Can A California Property Owner Escape Liability By Shifting Blame To Third Parties?
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Can A California Property Owner Escape Liability By Shifting Blame To Third Parties?

Posted By Eugene Bruno & Associates Posted in: Premises Liability.


A short answer is: He or she might, but there are quite a few “non-delegable duties” that cannot be transferred to third parties in a premises liability case. But let’s start with the basics first.

How does California’s premises liability law work? Under the law, owners and/or occupiers of property are liable for injuries caused on their premises as long as the owner (occupier) owed a duty of care to the injured and that duty was breached by the owner or occupier’s failure exercise a high standard of care.

Basically, this sentence sums up the meaning of the term “premises liability,” but here’s where it gets complicated.

Non-delegable duties in California premises liability law

Imagine the following scenario: a property owner is being sued by an injured invitee (the person who was invited on to the property and sustained injuries on the premises) for a slip and fall accident caused by a slippery surface, which was a result of inadequate maintenance.

The property owner, meanwhile, claims that he or she cannot be held liable for the slip and fall injury since he/she hired a third-party company to properly maintain and safely secure the property. In that case, will the property owner escape liability by shifting the blame to the third-party maintenance company?

“Not really,” says our Chula Vista premises liability attorney at Eugene Bruno & Associates “In California law, there is a term ‘non-delegable duties’, which means that property owners cannot shift the liability to third parties when certain duties were breached.”

Can property owners shift liability for injuries to third parties?

Under California’s premises liability law, it is prohibited to transfer liability for issues related to maintenance and security of the premises, which, in the above-mentioned example, means that the property owner would not be able to shift the liability to the third-party company because a duty to properly maintain a safe environment for visitors is one of the “non-delegable duties.”

However, do not be surprised if the property owner and/or their insurance company will be trying to convince you that filing a lawsuit against them would be a waste of your time and money, and you should be suing the third-party company instead. “Do not believe them,” says our experienced premises liability lawyer in Chula Vista. “Insurance companies have shown time and time again that they could not care less about the people. All they care about is paying you as little as possible or denying your claim altogether.”

A property owner is liable when non-delegable duties are breached

Let’s get back to our above-mentioned example. Even though the third-party maintenance company was hired to maintain the property in a safe manner, but failed to do so, which resulted in injuries, that breach of duty does not make the third-party company accountable for the accident. In that case, the owner of the property and the hirer of the third-party company is still fully responsible for the injury.

Failure to repair a building, grounds or appliances is also a non-delegable duty. Meaning: a property owner or occupier would not be able to shift the liability for failure to repair a building in a safe manner to another party even if that party was hired to repair the building.

Our Chula Vista premises liability attorney explains, however, that even though a property owner or occupier may not escape liability for injuries caused by the breach of one of the non-delegable duties, he or she may still be able to seek reimbursement from the individual or company hired to maintain the property in a safe manner (this often requires a contract between the two parties, in which a third-party assumes the responsibility for accidents caused by its negligence).  

Do not believe insurance companies. Talk to our lawyers at Eugene Bruno & Associates instead. Call our offices at 888-278-6688 to get a free consultation.

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