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California Court Sets Stricter Limits on Premises Liability

Wednesday, January 31, 2018By Richard Alexander

When you visit a business, the owner owes you a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent an injury on the premises. If an injury is caused by a safe or faulty condition on the property, then you can sue the business owner for negligence. To make a claim for premises liability, you must show that that the owner was aware of or should have known about an unsafe condition on the premises and failed to correct it. Examples of premises liability include slip and falls, snow and ice accidents, and inadequate maintenance conditions.

Sometimes the injury does not occur directly on the premises. What is the owner’s liability if the injury happens on the sidewalk or in a parking lot? In Vasilenko v. Grace Family Church, 3 Cal. 5th 1077, 404 P.3d 1196, 224 Cal. Rptr. 3d 846, the California Supreme Court ruled that the scope of a business owner’s liability is limited. The case involved a plaintiff who was struck by a car while crossing a public street. The street was located between a church and the overflow parking lot for church visitors. The plaintiff argued that the church was negligent in failing to guarantee his safety when crossing the street from the parking lot to the church.

The Court ruled that a property owner does not have a duty to help visitors or customers cross a public street if it does nothing more than maintain the parking lot that guests use when visiting the business. This is the case so long as there are no hidden hazards created by the property owner’s actions or inaction that may have contributed to the accident. Because the church had no control over the street separating the church and parking lot, and did not create a hazardous condition on the street, it had no duty to protect the visitors using the street to access the church.

What does this decision mean for business owners? In California, there is no duty to protect people injured in connected parking lots or streets that the business owner does not control. Premises liability has been recognized to extend only to areas in the owner’s possession over which it exercises management and control. This should clarify for California business owners that if they do nothing more than maintain a separate space, there is no duty to protect the guests in the course of accessing the business.

If you or a member of your family was injured in an accident on someone else’s property, contact Alexander Law Group, LLC. Our exceptional personal injury lawyers will be sure you get the maximum compensation possible. Call 888.777.1776, or contact us online.

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