Children are our most precious resource and protecting them is both a duty and an honor. Children are naturally curious and unable to fully appreciate potential dangers, making it important for adults to exercise vigilance to keep them safe. The law reflects this shared responsibility, including in the context of children and premises liability law. Our Oakland child injury lawyer helps parents fight for the rights of children who are injured or killed because someone else did not maintain their property in a safe manner.
Child Nearly Drowns at Oakley Pond
The Oakland Tribune reports that a young child nearly drowned in a pond in Oakley on Monday. Responding to a call, East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District arrived at a pond near the 5300 block of Tule Tree Lane where a one-year-old had nearly drowned. As of this writing, the child’s injuries are unknown but the article reports that an air ambulance transported the baby to a hospital.
Premises Liability Generally
While we cannot comment on the legal implications of the Oakley incident, we send our thoughts and wishes to the family involved. This story serves as a reminder that children can be injured or even killed in mere moments as a result of unsafe property conditions. Prevention is always best, but the law does provide protection for people injured on private property and has special provisions for the protection of children.
Generally speaking, premises liability law holds owners/occupiers legally responsible for certain accidents and injuries that occur on their property whether outdoors or inside a structure. California Jury Instruction (“CACI”) 1000 details the elements that a plaintiff must show to win a premises liability claim:
- The defendant owned, leased, occupied, and/or controlled the property;
- The defendant was negligent using or maintaining the property;
- The plaintiff was harmed; and
- The defendant’s negligent was a substantial factor leading to the injury.
Like many other areas of law, premises liability law uses a negligence and reasonable care standard. As to adults, CACI 1001 explains that an owner/occupier is considered negligent (element 2) if s/he does not use reasonable care to maintain reasonably safe conditions on the property, including making reasonable efforts to discover unsafe conditions. The Instruction also lists some factors that can impact what is deemed reasonable such as property location, likelihood of someone entering the property, and seriousness of potential harm.
Premises Liability Law and Children
Children are afforded special protections under the law, in part because children cannot foresee consequences as well as adults. CACI 412 “Duty of Care Owed Children” provides that, in California, adults must exercise extra care when dealing with children and anticipate children’s ordinary behavior. Applying this principle to the premises liability context, a California appellate court explains:
When, as here children are the focus of care, the landlord’s duty is to protect the young from themselves and guard against perils that are reasonably foreseeable. The determination of the scope of foreseeable perils to children must take into consideration the known propensity for children to intermeddle. Rinehart, IV v. Boys & Girls Club of Chula Vista (2005) 133 Cal.App.4th 419 (internal citations removed).
Essentially, the negligence and reasonable care analysis in the case of a child plaintiff is altered to account for the child’s youth. For example, the premises liability analysis might look at whether the defendant knew or should have known that a condition on the property posed a danger to children, particularly if children are reasonably likely to enter the property.
A California Law Firm for Injured Children and Their Families
If your child was injured on someone else’s property in Northern California, call our office or fill out our online inquiry form. Cases involving children are particularly emotional, even for our seasoned San Francisco child injury lawyer. As with all our clients, if you engage our firm to fight on your child’s behalf or in your child’s memory, we promise to give you the attention and sensitivity you deserve.
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(Image by Teemu Tretjakov)