense will present its evidence, including bringing up any affirmative defenses, which are things that the defense affirmatively pleads and, if accepted by the jury, make the defendant not liable.

The law in California clearly obliges property owners/occupiers to keep their properties “reasonably safe.” As part of that duty, the law requires property owners/occupiers to inspect their properties and ascertain the condition of those properties. If a dangerous condition exists that would have been discovered as a result of a reasonable inspection, then the property owner/occupier is required by the law to fix it or to warn users of the property of its existence. If the owner doesn’t, and a guest on the property is injured, then that may give the injured person the opportunity to obtain compensation through a premises liability lawsuit. To learn more about this and other legal options possibly available to you, make certain you to contact a knowledgeable California injury attorney.

While many premises liability cases are slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidents, those are not the only varieties. For example, take the case of C.S. The facts that led to C.S.’s lawsuit sound like something that might come from a Hollywood horror movie. C.S. was out on a Napa County golf course in June 2013, taking a lesson from one of the club’s instructors. The golfer was preparing for a shot on the fifth hole when a swarm of yellow jackets attacked her. The instructor tried to swat the insects away, to no avail. The pair ran the length of one and one-half football fields before the yellow jackets stopped chasing and attacking. All told, the golfer got stung in excess of 50 times.

C.S. was transported to a nearby fire station. On the way, she began losing consciousness. Paramedics met her outside and gave her a shot. One paramedic declared that C.S. had been “within fifteen seconds” of dying. She spent the night in a hospital ICU and missed five weeks of work.

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