CACI 1100 Dangerous Condition on Public Property—Essential Factual Elements (Gov. Code, § 835)

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

1100 Dangerous Condition on Public Property—Essential Factual Elements (Gov. Code, § 835)

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] was harmed by a dangerous condition of [name of defendant]’s property. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1.That [name of defendant] owned [or controlled] the property;

2.That the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the injury;

3.That the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury that occurred;

4.[That negligent or wrongful conduct of [name of defendant]’s employee acting within the scope of employment created the dangerous condition;]


[That [name of defendant] had notice of the dangerous condition for a long enough time to have protected against it;]

5.That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and

6.That the dangerous condition was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.

New September 2003; Revised October 2008, December 2015, June 2016, May 2020

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Directions for Use

For element 4, choose either or both options depending on whether liability is alleged under Government Code section 835(a), 835(b), or both.

See also CACI No. 1102, Definition of “Dangerous Condition,” and CACI No. 1103, Notice.

Sources and Authority

Liability of Public Entity for Dangerous Condition of Property. Government Code section 835.

Actual Notice. Government Code section 835.2(a).

Constructive Notice. Government Code section 835.2(b).

Definitions. Government Code section 830.

“The Government Claims Act (§ 810 et seq.; the Act) ‘is a comprehensive statutory scheme that sets forth the liabilities and immunities of public entities and public employees for torts.’ Section 835 … prescribes the conditions under which a public entity may be held liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition of public property. Section 835 provides that a public entity may be held liable for such injuries ‘if the plaintiff establishes that the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the injury, that the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition, [and] that the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred.’ In addition, the plaintiff must establish that either: (a) ‘[a] negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the public entity within the scope of his employment created the dangerous condition,’ or (b) ‘[t]he public entity had … notice of the dangerous condition … a sufficient time prior to the injury to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition.’ ” (Cordova v. City of Los Angeles (2015) 61 Cal.4th 1099, 1105–1106 [190 Cal.Rptr.3d 850, 353 P.3d 773], internal citations omitted.)

“[A] public entity may be liable for a dangerous condition of public property even when the immediate cause of a plaintiff’s injury is a third party’s negligent or illegal act (such as a motorist’s negligent driving), if some physical characteristic of the property exposes its users to increased danger from third party negligence or criminality. Public entity liability lies under section 835 when some feature of the property increased or intensified the danger to users from third party conduct.” (Castro v. City of Thousand Oaks (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 1451, 1457−1458 [192 Cal.Rptr.3d 376], internal citation omitted.)

“Subdivisions (a) and (b) of section 835 obviously address two different types of cases. However, what distinguishes the two types of cases is not simply whether the public entity has notice of the dangerous condition. Instead, what distinguishes the two cases in practice is who created the dangerous condition. Because an entity must act through its employees, virtually all suits brought on account of dangerous conditions created by the entity will be brought under subdivision (a). In contrast, subdivision (b) can also support suits based on dangerous conditions not created by the entity or its employees.” (Brown v. Poway Unified School Dist. (1993) 4 Cal.4th 820, 836 [15 Cal.Rptr.2d 679, 843 P.2d 624].)

“[T]he res ipsa loquitur presumption does not satisfy the requirements for holding a public entity liable under section 835, subdivision (a). Res ipsa loquitur requires the plaintiff to show only (1) that the accident was of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of negligence, (2) that the instrumentality of harm was within the defendant’s exclusive control, and (3) that the plaintiff did not voluntarily contribute to his or her own injuries. Subdivision (a), in contrast, requires the plaintiff to show that an employee of the public entity ‘created’ the dangerous condition; in view of the legislative history … the term ‘created’ must be defined as the sort of involvement by an employee that would justify a presumption of notice on the entity’s part.” (Brown, supra, 4 Cal.4th at p. 836.)

“Focusing on the language in Pritchard, supra, 178 Cal.App.2d at page 256, stating that where the public entity ‘has itself created the dangerous condition it is per se culpable,’ plaintiff argues that the negligence that section 835, subdivision (a), refers to is not common law negligence, but something that exists whenever the public entity creates the dangerous condition of property. We disagree. If the Legislature had wanted to impose liability whenever a public entity created a dangerous condition, it would merely have required plaintiff to establish that an act or omission of an employee of the public entity within the scope of his employment created the dangerous condition. Instead, section 835, subdivision (a), requires the plaintiff to establish that a ‘negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the public entity within the scope of his employment created the dangerous condition.’ (Italics added.) Plaintiff’s interpretation would transform the highly meaningful words ‘negligent or wrongful’ into meaningless surplusage, contrary to the rule of statutory interpretation that courts should avoid a construction that makes any word surplusage.” (Metcalf v. County of San Joaquin (2008) 42 Cal.4th 1121, 1135 [72 Cal.Rptr.3d 382, 176 P.3d 654], original italics, internal citation omitted.)

“In order to recover under Government Code section 835, it is not necessary for plaintiff to prove a negligent act and notice; either negligence or notice will suffice.” (Curtis v. State of California (1982) 128 Cal.App.3d 668, 693 [180 Cal.Rptr. 843], original italics.)

“A public entity may not be held liable under section 835 for a dangerous condition of property that it does not own or control.” (Goddard v. Department of Fish & Wildlife (2015) 243 Cal.App.4th 350, 359 [196 Cal.Rptr.3d 625].)

“For liability to be imposed on a public entity for a dangerous condition of property, the entity must be in a position to protect against or warn of the hazard. Therefore, the crucial element is not ownership, but rather control.” (Mamola v. State of California ex rel. Dept. of Transportation (1979) 94 Cal.App.3d 781, 788 [156 Cal.Rptr. 614], internal citation omitted.)

“Liability for injury caused by a dangerous condition of property has been imposed when an unreasonable risk of harm is created by a combination of defect in the property and acts of third parties. However, courts have consistently refused to characterize harmful third party conduct as a dangerous condition—absent some concurrent contributing defect in the property itself.” (Hayes v. State of California (1974) 11 Cal.3d 469, 472 [113 Cal.Rptr. 599, 521 P.2d 855], internal citations omitted.)

“[P]laintiffs in this case must show that a dangerous condition of property—that is, a condition that creates a substantial risk of injury to the public—proximately caused the fatal injuries their decedents suffered as a result of the collision with [third party]’s car. But nothing in the statute requires plaintiffs to show that the allegedly dangerous condition also caused the third party conduct that precipitated the accident.” (Cordova, supra, 61 Cal.4th at p. 1106.)

“The existence of a dangerous condition is ordinarily a question of fact but ‘can be decided as a matter of law if reasonable minds can come to only one conclusion.’ ” (Cerna v. City of Oakland (2008) 161 Cal.App.4th 1340, 1347 [75 Cal.Rptr.3d 168].)

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 301–341
Friedman et al., California Practice Guide: Landlord-Tenant, Ch. 6-C, Immunity From Liability, ¶ 6:91 et seq. (The Rutter Group)
Haning et al., California Practice Guide: Personal Injury, Ch. 2(III)-D, Liability For “Dangerous Conditions” Of Public Property, ¶ 2:2785 et seq. (The Rutter Group)
2 California Government Tort Liability Practice (Cont.Ed.Bar 4th ed.) §§ 12.9–12.55
5 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 61, Particular Liabilities and Immunities of Public Entities and Public Employees, § 61.01 (Matthew Bender)
40 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 464, Public Entities and Officers: California Government Claims Act, § 464.81 (Matthew Bender)
19A California Points and Authorities, Ch. 196, Public Entities, § 196.11 (Matthew Bender)