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Dangerous Condition of Public Property

Overview

A dangerous condition of public property case is similar to a premises liability case. Although they are similar, they are not the same. For related information go to Premises Liability.

To establish the claim of a dangerous condition of public property, the plaintiff must prove:

  • That the defendant owned or controlled the property;
  • That the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the incident;
  • That the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of incident that occurred;
  • That negligent conduct of the defendant’s employee acting within the scope of his or her employment created the dangerous condition or defendant had notice of the dangerous condition for a long enough time to have protected against it;
  • That the plaintiff was harmed; and
  • That the dangerous condition was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s harm. CACI 100

(CACI are the approved jury instructions from the Judicial Council of California. Jury instructions are read to the jury by the judge and establish the law the jury must follow in deciding the case. A partner of Cheong, Denove, Rowell & Bennett has been formally recognized as one of the attorneys who assisted the task force in the preparation of these jury instructions.)

The jury is instructed that “a ‘dangerous condition’ is a condition of public property that creates a substantial risk of injury to members of the general public who are using the property with reasonable care and in a reasonably foreseeable manner. A condition that creates only a minor risk of injury is not a dangerous condition.” CACI 102

Types of Dangerous Condition of Public Property Cases:

  • Unsafe conditions in government-owned or operated buildings;
  • Inoperable signal lights; Absent or broken street lights;
  • Inadequate or absent guard rails;
  • Dangerously designed crosswalks;
  • Dangerously designed roads and highways;
  • Inadequate traffic warning signs such as “curve ahead”, “slow”, “merging traffic”, or “slippery when wet.”

Typical Defenses:

  • Plaintiff was negligent;
  • The risk of harm was minor;
  • Defendant did not create the dangerous condition;
  • Design immunity;
  • Impractical and too costly to take alternative action;
  • Defendant did not have sufficient time to discover, warn against, or correct the dangerous situation.

Conclusion

There are many pitfalls an inexperienced attorney may be unaware of when handling a case against a public entity. The attorneys at Cheong, Denove, Rowell & Bennett have written and lectured on the subject of dangerous condition of public property.
 

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