Reviewing a property owner’s duty of care

You might assume that whenever you enter onto another’s property in Orange County, the owner of the property must see to your safety while there. The same assumption has been shared by many of those who have come to us here at Callahan & Blaine, yet they (like you may be) have been surprised to learn that is not always the case. Liability for injuries suffered on another’s property depends largely on the circumstances of why you are there in the first place.

Section 846 of California’s Civil Code states that property owners owe no duty of care to keep the premises safe if your presence there is for recreational purposes. In the context of this statute, “recreational purposes” is determined to be “fishing, hunting, camping, water sports, hiking, spelunking, sport parachuting, riding, including animal riding, snowmobiling, and all other types of vehicular riding, rock collecting, sightseeing, picnicking, nature study, nature contacting, recreational gardening, gleaning, hang gliding,  winter sports, and viewing or enjoying historical, archaeological, scenic, natural, or scientific sites.”

When you engage in any of the above activities on another’s land, the law does not automatically endow any of the following protections:

  • The presumption that the premises are safe for the activity
  • That you are automatically granted the status of invitee or licensee (to whom a duty of care is owed)
  • That liability belongs to the property owner who granted access to their land for the activity

Notice, however, that a distinction is made in the case of invitee or licensees. If a property owner expressly invites you on to their land (rather than just permitting that you be there), they then assume the duty to protect you from any hazards therein. You can learn more about premises liability law by continuing to explore our site.