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Apr 7, 2017

In California, a plaintiff who injures himself or herself due to an obviously unsafe condition may not be able to recover damages from the defendant property owner or possessor.  Read on to learn more.

Obviously Unsafe Conditions of Property

Generally, if you are injured in a slip and fall accident or any other property-related personal injury incident in California, you may be able to sue the property owner/user to recover damages as compensation for your injuries.  To recover in a premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must demonstrate that:

  1. the defendant owned or otherwise exercised control over the property at-issue;
  2. the defendant negligently used or maintained the controlled property; and
  3. the plaintiff’s injuries were substantially caused by defendant’s negligence.

This means that property owners have a duty to either correct dangerous conditions or properly warn about them.

This general rule is subject to exceptions, however.  The most common exception and roadblock to establishing liability is an “obviously unsafe condition.”

How the Exception Works

If you proceed to enter premises that has an unsafe condition that is obvious to a reasonable person, you may not be able to recover any damages if you suffer injuries as a result of that same obviously unsafe condition.

  How does it work?  California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI) 1004 explains the exception to the general premises liability rule.

  CACI 1004 essentially states that if a dangerous condition of property is so obvious that an ordinary person could be expected to recognize the condition as unsafe, then the defendant does not have a duty to warn premises entrants about the dangers presented by the condition at-issue.

  This exception is important — recall that the general rule requires that a defendant either correct the dangerous condition or warn entrants of the dangerous condition.  The “obviously unsafe condition” exception does not fully obviate the defendant’s duty to correct the dangerous condition, however.  Instead, it obviates the defendant’s duty to warn entrants of the danger.  Under California law, the unsafe condition is deemed so obvious that it serves as its own reasonable warning.

  Importantly, the defendant may owe a duty of care to correct an obviously unsafe condition if the risk of injury is foreseeable given the circumstances.

For example, suppose that you approach a retail store during the winter.  The pedestrian walkway into the store is slick with ice and presents a serious risk of slip and fall injury.  Though the condition is obviously unsafe, the alternative paths into the store are equally icy and thus just as dangerous for you to traverse.  As such, you take on the risk of walking along the original intended path.  If you slip and fall, injuring yourself, the defendant may not be shield themselves from liability, as it was reasonably foreseeable given the circumstances, and the lack of safer alternative options for entering the store.  You might be able to recover damages from the defendant for negligently failing to keep the walkway free of ice.

Call West Coast Trial Lawyers at (888) 539-9582 for a free consultation with an experienced Los Angeles slip and fall injury lawyer today.

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