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An Accidental Gunshot Results in a $3 Million Jury Verdict in a Premises Liability Case in California

Here in California, the law recognized several types of “duties,” which are legal obligations that people and entities have to others. One of those is the general duty every person and/or entity has to “exercise reasonable care for the safety of others.” If you are hurt because someone didn’t act reasonably to fulfill that obligation, then that failure may constitute negligence. If that negligence took place while you were on someone else’s property, then you may have a potentially winning claim for premises liability and the opportunity to collect a substantial amount in compensation. An experienced San Mateo injury attorney can help you make the most of your premises liability case.

A recent premises liability case from Southern California offers a strong reminder about just how broad this general duty is, and how firmly on the side of injured people the law is.

M.J. had elderly parents in their late 80s who lived in southern Los Angeles County, while she lived three hours away in northern Santa Barbara County. The father had multiple health problems and the mother was bedridden and had dementia.


The family hired two home healthcare aides, A.H. and T.D. One day, after the father experienced shortness of breath, T.D. went to the bedroom closet to retrieve an oxygen tank. The tank caused a rifle to move and the rifle, which was loaded, discharged. The shot hit A.H. in the torso, fracturing her pelvis and perforating her intestines.

The injured worker sued, alleging a claim for premises liability. The case went to trial and a jury sided with the injured woman, awarding her more than $3 million in damages. M.J. later appealed that ruling, but A.H.’s legal team was able to overcome that appeal and keep the jury award in place.

In any kind of premises liability case like this in California, you need four critical things to win your case. You must show: (1) that the defendants had a legal responsibility toward you, (2) that they failed to meet that obligation, (3) that you were injured, and (4) that the defendants’ failure caused your injury.

The appeals court’s ruling, which upheld the jury verdict for A.H., served as an important reminder for anyone who’s injured while on the property of another person or entity. Namely, it reiterated that the general duty of reasonable care for others is a fundamental principle of law and a broad one.

The court, in siding with the injured worker, refused to create “an exception to this fundamental principle for employers and supervisors of healthcare aides working in homes where firearms are present. It is foreseeable that an accidental shooting might occur in a home containing unsecured, loaded firearms, and policy considerations favor a duty to use reasonable care when one knows firearms are present.”

What you can take away from this court case is that the protections California law provides for people injured on the property of others are quite broad. If you’ve been hurt, you may be able to obtain much-needed compensation through legal action. Contact the skilled premises liability lawyers at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos so we can get started going to work for you. To set up a free consultation with one of our helpful attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

Personal InjuryandPremises Liability

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