Premises liability laws in California

If you are tossing the football around with friends at their apartment complex this fall and go out for a long one, stumble in a hole in the grass and break your ankle, can you file a premises liability lawsuit against the complex owners and/or management?

What about if you are getting in some retail therapy in the local mall when a display comes cascading down onto your head and shoulders, injuring you seriously?

In both of the above cases, it's likely that you would be able to recover at least a portion of the damages you seek. Here in California, the state applies the doctrine of comparative negligence to premises liability cases.

In the first case, a lot would depend upon the location of your pick-up football game. Were you playing in a common area where all tenants and guests are permitted to socialize and exercise? If so, the complex owners and the management company hired to maintain it have a duty to keep the premises safe for residents and guests alike.

But suppose before playing that pick-up game you'd also played quite a few rounds of beer pong. If you were inebriated at the time of your fall, the counsel for the defendant(s) will surely allege that your impairment contributed toward your stumbling and falling. If the court finds you were 30 percent negligent, any damage award you receive would be reduced by that amount.

The latter scenario where you were simply shopping in the aisles of a retail store when the display collapsed and injured you is more clear-cut. It would be difficult for a defendant's attorney to argue that you were at fault simply for shopping in the defendant's store, so you likely would receive 100 percent of any award for damages.

There are other fine points of law involved as well, which is why it's best to learn all you can about your legal rights after being hurt on somebody else's property.

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