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Garcia v. Soogian - 52 Cal. 2d 107, 338 P.2d 433 (Cal. 1959)

Rule:

A possessor of land is subject to liability for bodily harm to young children trespassing thereon caused by a structure or other artificial condition which he maintains upon the land, if (a) the place where the condition is maintained is one upon which the possessor knows or should know that such children are likely to trespass, and (b) the condition is one of which the possessor knows or should know and which he realizes or should realize as involving an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily harm to such children, and (c) the children because of their youth do not discover the condition or realize the risk involved in intermeddling in it or in coming within the area made dangerous by it, and (d) the utility to the possessor of maintaining the condition is slight as compared to the risk to young children involved therein.

Facts:

Plaintiff D.G., a 12-year old girl, was playing a game of hide-and-seek with other children on a lot owned by defendant Harry Soogian. Stacked on the lot were firm, orderly piles of prefabricated building panels, which contained windows. When D.G. was running from a pursuing playmate, she attempted to jump over a stack of panels. When she landed on top of the stack, her foot crashed through the glass and she cut her ankle. D.G. filed a lawsuit against Soogian in California state court seeking to recover damages for her injuries. After a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment for D.G. Soogian appealed, arguing that the judgment was not supported by the evidence.

Issue:

Was the judgment in favor of D.G. supported by the evidence?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The state supreme court reversed the trial court's judgment. The court ruled that there was no sound basis for concluding that the condition that caused D.G.'s injury should have been recognized as constituting an unreasonably great risk of serious bodily harm that D.G. was unable to discover or appreciate because of her immaturity. The chance was slight that a child of D.G.'s age would fail to see the glass or appreciate what risk was presented, and there was no evidence that D.G. was of less than average intelligence for her age.

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