When is a Property Owner Responsible for the Wrongful Acts of Others?
GENERALLY, THE LAW DOES NOT IMPOSE LIABILITY ON PEOPLE FOR THE ACTS OF OTHERS.
As a general rule, the law holds each person responsible for his or her own actions. California law does not normally require people to control, oversee, or warn about the acts of “third parties” (a legal term that refers to people other than the individuals directly involved in the action or situation).
This is because the law recognizes that people, generally speaking, are capable of independent action, and that it is difficult (and sometimes, illegal) for a person to control the acts of another person.
However, the law also recognizes many exceptions to this rule. For example, employers are often held legally responsible for the actions taken by their employees in the course and scope of employment-related activities. Parents are sometimes responsible for the acts of their children. And land owners are sometimes held responsible for the actions other people take while on their properties.
When a person can be held responsible for the wrongful or injurious acts of someone else can be a tricky and complicated legal question. Never attempt to analyze a legal situation, or your legal rights, on your own. If you are injured on someone else’s property, or through the actions of someone else, consult an attorney immediately for a personalized, individual analysis of your legal rights and potential claims.
LAND OWNERS MAY BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WRONGFUL ACTS OF OTHERS WHERE THE LAW IMPOSES RESPONSIBILITY, WHERE A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP EXISTS, OR WHERE THE LANDLORD’S CONDUCT MADE THE SITUATION WORSE.
The situations where a landlord, property owner, or person in possession of property may be held responsible for the actions of someone else include:
1. Where a duty is imposed by law. Sometimes, the law imposes a specific duty for people to control the acts of others. For example, where a legally-recognized “special relationship” exists between a land owner and people who enter his or her property, the law may impose an obligation for the land owner to protect those people against certain types of wrongful third party actions and behavior.
2. Where the landlord / defendant “induced reliance” by the injured party. If a property owner “induces” someone to rely on representations of safety, or on certain other representations, the person making the representations may be held legally liable for injuries and damages that result from a failure to carry out those representations (or if the representations turn out to be untrue).
3. Where the land owner / defendant’s actions made the injuries or damage worse. A property owner who fails to intervene and protect or help a plaintiff avoid injuries from third party action may or may not be held liable, depending on whether other factors favor liability. However, where a defendant’s action–intentionally or negligently–makes the plaintiff’s injuries or situation worse, the law may hold the defendant liable even if a third party caused the original injury.
As always, consult an experienced attorney if you suffer injury. It’s risky to evaluate your legal rights on your own, and you should never use this or any other online resource to determine whether or not you may have a legal right, a claim, or the ability to recover for your injuries.
Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Negligence and premises liability claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against a property owner who permitted or failed to repair a dangerous condition, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your possible rights and claims.