A plaintiff was hit by a car as he crossed a street between defendant Grace Family Church and the church’s parking lot. He sued the church for negligence, alleging that the church was negligent in breaching its duty of care to help him safely cross the street. The trial court granted the church’s motion for summary judgment. The Third District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision in this California premises liability case, and last month, the California Supreme Court reversed the appeals court’s decision and remanded the case.In his initial lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that the church owed him a duty of care to help him cross the street. The church responded that it had no control over the public street and thus did not owe a duty to prevent the plaintiff’s injury, contending that landowners have no duty to protect others from dangers on adjacent streets unless the owner created the danger.
Before the state supreme court, the parties stipulated that the church did not control the street and did not create the dangers on the street. But the church, the plaintiff argued, by directing the plaintiff to park there, foreseeably increased the likelihood that the plaintiff would cross the street and become injured. Thus, the circumstances differed from those in which a landowner simply owns property next to a public street.
California Civil Code section 1714(a) establishes the general duty that each person must exercise reasonable care for the safety of others. The California Supreme Court has held that courts should create an exception to this rule only when supported by public policy.