What Is the Landlord's Liability for Dangerous Condition In California ?
When a landlord has actual knowledge of a dangerous condition on his property, that landlord owes a "duty of care only when he has the right to prevent the presence of the dangerous condition on his premises." (Bisetti v. United Refrigeration Corp, 174 Cal. App. 3d at pp. 648-649.)
A landlord's knowledge of the tenant's dangerous acts is not enough; "the landlord must also have the opportunity and the ability to eliminate the dangerous condition being created by the tenant." (Rosales v. Stewart (1980) 113 Cal. App. 3d 130, 134 [169 Cal. Rptr. 660].)
Where a landlord has "no control or authority" over a dangerous condition of property, it cannot be held liable for injuries caused by that dangerous condition of property. (Mark v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (1972) 7 Cal. 3d 170, 179 [101 Cal. Rptr. 908, 496 P.2d 1276].)
Where a landlord gives up possession of leased premises to tenants, the landlord likewise gives up the ability to directly and promptly control the conditions existing on that property. (Leakes v. Shamoun (1986) 187 Cal. App. 3d 772, 776 [232 Cal. Rptr. 171].)
The analogy to landlord liability cases stems from the fact that, like a landlord, the Bank owned legal title to the South Chester property but did not have possession or control of its property.
Compared to a landlord, however, the Bank had a more restricted choice of remedies, as no lease existed which the Bank could terminate or refuse to renew unless the Lindseys got rid of their dogs. (Bisetti v. United Refrigeration Corp., supra, 174 Cal. App. 3d at p. 649, citing Uccello v. Laudenslayer, supra, 44 Cal. App. 3d at pp. 513-514; see also Donchin v. Guerrero, supra, 34 Cal. App. 4th at p. 1847.)
Even though no lease existed, the Bank did have one remedy that would also be available to a landlord. the Bank could seek to oust the Lindseys from possession in an unlawful detainer proceeding. (Code Civ. Proc., 1161a, subd. (b).)
But until a judgment was obtained and satisfied in that unlawful detainer proceeding, the Bank did not have the ability to directly and promptly control conditions existing on the South Chester Avenue property occupied by the Lindseys. (See Leakes v. Shamoun, supra, 187 Cal. App. 3d at p. 776.)
Foreseeability is a crucial factor in determining whether a defendant owes a duty of care. (Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal. 4th 666, 676 [25 Cal. Rptr. 2d 137, 863 P.2d 207].)
The court's task in determining duty is not to decide whether a particular plaintiff's injury was reasonably foreseeable in light of a particular defendant's conduct.
Instead the court evaluates more generally whether the category of negligent conduct at issue is sufficiently likely to result in the kind of harm experienced that liability may be appropriately imposed on the negligent party. (Ballard v. Uribe (1986) 41 Cal. 3d 564, 572-573, fn. 6 [224 Cal. Rptr. 664, 715 P.2d 624].)
What is "sufficiently likely" means what is " 'likely enough in the setting of modern life that a reasonably thoughtful [person] would take account of it in guiding practical conduct.' " (Bigbee v. Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. (1983) 34 Cal. 3d 49, 57 [192 Cal. Rptr. 857, 665 P.2d 947].)