Marilyn J. Miller was riding her horse along a public riding trail. The horse lost its footing on the surface of the trail where it crossed a paved driveway in front of the home owned by Jeffrey and Janice Weitzen.
Horse and rider fell to the ground. Miller seriously injured her wrist and hand. She sued both the association responsible for maintaining the trail and the Weitzens.
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At the trial, Miller’s evidence showed Jeffrey Weitzen had recently resurfaced his driveway (that had an encroachment permit to cross over the public riding trail) but he did not obtain a resurfacing permit as required by the county.
The association had placed warning sides on either side of the Weitzen driveway where it crosses the horse-riding trail, but Miller testified she did not see them. She argued the Weitzens should be liable for her damages because it was negligent to have a paved driveway crossing the riding trail.
If you were the judge would you rule the driveway owners are negligently liable to Miller for her injuries?
The judge said no!
The evidence shows the Weitzens had a valid encroachment permit for their paved driveway to cross the horse-riding trail, the judge explained. The fact Jeffrey Weitzen did not obtain a county driveway resurfacing permit is irrelevant, he added.
Since no consideration was paid to the Weitzens, such as an entrance fee, they incurred no special duty to protect Miller from injuries, the judge continued. Neither was there a dangerous hidden condition that was not obvious nor well marked, he noted.
Because there was no negligence by the Weitzens, they have no liability to pay for Miller’s injury damages, the judge ruled.
Based on the California Court of Appeals decision in Miller v. Weitzen, 35 Cal.Rptr.3d 73.
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