Premises liability is a relatively simple concept: landowners, lessors, and occupiers of land must keep their property safe and avoid causing harm to others. Premises liability lawsuits can arise from an array of circumstances including a slip and fall by an individual, a construction site accident, or an accident at occurs on a residential or commercial property. Under California law, everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property. California Civil Code 1714 (a). When an individual is injured on a property, the person harmed generally brings a lawsuit based upon a theory of negligence. Under this theory, an injured Plaintiff must prove the following:
- The defendant owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property;
- The defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
- The plaintiff was harmed; and
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.
California Civil Jury Instructions 1000.
When evaluating a negligence claim under the theory of premises liability, there are several key elements for both a Plaintiff and a Defendant to consider. First, the landowner, occupier, or lessor of a premises is under a duty to exercise ordinary care in the use or maintenance of the premises to avoid exposing persons to an unreasonable risk of harm. Rowland v. Christian, 69 Cal. 2d 108 (1968). Essentially, a landowner or occupier is required to take steps to keep individuals on the property free from harm.