All persons are required to use ordinary care to prevent injury to others from their conduct. (Civ. Code, § 1714, subd. (a); Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 112 [70 Cal.Rptr. 97, 443 P.2d 561].) This general rule requires a property owner to exercise ordinary care in the management of his or her premises in order to avoid exposing persons to an unreasonable risk of harm. (Rowland, supra, at p. 119; Sprecher v. Adamson Companies (1981) 30 Cal.3d 358, 371 [178 Cal.Rptr. 783, 636 P.2d 1121]; BAJI No. 8.00 (7th ed. 1986).)” (Scott v. Chevron U.S.A. (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 510, 515.) Over the years lawyers and judges have “fine tuned” these general concepts as they relate to the premise liability of homeowners associations.
Homeowner associations are responsible for the upkeep and safety of common own area; they are liable for these premises. How liable? Potential liability varies depending on (1) who the person was (for example, were they a tenant, employee, homeowner, trespasser or independent contractor), (2) what caused the injury (an obvious error, not obvious that should have been discovered, intentional etc.) and (3), to what degree other intervening factors affected the situation (another’s negligence, a defective product, etc.). A seasoned civil litigation lawyer will quickly sort and weigh these factors for you. Premise liability is generally very fact specific so be prepared to answer very specific questions about what happened and why.
Remember just because someone was hurt does not mean the homeowners association is liable. In law, and ultimately in a courtroom, there are two lawyers and two sides, each trying to prove their case. Proof to a lawyer means not what happened, but what can be proved in a courtroom under the rules of evidence. Photos are good, videos are good, witness statements are great as long as they are admissible. You want to make sure that you hire a trial lawyer familiar with the rules of evidence. You want to make sure that the other side knows that the evidence against them will end up in court. It is vital to call and retain counsel early on in this process.
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