We represent property owners, landlords and property management companies against claims by tenants, guests and invitees on real property alleging injury to persons or damage to property. We also assist landlords in developing lease provisions to provide the maximum protection against such claims permitted by law.
General Duty of Care
The owner or occupier of land owes a duty of care to third persons who enter the property based upon the general principle that, “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.” A failure to satisfy this duty is negligence.
At one time, landlords enjoyed broad immunity from liability to tenants injured by a defective condition on the leased premises. Tenants in effect took possession at their own risk. The theory was that landlords had no “duty” to render the premises free from defects—they neither warranted tenantability nor undertook to maintain the safety of the premises once possession was transferred. This reasoning was based on traditional property concepts and on the landlord’s lack of possession and control. Indeed, no liability attached for failure to warn of the existence of known, obvious and dangerous conditions nor did landlords have a duty to inspect for and warn tenants of latent dangerous defects. In 1968, the California Supreme Court effectively ruled that premises liability should be handled under ordinary negligence principles. Landlords are now held to the general statutory duty to use “ordinary care or skill in the management” of their property.