PETERSON V. SUPERIOR COURT OF RIVERSIDE COUNTY. Supreme Ct. of CA, 1995. 10 Cal.4th 1185 by JohnMValentine


PETERSON V. SUPERIOR COURT OF RIVERSIDE COUNTY. Supreme Ct. of CA, 1995. 10 Cal.4th 1185. History: Kohler Company settled for $600,000 Prior to trial, Benque Paribas and Harbaugh Hotel Management Corp filed motion in limine to prevent Peterson from introducing evidence or making reference that strict liability applies in this case; trial court granted that motion Court of Appeal issued an opinion holding that a preemptory writ of mandate should be used, directing trial court to permit Peterson to proceed on her strict liability theory Facts: While staying at the Palm Springs Marquis Hotel, Peterson slipped and fell in the bathtub while taking a shower, sustaining serious head injuries; Peterson claims there were no safety measures like anti-skid surfaces or grab rails in the extremely slick and slippery bathroom Issue(s): Whether a landlord can be held strictly liable for a defect in a leased dwelling (Becker). Holding: Becker is an unwarranted extension of the doctrine of products liability and should be overruled; Peterson can proceed on remand in her action for negligence Analysis: Becker  under CA’s liability doctrine (manufacturers, retailers, etc. are strictly liable in tort for personal injuries caused by a defective product), a residential landlord may be held strictly liable for an injury to its tenant caused by a defect in a leased dwelling Becker should be overruled—circumstance that landlords and hotel proprietors lease residential dwellings and rent hotel rooms to the public doesn’t bring them w/in class of people who can be held strictly liable under doctrine of products liability; Becker decision represents a minority view and it is not taking Becker says duty to inspect should charge Defendant w/only those matters which would’ve been disclosed by a reasonable inspection—every other jurisdiction that’s considered this issue expressly has rejected the approach Apartment itself is not a “product” the landlord puts into the stream of commerce, like Becker says; a Landlord cannot exert pressure on manufacturer to make product safe or to share costs of insurance; landlord is not part of the chain of distribution that installed bathtub in hotel room—strict liability would be applied if landlord constructed hotel Application of the products liability doctrine imposes strict liability upon the landlord, even when the landlord has taken all reasonable steps to render a dwelling safe Implied warranty of habitability gives a tenant a reasonable expectation the landlord has inspected the property and corrected any defects; a tenant injured by a defect on the premises can bring a negligence action if landlord breached duty to exercise reasonable care

Loss spreading—it would be unjust to hold a hotel proprietor strictly liable for an injury to a hotel guest caused by a defect in the premises of which the hotel proprietor was unaware and which would not have been disclosed by a reasonable expectation Another reason loss spreading is wrong is b/c a manufacturer possesses expert knowledge a hotel proprietor might not have; and landlord cannot mount defense of benefits of the challenged design outweigh the risk of danger

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