In a recent case before a California court of appeals, the plaintiff argued that a national fraternity was liable for injuries she suffered at a frat party. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she fell off a makeshift dance platform at the party. The party was hosted by a local chapter of the national fraternity. She filed suit against the national fraternity for negligence, and a trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the fraternity. The issue before the court of appeals was whether the national fraternity had a duty to protect the plaintiff.
In a claim for negligence, a plaintiff must prove duty, breach, causation, and damages. Everyone normally has a general duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring others. However, there is no duty to protect others from the conduct of third parties, although there are exceptions to that rule.
One exception is if there is a special relationship between either the plaintiff and the defendant or between the defendant and the third party. Examples of special relationships are parents and their children, as well as employers and their employees. In these situations, the parents and the employers are in the best position to protect others against the risk that the children or the employees pose towards others. Another exception is the “negligent undertaking doctrine.” Under that doctrine, a person who voluntarily acts to protect another person has a duty to exercise due care if certain conditions are satisfied.
California’s Supreme Court has explained that to show that a defendant has a duty towards a plaintiff in cases where one would not normally apply, the plaintiff must prove that an exception applies, and that certain factors support imposing such a duty. Here, the plaintiff argued there was a special relationship between the local chapter and the national chapter. The court reasoned that the national fraternity does not monitor or control the day-to-day operations and activities of the local chapter. Therefore, there was no special relationship between the national chapter and the local chapter, and the national chapter did not have a duty to protect the plaintiff from the local chapter’s conduct. In addition, the court determined there was no special relationship between the plaintiff and the national chapter by virtue of her status as an invitee on the premises. Finally, the court rejected the plaintiff’s negligent-undertaking argument. The court reasoned that the national chapter did not direct the local chapter’s day-to-day activities, and did not undertake a duty to directly supervise or control the local chapter.
Contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured in a California slip-and-fall accident, the consequences to you and your family can be devastating. Medical bills can be extraordinary and some injury victims are unable to work. The Neumann Law Group is dedicated to helping victims navigate the legal system so that they can obtain the financial compensation they deserve and hold others accountable for their actions. We provide comprehensive, trustworthy legal representation in a wide range of legal cases. Call us at 1-800-525-6386 or fill out our online form to set up a free consultation.