From time to time, a property owner or possessor will give permission to others to use or rent out parts of her property and put things on it. A soda machine, a vending machine, a gas line, or even a pipe trestle. Those who use that land in this manner have a duty of care to third parties to prevent injury. The same duty that the possessor has.
Here is a fun fact pattern. The land possessor runs a horse farm. He rents out horses to be ridden on the property. A customer asks for a mild horse. The land possessor gives the customer what he believes to be a mild horse. The customer takes said horse out for a ride. Said horse is not mild. Said horse goes where it wants to go and takes the customer along with him. Injury ensues:
“Plaintiff and his wife rode under the trestle along the indicated road, with plaintiff’s horse in the lead. After proceeding about 400 feet to the north at a walk, plaintiff turned his head to the left and called to his wife. As he made this movement, plaintiff’s horse suddenly reeled about to the left and began racing back on the road toward the trestle, gaining speed as it went. Plaintiff attempted in vain to control or stop the horse by pulling back on the reins as hard as he could with both hands, but the horse kept going faster, passed plaintiff’s wife and ran around the bend in the road toward the trestle. Immediately before the accident and at a distance of some 8 to 10 feet from the trestle, plaintiff noticed some underhanging beams stretching over the traveled area at a height of about 6 feet. Plaintiff was then lying flat in the saddle, with his head held down as far to the right as he could get it and his left shoulder pointing upwards. His left shoulder and neck hit a stationary object such as the understructure of the pipe trestle, and plaintiff blacked out. When he regained consciousness he was lying immediately to the south of the pipe trestle, approximately 5 feet from the nearest substructure of the trestle and immediately south of the traveled area under the trestle. As a result of the accident, plaintiff is permanently paralyzed from the waist down.”*
Not what the customer asked for or intended. Setting aside the interesting discussion of the owner’s responsibilities regarding knowledge of his horses in making recommendations (i.e., knowledge of the propensities), there is a holding in here that helps landlords defend against property-related lawsuits.
The parties installing that pipe trestle were defendants to the case as well, owing the injured plaintiff the same duty of care regarding that pipe trestle as the possessor. It turned out that there was no duty — again, due to the no-longer-applicable classifications. But the principle will help the landlord identify the culpable party in any such lawsuit.
*Palmquist v. Mercer, 43 Cal. 2d 92, 97 (1954)
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