A fan sued after slipping and falling on ice cream and peanut shells at a Los Angeles Dodgers game. The Dodgers argued they didn’t have a chance to clean up the slip hazard. What did the appeals court say?
On Sept. 3, 2008, Fernando Maravilla fell in an aisle during a game at Dodgers Stadium. For the record, the Dodgers won 6-4 that night over the San Diego Padres, according to BaseballReference.com.
Maravilla arrived at the game in the seventh inning. As he went to sit down, he testified that he slipped and fell on melted ice cream, peanut shells, plastic bags and spilled soda.
He said the hazards were “in plain view,” but he didn’t see them until after he fell. He also wasn’t sure how long the slip hazards were there. But he had the impression that they had been walked on since the gates opened at 5 p.m.
Lon Rosenberg, the Dodgers’ vice president of operations, was responsible for stadium maintenance. He said that, once the gates opened, four groups of employees were charged with inspecting aisles for slip hazards constantly.
Rosenberg had “no recollection” of any reports of serious spills in the area Maravilla had seats that night.
The trial court ruled in favor of the Dodgers, saying that:
- The Dodgers lacked actual knowledge of a dangerous condition
- Maravilla didn’t know how long the slip hazard existed before his accident
- Maravilla had no evidence to show how the slip hazard was created and only speculated the Dodgers failed to clean it up
- Maravilla couldn’t identify a witness with knowledge of how long the slip hazard existed, and
- The Dodgers exercised reasonable care in inspecting the stadium.
Maravilla appealed the case to the Court of Appeals of California.
In premises liability cases, the court explained the property owner must:
- make reasonable inspections of the portions of its premises open to customers, and
- have notice of the defect/hazard in sufficient time to correct it.
In this case, the court said there was no evidence the Dodgers had actual knowledge of the slip hazard in the aisle where Maravilla fell. The Dodgers also met their burden of showing lack of actual or constructive knowledge because the stadium was constantly inspected for spills and hazards.
Maravilla also admitted he had no idea how long the food was lying on the ground. He speculated it was there for a long time, but the court said this was “pure conjecture.” The food could’ve been spilled on the floor only moments before he fell, the court reasoned.
The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment and ruled in favor of the Dodgers.
What do you think of this case? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Maravilla v. Los Angeles Dodgers, Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Two, No. B263602, 4/11/16)