Hotel Could Be Liable for Slip-And-Fall Accident on Adjoining Sidewalk

If an individual is injured due to a dangerous condition on a property, the owner of that property may be held liable. However, there are certain circumstances under which a landowner might even be held liable for injuries suffered in a slip-and-fall accident on an adjoining sidewalk that the landowner does not own.

One of those situations is when the landowner benefits from an alteration to the sidewalk adjacent to his or her property. This liability can apply even if the alteration which benefited the landowner was done by someone other than the property owner, and applies even if the alteration was done by the city.

The recent California Court of Appeal case of Mitchelson v. Sunset Marquis Hotel involved just such a situation.

A broken sidewalk . . . and a fall in front of a hotel

The victim was walking on a sidewalk past a hotel in the City of West Hollywood when she fell and suffered injuries. The victim had tripped on a broken area of the sidewalk when her right heel became caught.

She did not fall on the property of the hotel, but, rather, on a portion of the sidewalk located right in front of the entrance to the hotel’s underground parking garage. The victim sued, alleging that the hotel had negligently altered the sidewalk in front of its parking garage, thereby creating a dangerous condition.

The trial court granted a summary judgment in favor of the hotel-ending the victim’s case before she even had her full day in court. The court held that the hotel did not own or control the sidewalk and that the defect in the pavement was “trivial.” The victim appealed.

Was the sidewalk altered for the hotel’s benefit?

The victim argued that her fall was caused by a redesign of the parking entrance which was done for the benefit of the hotel, since the sidewalk change matched up perfectly with the garage entrance. Photographs showed that the alteration could not have been for anyone else’s benefit other than the hotel property.

The California Court of Appeal held that it did not matter whether the hotel, a prior owner, or the city had performed the alteration, nor did it matter when the alteration occurred. If, however, the alteration benefited the neighboring property owner and if that property owner did not reasonably maintain the property, then the neighboring property owner could be liable for the dangerous sidewalk.

The alteration to the driveway outside the Sunset Marquis Hotel was purely to direct cars into the hotel garage, and had nothing to do with facilitating pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. In addition, the dangerous condition created by the alteration was not trivial. The defect was a relatively large and dislodged portion of the sidewalk, two and three-fourths inches by five and one-half inches in size.

The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling on the motion for summary judgment and the victim was allowed to proceed with her case.

Compensation for your injuries

If you are injured because a property owner breached his or her duty to guard against a dangerous condition, that owner may be liable for your injuries, as well as owe you compensation for your pain and suffering. Seek attorneys with extensive experience and a successful track record in handling premises liability cases to represent your interests.