Torts II, Pages 523–527

Rowland v. Christian

Supreme Court of California, August 8, 1968

Facts:

Plaintiff was a social guest in defendant's apartment and asked to use the bathroom. In the bathroom, defendant's cracked faucet handle broken and severed tendons and nerves on plaintiff's right hand. Defendant was aware of the condition and complained to the building's manager, but did not mention it to plaintiff.

Procedural History:

Summary judgment was granted for the defendant.

Issue:

What standard of negligence should apply to a social guest?

Reasoning:

As time has gone on and society developed, traditional classifications of invitee or licensee have become overly complex and unjustified. People's health is worth the same regardless of their status, and ordinary people do not change their behavior based on such things.

Rule/Holding:

Ordinary principles of negligence should apply.

LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoJustia LogoPage 526, Paragraph 1

Where the occupier of land is aware of a concealed condition involving in the absence of precautions an unreasonable risk of harm to those coming in contact with it and is aware that a person on the premises is about to come in contact with it, the trier of fact can reasonably conclude that a failure to warn or to repair the condition constitutes negligence.

Judgment:

Reversed.

Dissenting Opinion:

Burke: The current distinctions have been developed and used for many eyars and supply a reasonable and workable approach to the problems involved. This alternative leaves issues to be decided on a case by case basis, without the guiding principles the law has had.

Liability is based upon the duty of care owed. A business owes more of a duty to the public while open than to trespassers while closed. A social host should not be open to endless liability if they do not hover over guests, warning them of every possible danger.

Such extensive changes to this well-established law should fall within the domain of the Legislature, not this court. I would affirm the judgment for the defendant.

Note:

This is not the majority, but possibly a trend of where the law will go.

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