Category: Recreational Use Immunity

Legal duty to prevent personal injury on government land

man walking in park
The Government is immune for recreational use of their property.

What’s legal for the government?  

A person is injured when a tree falls on him while he is walking on a paved path.  He is injured on an “improved portion” of public property owned by the County of Yolo in California.  He sues for personal injury.  The case is dismissed by a judge.  The Plaintiff appeals.

The appellate court finds that under Government Code § 831.2 the County of Yolo is immune from liability because the injury is caused by a feature of unimproved property, ie., the tree.

Yolo County
Yolo County

The appellate court cites Government Code §831.2, which extends a statutory immunity to injuries caused by a natural condition of any unimproved public property. The court also cites Rendak v. State of California (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 286, 288, 95 Cal. Rptr. 665, saying “further improvement of a portion of a park area does not remove the immunity for the unimproved areas.“

The appellate court finds that the County does not owe a legal duty of care to a person to prevent injury by unimproved land. Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by decaying natural trees located on unimproved property. So, a government entity is not liable for injuries resulting from a natural hazard even when it attacks someone on improved property.  (See Arroyo v. State of California (1995) 34 Cal.App.4th 755, 762- 764, 40 Cal.Rptr.2d 627.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

How Lawsuits Can Help Solve Problems

One of the great things about living in America, is we have something called “the rule of law.”

So, just what is that?

Well, in the U.S., instead of having a king sitting on a throne, we believe “the law is king.” That means that we believe we are ruled by laws, not other men and women. “The rule of law.” It’s precious stuff, friends.

So, what does any of that have to do with lawsuits.

Well, it turns out, that people just living their daily lives, are going to have problems that come up in dealing with other people.

There’s two ways to solve problems having to do with money, property or your person, what we call “civil” problems.

One is something called “self help.” In other words, if your neighbor built a high fence and you don’t like it, self help is taking a saw and cutting it down without permission.

Only we learned a long time ago that self help causes all kinds of problems. If you don’t believe me, try cutting down your neighbor’s fence and report back to me what happens. No, just kidding. Don’t do that. Self-help isn’t really all that helpful.

The other way to solve civil problems is something called a civil justice system.

When someone wants to solve a problem using the civil justice system, they file papers asking for some kind of relief. That’s basically what a lawsuit is. Pretty simple, huh?

Now, there is plenty of debate these days about whether there are too many lawsuits, or too few, and all that kind of stuff that I know you hear about all the time.

But, the truth is, when you have a civil problem, it become real important to you that someone can help you solve that problem in the fairest, least expensive and quickest way.

Now, I’m not here to give you legal advice and there are differences in how courts work in each state and in the federal system. Still, spend a little time with me and I think I can tell you some things that you didn’t know before and, hopefully, will help you with whatever problem you need to fix.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

Defective Product Litigation and Injury Lawsuits

On the surface, product liability would seem to be a pretty cut and dry area of the law and being a litigation attorney may not seem super exciting. I mean it all seems like common sense. Some manufacturer or seller creates or distributes a product, a consumer purchases it and is injured, or perhaps even dies as a result of using it and naturally the manufacturer is automatically responsible for said injury and attempts to make things right. However, this area of law has many pitfalls that await consumers who have been harmed and for the inexperienced personal injury attorneys who try these cases.

Filing a Product Liability Lawsuit

According to some estimates, injuries, deaths and property damage from defective and recalled products cost the public more than $500 billion each year. Recently, a man in San Jose was awarded a $9.8 million judgment in a product liability case involving a surgical stapler that caused him grave bodily harm. Thus, product liability cases, unfortunately, are not an insignificant part of the legal system. In this case, without the proper legal counsel as to the circumstances, criteria and time limits involved in filing suit in a personal injury claim for product liability,it could have ended even more tragically for this person. Knowing when to file a case is one of the first steps to succeeding in personal injury cases involving product liability. In the state of California, for example, an action must be brought within two years from the time when the injury occurred. Here are some other things to know when filing a personal injury claim involving a defective product:

Establishing liability in personal injury cases involving a defective product

There are four legal means for establishing liability in personal injury cases involving a defective product:

  • Negligence: This is when expected, reasonable care is not taken and an obligation to do so exists. Negligence can occur when defective partsor improper assembly result in some injury.
  • Breach of Warranty: This is when a seller fails to uphold a claim or promise regarding their product.
  • False Advertising: This is when a consumer is misled into believing that a product is safer than it actually is.
  • Strict Liability: This is when the manufacturer or seller of a defective product is responsible for all injuries occurring from the use of the product. This also means that everyone involved in the making of a consumer product is potentially liable for any personal injury that results from using the product.

Obviously, manufacturers and sellers never mean to harm consumers with the products they create or distribute. However, intent is irrelevant when you suffer an injury and are required to pay hospital bills or when a loved one is struck down through no fault of his or her own. How can you be made whole after you are harmed by faulty—even deadly—products? We are Daniels Law, a Hollywood law firm that specializes in all areas of personal injury including the very complicated area of product liability. We are familiar with all aspects of product liability and can inform you as to your time limits to file and the types of product defects (design, manufacturing errors and false advertising) there are. We know that the cost to life and limb in these cases can be inestimable.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Government entity not liable for injury resulting from natural hazard on unimproved property

Plaintiff, who was injured when a tree fell on him while he was on an “improved portion” of public property, appealed against a summary judgment in favor of the County of Yolo. The appellate court found that although the injury occurred on improved property, i.e., the paved parking lot, it was caused by the native flora located near and adjacent to the improved parking lot, but themselves not on the improved parking lot.  Thus, pursuant to Government Code § 831.2 the County of Yolo was immune from liability.

The appellate court cited Government Code §831.2, which extends the statutory immunity to injuries caused by a natural condition of any unimproved public property. The court also cited Rendak v. State of California (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 286, 288, 95 Cal. Rptr. 665, saying “further improvement of a portion of a park area does not remove the immunity for the unimproved areas.“

Here, the appellate court found that the County did not owe a duty of care to an entrant to prevent injury by unimproved land.  The plaintiff’s injuries were caused by decaying natural trees located on unimproved property.  And a government entity is not liable for injuries resulting from a natural hazard even when it attacks someone on improved property.  (See Arroyo v. State of California (1995) 34 Cal.App.4th 755, 762- 764, 40 Cal.Rptr.2d 627.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Recreational use immunity extends to pathways used for recreational purposes

Plaintiff, who sustained injuries after falling over a protruding tree trunk while walking along a recreational pathway, appealed against a summary judgment in favor of the City of Bradbury.  The appellate court found that a government entity is absolutely immune from liability for injuries caused by a physical defect on a recreational trail.

The appellate court cited Government Code § 831.4(a) which stated that public entities are not liable for injuries caused by the condition of trails used for certain recreational purposes i.e., “hiking” and “riding, including animal and all types of vehicular ridings,” or for access to such recreation.

Here, the appellate court found that Government Code § 831.4(a) applies to any trail or path specifically put aside and developed for recreational uses, without regard to its unnatural condition or urban location.  Also, evidence established that members of the public regularly used the pathway for at least two of the recreational purposes listed in the statute – horseback riding and hiking.  The appellate court states that immunity for dangerous conditions on recreational trail of all kinds encourage public entities to open their property for public recreational use.  If public entities could not rely on the immunity of recreational trails, the public entities would be forced to close down existing trails and potentially entire parks where those trails could be found.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Some Thoughts on “No Recovery — No Fee”

I was in Fresno County on a case and picked up The Selma Enterprise to read during breakfast. Fine little paper!

Anyhow, a column titled “You and the Law” caught my eye and I thought, “Wow, this is good stuff!”

The columnist is Bakersfield attorney Dennis Beaver (661/323-7911 or Lagombeaver1@gmail.com) who it turns out writes a regular column.

Mr. Beaver graciously gave me permission to reprint his column, so here you go:

____________________________

But the Phone Book Ad Said, ‘No Recovery Fee’!

By David Beaver, Esq.

It is impossible to turn on TV, open the phone book to the attorneys section or surf the Web and not find ads for personal injury lawyers, which generally all sound pretty much the same and stress, “No recovery, no fee.”

Sounds like a great way of hiring a lawyer, doesn’t it? The ads want you to think, “The lawyer who takes my case puts in all the time and gets paid only if we get paid. For me, it’s a no-brainer, a free ride, I can’t lose. Sure, I’ll sign!”

So you phone the “800” number flashed on your screen and wind up hiring the “No recovery, no fee” lawyer, who then loses your case after years of litigation. Are you on the hook for anything?

Well, you could easily get a letter from the attorney which reads, “I am sorry that we lost your case. Now we need to talk about how you are going to pay us for …”

“Pay us? What part of the no-fee stuff means that I have to pay anything at all?” you might be thinking. And, in fact, one of the most frequent complaints to state bar associations from unhappy clients deals precisely with the meaning of the words “no fee” and the resulting confusion. So, what does “no fee” really mean?

No fee does not mean free

Ron Jones specializes in business and real estate law in Hanford and sees the public confusion as a result of two factors.

“When most people think of hiring a lawyer — let’s say, in a divorce or contract dispute — they usually are concerned with the amount that lawyer will bill for time spent on the case. If it is a personal injury matter, fees are often on a percentage basis — for example, one-fourth to sometimes half of the amounts recovered, plus costs.

“There is generally more to most cases than just the lawyer’s time,” Jones points out. “The written retainer agreement lawyer and client sign must set out clearly what out-of-pocket expenses incurred the client will be expected to pay. There is a difference between attorney fees — what a lawyer charges for time, document preparation and advice — and costs, which are other expenses incurred for the client’s benefit.”

Some example of costs

Costs can include any and all of the following, and again, we are not talking attorney time, rather, the out-of-pocket expenses which clients can be responsible for:

• Postage and shipping costs

• Photocopy and binding expense

• Travel expense, including mileage, train and airplane

• Lodging and meal expense

• Deposition and court reporter charges

• Video conferencing/long-distance telephone charges

• Expert witness fees, such as forensic accountants in divorce cases

• Private investigators

• Computerized research if the law firm is charged by the provider

• Possibly secretarial and paralegal time

• Court filing fees.

“Who pays what, under what circumstances and when, should be clearly set out in writing,” Jones observes. He describes three basic types of retainer agreements:

1) The client pays attorney fees and all related costs and expenses, such as hiring a private investigator, an accident reconstruction expert, accountant, etc.

2) The law firm covers everything and the client reimburses the law firm out of the recovery, only if there is one.

3) The client pays no attorney fees unless the case is successful, but does pay the out-of-pocket costs.

“Fee agreements where the lawyer covers all expenses related to the case are typical in personal injury cases where it is likely there is going to be a recovery. You will not normally find this in cases which have a limited chance of success or which have a low dollar value,” he notes.

“It is important for the public to understand that law is a business with a bottom line. Reasonable lawyers try to not accept cases which appear as doubtful or which have a minimal chance for success. With most personal injury cases — where the lawyer is paid a contingent fee — an experienced attorney who is good at selecting cases will only take those which will likely provide a desirable result.”

How not to be surprised

“Always read the retainer (fee agreement) very carefully,” Jones stresses. “If you do not understand the fee agreement, but are inclined to hire the lawyer, it is a good idea to take that retainer to another attorney and pay for a consultation in which it can be clearly explained to you. Also, it’s a good idea to set out in writing, that before your lawyer incurs any costs which might exceed, say, $1,000, that your approval is required.”

“Finally,” the Hanford lawyer underscores, “when you do not have a working history with that attorney and fees are expected to exceed $1,000, California law requires a written, signed agreement.”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to him at 661-323-7911 or emailed to him at lagombeaver1@hotmail.com.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.