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Premises Liability and Foreseeable Harm

Property owners who open their property to others – either to enter to conduct business (like a retail establishment) or for personal friendships (like a home) – owe their guests certain legal duties. These duties may require property owners to make reasonable inspections of their property at regular and reasonable intervals (just before a dinner party or pool party, for example) for any hazards or dangers that could cause their guests injuries. Any such dangers either need to be corrected or, at the very least, identified; and the existence of the hazard communicated to the guests.

When a guest is injured by a hazard, however, the guest may not automatically be entitled to compensation. Only when the harm the guest suffers is considered foreseeable (able to be anticipated) may a claim for compensation be sustained.

No Foreseeability of Harm Equals No Compensation

 In the California case Jacobs v. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Company, the plaintiff was viewing a home for sale with an agent of the defendant. The home included an empty swimming pool and diving board. Before showing the home to the plaintiff, an inspector had looked at the rooms of the home as well as the pool and diving board (and did not see any dangers or indications that any part of the property was in an unsafe condition). Even so, when listing the home, the agency had indicated that prospective buyers needed to exercise caution around the swimming pool (it was empty).

During the showing, the plaintiff stood on the diving board to view the fence of the property. While he was on the diving board, the board snapped (danger #1) and the plaintiff fell into the empty swimming pool (danger #2), and was injured. The plaintiff sued, claiming the real estate company ought to have warned the plaintiff of the board and taken corrective measures to fix the board or prevent the plaintiff from going on the board.

The California Court of Appeal disagreed. Although the decision of the court was specific to the procedural history of this case, the decision indicated that even if the case turned on whether Coldwell Banker was a negligent property owner, the plaintiff would still not prevail because the empty pool was obvious and known to the potential buyer and the defective diving board was not an “open and obvious” danger (that should have been apparent to the agents). It was not reasonable for the company to believe it posed any risk of harm.  Thus the company was not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Call Your California Premises Liability Lawyers, Heiting & Irwin, with any concerns or questions

 This case illustrates how your claim for compensation can succeed or fail on what some individuals might consider a trivial fact or small detail. That is why Heiting & Irwin goes to great lengths to thoroughly investigate your claim for compensation – so we can provide you with the most accurate and helpful advice about what compensation to which you may be entitled. If you or a loved one have been hurt while on the property of another person or business, call us at 951-682-6400 or contact us online to discuss your next steps.

Richard Irwin

Mr. Irwin is a recognized specialist in Workers’ Compensation law. He has been certified as a specialist by the State Bar of California since 1995. He limits his practice to handling only workers’ compensation cases. View Attorney Richard Irwin's Attorney Bio Here.

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