Ernest Castaneda, 17, was injured at about 2 a.m. at a mobile-home park where he resided with his grandmother and sister. While standing on the steps of the mobile home, he was hit by a gunshot fired by a neighbor who was a known member of a local gang.
Castaneda sued the owners of the park, George and Paule Olsher, for his injury damages based on their alleged negligence. Through his attorney, Castaneda showed that the owners knew there were gang members and drug dealers residing in the park — there had been previous shooting incidents but without injuries, and many of the streetlights in the park were inoperable.
Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.
The park manager testified at the trial that she had witnessed several drug deals in the park and one family in the park was under Drug Enforcement Agency surveillance. She also stated when she confronted co-owner George Olsher about renting to known gang members, he said, “Go ahead and rent to them. Their money is as good as yours.”
If you were the judge, would you rule the mobile-home park landlords are liable to Castaneda for negligence damages for failing to take action to prevent this foreseeable injury?
The judge said yes!
The evidence presented at trial about the prior incidents in the mobile-home park regarding gang activity and drug sales should have alerted the owners to take preventive action, the judge began. They clearly knew about the problems but ignored them, he noted.
The owners might have prevented the gunshot incident by refusing to rent to known gang members and drug dealers, maintaining the park streetlights, and hiring a security patrol, the judge explained.
Although a landlord is not the guarantor of tenant safety, he emphasized, when there is a reasonably foreseeable risk to tenants, the property owner must take reasonable precautions to prevent injury such as what occurred in this case.
Therefore, landlords George and Paule Olsher incurred premises liability for Castaneda’s injuries because the park owners negligently failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent damages, the judge ruled.
Based on the 2005 California Court of Appeal decision in Castaneda v. Olsher, 33 Cal.Rptr.3d 827.
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