Premises Liability

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Skane Wilcox has a specific practice in the representation of commercial, individual and public entity landowners.  Our attorneys are well-versed in analyzing the issues involved in litigating premises liability cases. We provide a broad range of services including the litigation of construction site accidents and the defense of suits arising out of third party criminal acts perpetrated on the premises. Through the development of close relationships with our clients, we focus on preventing litigation through ongoing legal advice.

Although we work to resolve cases from the outset and the majority of cases do in fact settle, particularly in simpler slip and fall cases, the following provides some examples of cases we have handled for our clients beyond the discovery phase.

In a wrongful death case venued in Nevada, we represented an apartment complex against claims from one of the decedent’s children. The plaintiffs’ original settlement demand was $6 million wherein the plaintiffs alleged our client should have had more security to prevent one resident from shooting and killing two other residents. After several months of discovery and extensive pre-trial motions, we were able to cut the plaintiffs’ case down to a point where they ultimately agreed to settle for $700,000.

The plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell in a Laundromat, alleging the washing machine manufactured by our client was placed in the stream of commerce with a defectively designed door and door latch. The plaintiff claimed this alleged defect caused water to pool on the flooring, causing a dangerous condition and plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff alleged she had a torn rotator cuff and low back injuries. We propounded extensive discovery on the plaintiff and were planning to file motions to compel and have requests for admissions deemed admitted when plaintiff’s counsel filed a dismissal in exchange for our agreement to waive fees and costs.

In this wrongful death case, our client was hired to do some trenching/excavation on a home in Benedict Canyon that was being renovated. Our client finished its work in July 2011, the incident occurred in 2012, and the complaint was filed in December 2013. The plaintiff’s counsel, a known reptile firm in Los Angeles never obtained a summons on the complaint, and consequently did not bother to serve it. The court ordered a final status conference and trial to take place in 2015. The exact dates were stamped on the face page of the complaint. Plaintiffs’ counsel did not show up to the final status conference or trial and the court dismissed the case. Three months later, in September 2015, counsel apparently noticed their mistake, and went in ex parte and persuaded the judge to set aside the dismissal. Counsel finally got around to serving the complaint (on our client and other defendants) in March 2016. On behalf of our client, we filed a demurrer, motion to strike and motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution. These motions were pending when another defendant successfully demurred and the court (new judge) terminated the case for several siblings of the decedent, but gave the decedent’s father and illegitimate son leave to amend. As we geared up to file a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ amended complaint we contacted plaintiff’s counsel to notify them of our plans as well as advise counsel that our client was not working on the property at the time of the alleged incident. We offered to waive costs if he voluntarily dismissed our client immediately. Counsel agreed to dismiss our client for a waiver of costs. The case is still proceeding against the other defendant.

The plaintiff claimed he slipped and fell in a store operated by our client, a national guitar store.  Prior to the plaintiff filing a complaint, his counsel sent our client a policy limits demand in the amount of $1 million. Our client rejected the plaintiff’s demand and the plaintiff filed the complaint. We immediately served discovery requests inquiring as to the plaintiff’s theory of a dangerous condition in our client’s store. After the plaintiff failed to provide substantive responses to these requests, we filed a motion to compel further responses and sought sanctions against the plaintiff and counsel. The court granted our motion and awarded $700 in sanctions. Thereafter, the plaintiff failed to the comply with the court’s order. Therefore, we then filed a motion for terminating sanctions (to terminate the plaintiff’s case). The court’s tentative ruling was to deny our motion. However, in oral argument at the hearing on our motion we persuaded the court to grant the motion and dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice.

After two weeks of trial, we obtained a directed verdict in favor of our general contractor client in a multi-million dollar personal injury claim involving allegations of negligence and premises liability. The plaintiff, a prominent orthopedic surgeon, was allegedly injured in a fall in a darkened stairway at an apartment complex where our client was performing work. The plaintiff contended that our client’s work caused or contributed to the conditions which led to the fall. He sought damages that included, without limitation, past and future medical expenses and several million dollars in lost earning capacity.  Following trial we obtained over $40,000 of costs against the plaintiff.

The plaintiff claimed he tripped and fell in an area where our client was constructing a building. He claimed he fell because the area was not well-lit and not properly barricaded. The plaintiff claimed over $1 million in bodily injury damages. Fortunately, our client’s project superintendent kept a daily journal at the construction site. His contemporaneous notes clearly indicated that on the morning after the date of the claimed incident, all of the cones, tape, signage and other safety barricade paraphernalia was still in place in the exact condition as when they left the construction site the previous night (the night of the alleged incident). Moreover, there was not a scratch on the newly paved concrete that had been laid (where the plaintiff allegedly fell). During the plaintiff’s deposition, we had the plaintiff describe in detail his claim that there was no barricade up between the sidewalk and the exposed street cover (where he purported fell) and there was improper lighting. When we showed the plaintiff our client’s dated construction photo documentation (which showed a well-barricaded job site and the presence of an active pre-existing light pole at the exact location of the alleged incident), the plaintiff did not know how to respond and looked to his counsel for help. The deposition ended with a review of the plaintiff’s criminal background, which was at odds with his prior discovery responses where he claimed he had no past felonies. Immediately following the plaintiff’s deposition, discovery was suspended and the case was settled in mediation for nuisance value.

We prevailed on a motion for summary judgment on behalf of a general contractor in a lawsuit filed by a plaintiff who sustained a traumatic brain injury on a construction site. We argued that under Privette, our client did not owe the plaintiff a duty as a matter of law because the client did not retain control over the safety at the jobsite. The court initially denied the motion for summary judgment in its tentative ruling, but following our arguments at the hearing, granted the motion. The plaintiff’s initial demand was $7 million.

We succeeded on a motion for summary judgment in a personal injury, construction site accident case. The plaintiff was a demolition laborer who was struck in the head by a falling light fixture during the demolition of an old hospital building. He was severely injured and claimed in excess of $500,000 in future lost wages. We represented the owner of the hospital building and won a motion for summary judgment after the court agreed there can be no liability where the property owner did not actively cause the accident, but merely owned the property.

In a premises liability wrongful death action involving the death of a school security guard, we defended the roofing subcontractor involved in the rehabilitation of a school campus at which the decedent school security guard was employed. The plaintiff, the decedent’s wife, brought suit against the general contractor and in turn the general contractor sued our client and other subcontractors working on the project. The plaintiff alleged negligence and premises liability claiming that the decedent died as a result of injuries he sustained after slipping and falling on rocks deposited on a stairway on the subject property. The case primarily involved a dispute as to whether our client was involved in the construction operations at or around the time of the injury incident. Through analysis of the client job file and multiple depositions our attorneys were able to establish that the client was not on site and therefore could not be found liable for the alleged incident. Negotiations thereafter took place and we positioned the drafting of a motion for summary judgment. Prior to the drafting of the motion, but after discovery, we offered a nuisance value cost of defense settlement in lieu of the filing of such a motion and the case settled.