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Premises and Workplace Liability Lawsuits

As a general rule, the law places a duty upon landowners and possessors to make their property safe from dangerous conditions so that people who come upon the land are not injured. Civ Code §1714(a). Unsafe premises conditions can exist just about anywhere, including shopping centers, apartments, sports facilities, farms, or open parcels of land.

Identifying the proper defendants and the level of responsibility they each owe can be a complicated task. The most important factor in deciding liability is “control”. So long as a person has control over the property and had the opportunity to prevent foreseeable injuries, that person is legally responsible. However, the extent of care to which a defendant owes a victim will depend on the type of premise involved in the case and whether the injured person was using a reasonable level of care for their own safety.

An experienced premises liability attorney or work injury attorney will help clients tackle these issues as well as help to secure evidence to demonstrate how the accident occurred. When a serious injury or death occurs, the premise liability law provides remedies to compensate injured victims and/or their surviving family members for the hardships they have endured.

Motel 6 — Premises Liability Case Study( click for details )( click to close )

In this case, we went to jury trial in San Joaquin County Superior Court to hold Motel 6 responsible for not providing the adequate safeguards required to help keep an elderly couple – Sadie and Haven B. – safe for their night’s stay.

Motel 6 rented this couple (both in their mid-80′s) a room which motel management knew had a broken non-functioning “peephole.” The motel in South Stockton was located half-way between the guests’ home in Oregon and their winter home in Yuma, Arizona; what they did not realize was that the motel was situated in a high-crime area which increased their risk of injury while in their rented room.

That evening there was a knock at the door; Haven went to the door and, since he could not look through the plugged-up “peephole”, asked who was there. The man identified himself as motel staff who needed to check the room at which point Haven opened the door a crack to look at the man – who then forced his way in and beat Haven. Sadie intervened and kicked the intruder, at which point she was severely beaten. After causing terrible injuries to both of them, the robber took their money and left; he was never captured.

After continued denials of legal responsibility, a jury found that the “peephole” was a necessary safety item which should have been provided to Sadie and Haven to help prevent a criminal attack. Motel 6′s knowing failure to take this basic step played an integral role in this senseless beating and robbery having taken place.

The jury awarded a substantial amount to cover the couple’s medical/surgical expenses, as well as for their pain, suffering and residual fear and mental distress. In addition, safeguards were put in place by the motel chain to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future – something more substantial and preventative than simply leaving the light on for paying customers like Sadie and Haven.

Workplace Safety — Premises Liability Case Study( click for details )( click to close )

Darrell was a 27-year-old heavy equipment operator who worked for a backhoe company in Sacramento. One of the occasional jobs that Darrell’s employer would contract to perform was to dig up and dispose of underground fuel storage tanks which were either no longer being used, or needed to be replaced for environmental and/or safety concerns.

On this particular job, Darrell had been told by his boss to take a large fuel storage tank that the company had recently excavated to a scrap yard for salvage value. With the old used tank on a flatbed trailer, Darrell attempted to deliver the tank to the salvage company but was told that it could not be accepted since it did not have a “hole” cut into either end of the tank (for ventilation purposes). Darrell drove the trailer and tank back to his worksite and explained to his boss why he had been unable to leave the tank at the salvage yard – it needed a “hole” cut into the tank.

After the tank had been excavated, Darrell’s boss had followed the procedure required by local regulations by taking the tank to a company to have it certified as being “clean and product free” – a requirement before it could be disposed of as scrap metal. The boss checked the certification, read that the tank had been noted to be “clean and product free”, and told Darrell to use a torch to cut a hole in the end of the tank.

Darrell took a torch and as soon as he started to cut into the tank, it exploded; the blast sent Darrell over the perimeter fence of the yard and he landed across the street. He died shortly thereafter.

The case went to trial by jury in Sacramento on behalf of Darrell’s parents; the entire tragedy was a series of errors and a lack of understanding by different people: “clean and product free” did not mean “gas free”; even though certified as being “clean and product free”, a cutting torch should not be used without other safety precautions being taken.

The jury found in favor of Darrell’s parents, and helped to enforce an improved chain of safety measures to be followed in future situations involving disposal of fuel storage tanks. A large verdict was awarded by the jury based on the extremely close relationship between Darrell’s father – a retired backhoe operator – and his son, who always wanted to be a backhoe operator just like his dad.

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