California Civil Code Section 1714 - Premises Liability

Civil Code section 1714, subdivision (a) provides: "Every one is responsible, not only for the result of his willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury on himself." It is appropriate to depart from this standard only when there are clear public policy reasons for doing so. In making that determination, a court must weigh the following factors: (1) the foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff; (2) the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury; (3) the proximity of the connection between the defendant's conduct and the injury sustained; (4) the moral blame attached to the defendant's conduct; (5) the policy of preventing future harm; (6) the extent of the burden to the defendant and consequences to the community from imposing a duty to exercise care with resulting liability for breach; (7) the availability, cost, and prevalence of insurance for the risk involved. (Rowland v. Christian, supra, 69 Cal. 2d at pp. 112-113.) "The proper test to be applied to the liability of the possessor of land in accordance with section 1714 of the Civil Code is whether in the management of his property he has acted as a reasonable man in view of the probability of injury to others . . . ." (Rowland v. Christian, supra, 69 Cal. 2d at p. 119.) In addition to Civil Code section 1714, subdivision (a), the Legislature has enacted Streets and Highways Code section 5610, which provides: "The owners of lots or portions of lots fronting on any portion of a public street or place when that street or place is improved or if and when the area between the property line of the adjacent property and the street line is maintained as a park or parking strip, shall maintain any sidewalk in such condition that the sidewalk will not endanger persons or property and maintain it in a condition which will not interfere with the public convenience in the use of those works or areas save and except as to those conditions created or maintained in, upon, along, or in connection with such sidewalk by any person other than the owner, under and by virtue of any permit or right granted to him by law or by the city authorities in charge thereof, and such persons shall be under a like duty in relation thereto." This statute places on the abutting property owner the duty to maintain the sidewalk. This statutory duty has been held not to impose, by itself, a duty of care upon the abutting landowner for the safety of persons using the sidewalk, but rather a duty owed to the city.