When bringing a premises liability claim in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California, the question of property owner vs. occupier liability may arise. A rule of thumb is that when the property is not leased or occupied by someone other than the owner, the owner will be held responsible for any injuries and accidents occurring on the property.
But it is never that simple, isn’t it? Under California’s premises liability law either a property owner or an occupier (tenant or occupying owner) of the property can be held liable for injuries occurring on the property.
“Essentially, you need to determine who was or should have been in control of the property or part of the property where the accident occurred,” says our Los Angeles premises liability attorney at the Compass Law Group, LLP
Since the control of any property shifts to an occupier who rents or leases the property, in the vast majority of cases, an occupier of the property will be held liable for your injuries occurring on the property regardless of who the actual owner is.
We say “In the vast majority of cases” because there are exceptions to the general rule. More often than not, an occupier is a residential or commercial tenant.
Liability in non-typical situations
Interestingly, if a person or business is occupying a property without its owner’s permission or knowledge, that person or business is considered “in control” of the property, and will be held responsible under the theory of premises liability.
In other non-typical situations, the judge and juries have to determine who was in control of the property at the time of the accident to establish the liable parties. These situations include but are not limited to:
- Whether the person or business occupying the property does so with an intent to control it;
- Whether the person or business was the last person to occupy the abandoned property with an intent to control it;
- Whether the person or business is entitled to occupy and control the property but did not do so.
In other words, a property owner or occupier can be held liable for injuries occurring on the property or parts of the property they are intentionally in control of.
Situations in which the owner can be held liable when the property is occupied by someone else However, what many people do not realize is that the owner of the property can still be held liable for your injuries even if the property was occupied or rented by a tenant or occupying owner at the time of the premises liability accident.
For example, in many situations, the property owner retains control over certain parts of the property even when he or she rents out the remaining parts of the property to someone else. Our experienced premises liability attorney in Los Angeles explains that in most cases, common areas used by multiple tenants are considered under the control of the owner of the property.
In addition to that, the property owner will be held liable for injuries occurring on his/her property if he/she rents out the property in a dangerous condition unless the occupier or tenant was warned about the condition. If the occupier or tenant was not warned about the hazardous condition on the property, any injuries and accidents caused by that condition will be the owner’s responsibility.
As you can see, establishing property owner vs. occupier liability varies from one case to another. That is why it is highly advised to consult with a Los Angeles premises liability attorney to determine liable parties in your case.