There are many building codes that California property owners are supposed to follow when remodeling or building a home. Generally, after the building is built, the property owner does not owe a duty to change and keep changing the home in order to comply with the code, which changes from time to time. However, if the property owner renovates the building or alters its use, it may be required to follow the later revisions to the code. An experienced California premises liability attorney at The Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC may be able to represent you if you were injured as a result of a defective property condition related to a building code violation.
Injuries Caused by Building Code Violations
When you visit someone or go to the store or to a sporting event, you do not expect to be seriously injured. Catastrophic injuries can be caused by dangerous stairs, broken rails, rotted beams, cracked sidewalks, defective or negligently maintained elevators, and collapsing ceilings.
Property owners owe a duty to keep the property safe for customers and other legal visitors. This is a non-delegable duty that the owner cannot avoid by delegating the responsibility to a property manager or a safety inspector. These duties may include making repairs that conform to building code requirements or providing warnings about dangers arising from building code violations. However, the building code represents a minimum safety standard and may not constitute the entirety of the duty owed.
To establish the liability of a property owner after being injured as a result of a building code violation, a Folsom personal injury lawyer will need to show that the property owner owed you a duty, breached this duty, and caused your injuries. You will also need to show actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition. When a property owner knew or should have known that there was a dangerous condition that needed to be repaired and either failed to warn or get the repairs made up to code in order to make the dangerous condition safe, the property owner may be liable.
When someone’s injuries are caused by a violation of an applicable code, an owner may be considered presumptively negligent. The code that applies may vary depending on when the building was erected and how much work has been done to it. An older structure that has not had improvements or work done on it, however, may need to comply only with the older building code. The issue then will be whether there were any signs that a dangerous condition had developed that a reasonable homeowner would have noticed.
Often, constructive notice is established by proving that the dangerous condition existed for a long time. When a problem exists for a long time, a reasonable property owner may be expected to notice and take measures to correct it. However, if a dangerous condition caused by a building code violation was only there briefly before an accident occurred, the property owner may not have had time to notice it and may not be expected to have made repairs or have issued warnings.
In addition to providing a basis for liability under premises liability law, a building code violation may constitute negligence per se. Negligence per se might apply if there is a safety law violation that causes injuries of the type that the law was designed to prevent. However, simply complying with applicable building codes may not relieve a property owner of liability for injuries to visitors because it might not be reasonable for a building owner to fail to enact additional safety measures beyond the bare minimum required by the building code.
Architects and contractors can also face civil liability for building code violations that cause injuries. For example, if a new balcony is not up to code, such that it collapses when the property owner’s daughter is playing on it, the property owner may be able to hold liable the architect who negligently designed the balcony or the contractor that failed to construct the balcony up to code.