Premises Liability

California Civil Code 1714(a) places a duty of care on property owners and occupiers to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition.  This duty of care requires property owners to maintain and inspect their property, repair any potentially dangerous conditions, and/or give adequate warning of any dangerous conditions.  A property owner or occupier who negligently fails to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition may be liable for any injuries sustained as a result of their negligence.

Like most personal injury claims, the statute of limitations for premises liability lawsuits in California is two years from the date of the accident.  There are many ways premises liability can be incurred, but we only focus on two of them here: (1) slip and fall, and (2) trip and fall. 

Slip and Fall

A typical slip and fall case involves a slip caused by a wet floor – whether the floor be wet from a spill, a plumbing leak or mop.  Slip and falls may also be caused by spilled items on the ground such as ice or beads.  A “slip” is caused by a loss of friction with the floor surface, causing the foot to slip outward and upward, resulting in a fall.  Examples of slipping hazards are mop water, plumbing leaks, liquid spills, and ice.  Injuries typical of a slip and fall include head, neck, back, hip, and spinal injuries.

Trip and Fall

A trip and fall, on the other hand, involves a trip caused by a hazard such as a raised mat, loose carpet, uneven floor or uncovered cable.  Trips can also be caused by broken floors, poorly placed items and poorly lit spaces.  A trip occurs when a person’s foot is met with resistance from an unperceived object, changing the person’s momentum and resulting in a fall.  Examples of tripping hazards are floor mats, steps, uneven floors and cables.  Injuries typical of a trip and fall include face, head, spine, hand, arm, elbow and knee injuries.

Floor Mats

Some public venues like grocery stores place floor mats on the ground (e.g. near the door) when floors are wet.  While the mats may help prevent slips caused by wet floors, they also create a tripping hazard which becomes unnecessary once the floors are dry.  As such, it is inappropriate for grocery stores and other venues to leave floor mats on the ground after the floors have dried.  Floor mats left on the ground after the floors have dried create a tripping hazard which may result in premises liability for the owner or operator of the property.