CACI 1004 Obviously Unsafe Conditions

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

1004 Obviously Unsafe Conditions

If an unsafe condition of the property is so obvious that a person could reasonably be expected to observe it, then the [owner/lessor/occupier/one who controls the property] does not have to warn others about the dangerous condition.

However, the [owner/lessor/occupier/one who controls the property] still must use reasonable care to protect against the risk of harm if it is foreseeable that the condition may cause injury to someone who because of necessity encounters the condition.

Directions for Use

Give this instruction with CACI No. 1001, Basic Duty of Care, if it is alleged that the condition causing injury was obvious. The first paragraph addresses the lack of a duty to warn of an obviously unsafe condition. (Jacobs v. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Co. (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 438, 447 [221 Cal.Rptr.3d 701].)

The second paragraph addresses when there may be a duty to take some remedial action. Landowners may have a duty to take precautions to protect against the risk of harm from an obviously unsafe condition, even if they do not have a duty to warn. (Osborn v. Mission Ready Mix (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 104, 121–122 [273 Cal.Rptr. 457].)

Sources and Authority

“Foreseeability of harm is typically absent when a dangerous condition is open and obvious. ‘Generally, if a danger is so obvious that a person could reasonably be expected to see it, the condition itself serves as a warning, and the landowner is under no further duty to remedy or warn of the condition.’ In that situation, owners and possessors of land are entitled to assume others will ‘perceive the obvious’ and take action to avoid the dangerous condition.” (Jacobssupra, 14 Cal.App.5th at p. 447, internal citations omitted.)

“[T]here may be situations ‘in which an obvious hazard, for which no warning is necessary, nonetheless gives rise to a duty on a landowner’s part to remedy the hazard because knowledge of the hazard is inadequate to prevent injury.’ This is so when, for example, the practical necessity of encountering the danger, when weighed against the apparent risk involved, is such that, under the circumstances, a person might choose to encounter the danger.” (Johnson v. The Raytheon Co., Inc. (2019) 33 Cal.App.5th 617, 632 [245 Cal.Rptr.3d 282], internal citation omitted.)

“[I]t is foreseeable that even an obvious danger may cause injury, if the practical necessity of encountering the danger, when weighed against the apparent risk involved, is such that under the circumstances, a person might choose to encounter the danger. The foreseeability of injury, in turn, when considered along with various other policy considerations such as the extent of the burden to the defendant and consequences to the community of imposing a duty to remedy such danger may lead to the legal conclusion that the defendant ‘owes a duty of due care “to all persons who are foreseeably endangered by his conduct, with respect to all risks which make the conduct unreasonably dangerous.” ’ ” (Osborn, supra, 224 Cal.App.3d at p. 121, internal citation omitted.)

“[W]hen a worker, whose work requires him or her to encounter a danger which is obvious or observable, is injured, ‘[t]he jury [is] entitled to balance the [plaintiff’s] necessity against the danger, even if it be assumed that it was an apparent one. This [is] a factual issue. [Citations.]’ In other words, under certain circumstances, an obvious or apparent risk of danger does not automatically absolve a defendant of liability for injury caused thereby.” (Osbornsupra, 224 Cal.App.3d at p. 118, original italics, internal citations omitted.)

“[T]he obvious nature of a danger is not, in and of itself, sufficient to establish that the owner of the premises on which the danger is located is not liable for injuries caused thereby, and that although obviousness of danger may negate any duty to warn, it does not necessarily negate the duty to remedy.” (Osbornsupra, 224 Cal.App.3d at p. 119.)

“The issue is whether there is any evidence from which a trier of fact could find that, as a practical necessity, [plaintiff] was foreseeably required to expose himself to the danger of falling into the empty pool.” (Jacobssupra, 14 Cal.App.5th at p. 447.)

In Felmlee v. Falcon Cable TV (1995) 36 Cal.App.4th 1032, 1039–1040 [43 Cal.Rptr.2d 158], the court found that an instruction stating that the defendant “owed no duty to warn plaintiff of a danger which was obvious or which should have been observed in the exercise of ordinary care” was proper: “The jury was free to consider whether Falcon was directly negligent in failing to correct any foreseeable, dangerous condition of the cables which may have contributed to the cause of Felmlee’s injuries.” (Id. at p. 1040.)

“[T]he ‘obvious danger’ exception to a landowner’s ordinary duty of care is in reality a recharacterization of the former assumption of the risk doctrine, i.e., where the condition is so apparent that the plaintiff must have realized the danger involved, he assumes the risk of injury even if the defendant was negligent. … [T]his type of assumption of the risk has now been merged into comparative negligence.” (Donohue v. San Francisco Housing Authority (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 658, 665 [20 Cal.Rptr.2d 148], internal citations omitted.)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 1267–1269
1 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 15, General Premises Liability, § 15.04[4] (Matthew Bender)
11 California Real Estate Law and Practice, Ch. 381, Tort Liability of Property Owners, §§ 381.20, 381.32 (Matthew Bender)
36 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 421, Premises Liability, § 421.14 (Matthew Bender)
17 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 178, Premises Liability, § 178.25 et seq. (Matthew Bender)