Recently in Slips, Falls Category

Business Patrons Injured Inside a Store Have Multiple Legal Options

February 13, 2014

escalator.JPGThe moment you enter a place of business, that business's owner/manager, or whomever controls that facility, has a responsibility to you. That responsibility involves ensuring that everyplace in that store where you might go is safe and free from potential harm to you and all other patrons. If you are injured at that store, you have certain rights and avenues for recovery on your injuries, so long as you can prove that the owner is liable.

In many cases, shoppers' injuries involve slip-and-fall accidents. Slip-and-fall accidents can involve a variety of hazards. These might include a loose floor board, a rough, uneven patch of carpet, or a puddle of liquid on a store's hard floor. In these types of "premises liability" cases, you, as the injured person, generally have to show three things: that you suffered an injury, that the injury you suffered took place because a hazardous condition existed on the business's property, and that the hazardous condition that injured you existed because the business owner was negligent in ensuring the safety of the property. When there is a substance or thing on the floor which has caused the fall, the analysis will turn to how long it has been there, and how vigilant the store is in sweeping and inspecting. An exception to this exists when there is evidence that the substance or item was on the floor due to an employee of the store. In that case, the injured person is relieved of the duty to show that the store owner was on notice of the hazard. Typically, evidence that a substance or thing has been on the floor for over 30 minutes or so will be adequate proof of notice.

In other cases, the harm is caused by falling objects. As an example, say a shopper stops to inspect a display model of a product. As the shopper inspects the product, the display collapses and significantly injures the shopper's foot. This situation involves a different set of considerations, and perhaps, a different path toward recovery. While the injured shopper may have a case against the store owner manner for failing to construct and maintain the display in a safe manner, he/she may also have a claim against the display product's manufacturer based upon a product liability claim. In these cases, the injured person must show that the product did not satisfy the ordinary expectations of a reasonable consumer. When a product poses an unexpected defect or risk of harm, then it necessarily fails to meet these expectations.

In either of these cases, the risk of injury must be reasonably foreseeable. So, if a shopper is injured while simply walking down a store aisle, or simply picking up a display product, those qualify, as it is foreseeable that a shopper will walk down a store aisle or pick up a display product. If, however, the shopper slipped and fell while performing cartwheels in the store aisle, the degree of foreseeability become remote. Insurance carriers often assert that a given hazard was "open and obvious," and that the injured person failed to watch where they were going. California law, though, recognizes that shoppers are inherently distracted in stores, and they are not required to look down at every step they take.

Injuries in stores are as diverse and numerous as there are types of stores. If you or a loved one has suffered injury while at a business's property, contact our experienced San Francisco injury attorneys. The hardworking San Francisco injury attorneys at Callaway & Wolf are here to help advise you on the best path for your case, to ensure you get the justice you deserve.

Can California Restaurants Be Held Liable for Injuries Resulting from Criminal Activity On the Premises?

June 28, 2013

According to a recent San Francisco news report, on June 16, 2013 at about 4:00 p.m. near Grant Avenue and Sutter Street, someone threw what looked like a quarter stick of dynamite through a restaurant's window. A witness named Jonathan Danielson says that he followed the bombers and took a photograph of them with his cell phone, after which they took off running. According to the article, a window was shattered and a planter box was damaged, but fortunately no injuries were reported in the wake of the explosion.

In the event of an injury, would the patrons of a restaurant injured by a bombing be able to recover damages from the restaurant's insurance? In order to recover, a victim would have to show, among other things, that his or her injuries were caused by a breach of duty on the part of a culpable individual, and that these injuries were the foreseeable result of the culpable party's conduct.

Certainly the bombers could be sued, for engaging in intentional bad behavior creating an unreasonable risk of harm to third parties. When an individual engages in intentional bad behavior, this can create the risk that he or she will be held liable not only for the actual damages suffered by the victims of his or her bad conduct, but also for punitive damages designed to punish and deter this kind of behavior in the future. The bombers might also be ordered to pay restitution as a result of criminal proceedings. But in most cases, the perpetrators are insolvent, and the question turns to who else can be held liable for the damages.

A restaurant invites patrons to come onto the premises for the purpose of doing business, and as such, the restaurant has a duty to make the premises safe for the patrons. This includes a duty to protect the business invitees from reasonably foreseeable criminal conduct. In a 1987 California case against McDonalds, a Court of appeal held that a mass murder assault at a fast food restaurant was not foreseeable, and the restaurant's failure to hire security guards was not the reason for the injuries sustained by the victims. However, in 2005, the California Supreme Court found that a restaurant owner might be liable for the failure of his employees to "take appropriate action as is reasonable under the circumstances to protect" the restaurant's patrons. In this context, the employees had failed to call 911 or take other minimally burdensome measures to assist customers who faced danger from imminent or an ongoing criminal assault occurring on the premises. The California Supreme Court held that the stabbing victim who as not assisted by the restaurant's employees could potentially recover his damages from the restaurant owner.

The lawyers at Callaway & Wolf in San Francisco have successfully handled this type of case, where a restaurant is liable for failing to intervene when a dispute was brewing, and failing to promptly call police.

So, whether a crime victim can recover from a restaurant where a criminal assault occurs seems to depend in part upon the conduct of the restaurant employees while the crime is imminent and ongoing, and also potentially depends upon their conduct after it has occurred, including whether they take reasonable steps to assist the victims after the incident. Establishing liability in this kind of a scenario is something that skillful personal injury attorneys can help victims with. Contact us for a free consultation if you or a loved one has experienced an injury and would like to maximize your recovery.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

City Evades Liability for Emergency Workers' Failure to Rescue Drowning Man

Bar patron receives $2 million from bar for injuries suffered from slip, fall

Bar patron receives $2 million from bar for injuries suffered from slip, fall

December 31, 2012

The attorney for a man injured at a bar hopes that his case, and its multimillion dollar judgment, will serve as a flashpoint for change in how bars address customer safety. The bar, however, plans to appeal, arguing that the jury did not get to hear the whole case, according to Hawaii News Now.
Ernie Verdugo was the designated driver for a group of friends who visited the Mai Tai Bar in Honolulu. According to Verdugo, the exit path of the bar was blocked by a crowd of people and the bar's tile floor was covered in beer. The man slipped and fell, injuring his leg. In the ensuing seven years, the man underwent seven surgeries, four to address a blood clot in his leg. After battling the blood clot, the man then developed a clot-related condition called post-thrombotic syndrome. As a result, Verdugo had impaired circulation in his leg and experienced daily pain and swelling. Because of these limitations, Verdugo, a former tour guide, was unable to work.
The man sued and won, with the jury returning an award of $2 million in general damages, along with another $144,000 in special damages. The man told Hawaii News Now that the money was a poor substitute for what he had lost: "I don't care if they gave me $10 million I would rather have my life back, to where I was the day before I had my accident."
Howard Glickstein, Verdugo's attorney, expressed a hope that the judgment could change the way bars address safety issues and become more diligent in ensuring customer safety. "It's not okay to have wet floors and rely on four waitresses to make sure your customers don't slip and fall and die," he stated to Hawaii News Now. Wet Floor.JPG
But, Glickstein said, no such changes occurred at the Mai Tai Bar. "Anyone who goes into the Mai Tai Bar on a night when there is live music they are taking their lives into their hands literally." Bars, and all businesses open to the public, have a duty to maintain a safe environment. This duty includes keeping floors clear of hazards. To recover, though, a person who falls and is injured must prove that the business had actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition. Actual notice can rarely be proved for spills, and these cases usually turn on whether the business inspected and cleaned the floors often enough.
In a written statement, Steve Schienthal, the Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Mai Tai's parent entity, Landry's, indicated that the bar planned to appeal the ruling. Schienthal stated that the trial judge in the Verdugo case wrongfully excluded several pieces of key evidence. The evidence, Schienthal stated, showed that the man was predisposed to his leg problems.
Schienthal also accused Glickstein of improperly trying to influence the business's decision regarding an appeal. "[I]ncredible as this sounds, the plaintiff's lawyer threatened to generate negative publicity against us unless we agreed not to seek an appeal of this case." This is a serious allegation, which could lead to discipline and/or a lawsuit against the plaintiff's attorney if it were proven.
Restaurants, bars and clubs sometimes fail to be attentive to maintaining safe conditions. If you've been injured in a slip and fall at a business establishment, call our experienced San Francisco injury attorneys right away. Businesses have a legal duty to maintain their premises in a safe condition for their employees and patrons, and if you're injured when they fail to do so, our skilled slip and fall attorneys will help you what you may be entitled to recover.

California Tree Laws: Duties and Rights

April 18, 2012

Mother Nature is a powerful force. From tornadoes and hurricanes, to earthquakes and hail storms, nature's fury can cause damage to homes, property, personal injury, and even death. The civil law handles harm from nature in various ways, but, generally, individuals are not liable for "forces of nature" harm. However, there may be liability when people fail to properly maintain their property--as when trees fall after a storm and someone is injured. Although there is no way to fully protect ourselves from what insurance companies call "Acts of God," neglecting to secure damaged property after a storm can have serious criminal, civil, and financial consequences. If you've been injured as a result of a fallen tree, contact a San Francisco injury attorney today. fallen tree (Doug Kerr).jpg

Every year, hundreds of Californians are injured due to falling trees. In March of this year, California experienced heavy rainstorms which damaged trees, roofs, and other personal property. For example, on March 16th a tree that was weakened by rain storms fell onto a freeway in the Oakland hills causing a crash that killed a UC Berkeley freshman.

Our experienced California personal injury attorneys understand that neglectful property owners should be held liable for injuries caused to others for failing to properly maintain property. Regardless of whether you were injured on public property or private, owners are required under California tree Law to ensure the trees under their control are safe and secure.

What can you do before the next storm to protect you and your neighbors? And what should you do if you are injured or your property is damaged by a neighbor's tree?

What Are California's "Tree Laws?"

California Civil Code 833 and 834
California law provides that trees whose trunks stand on the land of one owner belong to him exclusively, even if their roots/branches grow into the land of your neighbor. This means that you have a duty to ensure your trees are properly trimmed in order to reduce the risk of injury, property damage or death. Furthermore, for trees whose trunks stand partly on the land of two or more owners, each owns the tree equally and is also legally responsible for any damage or injury to person or property. And lastly, if you are a renter, you need to be aware that your landlord has a duty to inspect trees on the property and take proper action to correct any defects that could cause the tree to fall or break apart. Under California law, the person with the duty to act will be held liable for any injuries if they knew or should have known to remove the tree.

How do I know If I Have An Unsafe Tree? And What Do I do?

If you have trees on your property, it is recommended to have a licensed California inspector come to your home to ensure your tree is not vulnerable to heavy rain or winds. If you discover you have an unsafe tree, you should have it trimmed or cut down right away. If you discover your neighbor has an unsafe tree, you should talk to them right away about your concerns and insist they have an inspector fix the problem immediately. Sometimes this can cause tension between neighbors, but remember you have a right to insist that your neighbor properly maintain his or her trees. If you've been injured by a falling tree or other object in our area, you should find an experienced San Francisco injury attorney right away that can handle this matter for you.

See Our Related Blog Post:

Proving Fault in Bay Area Slip or Trip and Fall Injury

Continue reading "California Tree Laws: Duties and Rights" »

Proving Fault In A Bay Area Slip or Trip and Fall Injury

May 27, 2010

I get many calls from people who were injured in San Francisco, Oakland, and the greater Bay Area in falls in stores or restaurants. Often times, the callers think that falling in a store or restaurant automatically means that they can recover damages. And to a very limited extent they are actually right: most businesses here in the San Francisco Bay Area have something called "premises medical payments" insurance coverage. This is a category of insurance that will pay medical bills for someone injured on the insured premises, irrespective of any negligence or fault. Unfortunately, this "medical payments" coverage is usually very limited-$2,000 or $5,000 are common policy limits. To recover anything else, you will have to prove that the property owner did something wrong.

Many of these cases, known to lawyers as premises liability cases, involve a substance or thing on the floor, such as a spilled liquid, or some merchandise, packing, or other items. To recover full compensation from the store or restaurant in this situation, we have to be able to prove one of two things: Either the staff caused the dangerous condition or knew about it, and that they had an opportunity to remedy it, but failed to do so. Often we don't know, and can't prove, how the thing that caused the fall got on the floor. If we can show that an employee caused the condition, there's no need to prove they had notice of it. In other cases, the law assumes that the store or restaurant owner knew about the dangerous condition if there's evidence that it was there for about a half-hour, or if there's evidence that an employee actually saw it or was told about it. Thus, if you slip on something spilled by another customer just a few minutes earlier, you may not have a case. Stores maintain "sweep logs" to use when claims are made, to show they have met their duty to inspect regularly. Sometimes, we find that the store did a better job filling in the log than they did actually inspecting the floors, though. These cases can be tough and hard-fought in California.

Continue reading "Proving Fault In A Bay Area Slip or Trip and Fall Injury" »