Proving Legal Duty and Foreseeability in Order to Achieve Success in Your California Premises Liability Case

In any personal injury lawsuit, there are certain things you have to establish in order to have a chance to receive a favorable outcome. One of the first things you have to establish is something called “duty.” In the law, this means a legal obligation or responsibility to do something or refrain from doing something. If the person you sued owed no legal duty to do anything for you or refrain from an alleged action, then you cannot succeed, regardless of your factual evidence. If you can establish a duty and a failure to meet it, then you are one more step closer to success. When it comes to knowing what you have to prove in order to win your case, and how to go about putting together a persuasive trial presentation that meets your burden of proof, you should protect yourself and your case by retaining a skilled San Mateo personal injury attorney to represent you in your matter.

M.C.’s injury case was one that revolved prominently around the issue of a property owner’s duties. During a lunch at a Riverside County restaurant, M.C. allegedly was bitten by a black widow spider. She complained about the bite to restaurant staff shortly after it happened. The morning after the bite, she experienced extensive numbness in her body. She went to the hospital, was admitted and remained there for six days. The medical providers diagnosed her with “demyelination in [her] thoracic spine” as a result of the bite. M.C. sued the restaurant, asserting claims of negligence and premises liability.

The legal concept of foreseeability and how it impacts your case

One element of the issue of duty is foreseeability. A person or entity generally does not have a legal duty to protect you from things that are not foreseeable. For example, a business in northern New England would not have a duty to protect patrons from attacks by 30-foot crocodiles, because an attack by a 30-foot crocodile in northern New England would not be foreseeable, a popular 1999 suspense film notwithstanding. Black widow spiders and their bites are, unfortunately, quite foreseeable in Southern California.

Even though black widow spider bites are foreseeable in Riverside County, the trial court ruled for the restaurant. The appeals court, however, reversed that and revived M.C.’s case. The restaurant’s actions were insufficient to satisfy the duty it owed to its guests. The problem with the restaurant’s approach was similar to a popular television commercial from a few years ago. An identity protection service contrasted itself from some competitors that, it alleged, merely monitored the subscriber’s credit and notified the subscriber of a problem, but did not actually do anything to alleviate the problem. In M.C.’s case, the restaurant, to address the spider problem, allegedly engaged in nothing more than requiring employees to monitor for black widow spiders and then writing down the employees’ observations.

This was not reasonable, according to the court, because “a reasonably thoughtful restaurant owner would take into account the possibility that black widow spiders may inhabit the restaurant’s premises and that those spiders could bite a patron causing injury. A restaurant owner would reasonably foresee that there would be a risk of a patron being bitten if a restaurant owner did nothing concerning spiders other than record their presence—not providing warnings, not hiring an exterminator, etc.” This ruling did not impose premises liability solely because the guest was injured by a black widow bite, but because she was injured by a black widow bite after the owner knew or should have known about the problem and had failed to engage in reasonable steps to reduce or eliminate black widow spiders on its property.

Building a personal injury case is a bit like building a house. Before you can build the roof, you must build the walls. Before you build the walls, you must build the foundation. Each piece must be done in the right way and in the right order. To make sure that you are “getting it right” when it comes to your personal injury case, retain the skilled San Mateo personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos. Our attorneys have been helping people hurt in accidents get the compensation they need for many years. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Release Agreement Contracts and How One California Woman Defeated Hers in Winning Her Trip-and-Fall Lawsuit, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, Published July 19, 2018

Injured Boy Obtains $47.5M Settlement After Catastrophic Tree Injury in San Mateo County Park, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, Published July 12, 2018