Premises liability and injuries in public spaces

Dangerous property conditions are commonly associated with buildings, either inside or perhaps in a parking lot or ramp, or on an adjacent sidewalk. An unfortunate accident at a local Alameda park, however, demonstrates that hazardous conditions can lead to injury even in the wide-open outdoors.

The incident took place during an evening softball game when a large tree suddenly toppled. It had been growing on a slope, and the soil in which it had been growing was wet from rains. When the tree fell, it landed on a father who was watching his daughter play in the varsity game. Although he is described as being in stable condition, his injuries were serious and will likely require long-term recovery.

Cities and local government agencies are generally responsible for ensuring that parks, public beaches and similar spaces are safe from hazardous conditions. Their duty of care works in much the same way that a private property owner is responsible for the safety of customers in a store, restaurant, parking lot or on a sidewalk. When a hazardous condition is (or should have been) known about, appropriate steps must be taken to protect visitors on the property. If it's not possible to immediately correct the issue, then visitors should be alerted to keep away from the dangerous part of the property.

If such steps were not taken, and an injury results, a victim may be able to pursue compensation through a premises liability lawsuit. There may be different considerations involved in suing a public entity as opposed to a private one. Therefore, it is important to understand what one needs to do to pursue compensation in such cases.

Source: The Mercury News, "Tree falls on man watching daughter's high school softball game in Alameda," Mark Gomez, March 26, 2018

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