Landowner's tenant was injured when he stepped through a broken cover on a buried water meter box. Tenant alleged that landowner had known of the broken condition of the box for six months, and had done nothing about it. Landlord responded that the meter box and the land on which it was situated were owned by the city water department, and that landlord had no control over their condition. Trial court granted summary judgment for landlord.
Held: Summary judgment for landlord reversed. Although landldord could not cure the danger of the condition, landlord controlled all of the property surrounding the water meter and could warn or divert persons on his property away from the dangerous condition.
Landlord, of course, cross complained against city, which was also potentially liable, assuming that the action was permitted under California's government tort claims provisions.
Comment: The fact that the injured party was landlord's tenant made little difference here. The focus was on the fact that the landlord had some duty with regard to persons crossing from his property to known dangers on adjacent property. Even though the landlord mowed the grass and controlled all of the area around the meter, the legal principle established in the case is a troubling precedent. If there is a duty of landowners to warn against dangerous conditions on adjacent premises, then many cases will survive summary judgment which will expose landlords to extensive liability claims under very attenuated facts.
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