When it comes to personal injury law, the circumstances may be complex, but the rules of the game are simple: If an injury happens on your property, you may be liable. Not many cases illustrate this idea more than the one we are about to discuss.
Continue reading below for the oddity that is Zuniga v. Cherry Avenue Auction, Inc.
Swap Meet Regulars
Araceli Zuniga and Jose Flores were a recently married couple who regularly rented space at the Cherry Avenue Auction, a local swap meet in the Los Angeles area. They normally occupied two of the available booth spaces on Tuesdays and Saturdays. As part of their displays, they put up large metal poles to hang their banners. Almost all the other vendors did this so customers could easily identify each shop.
For the last two years, this wasn’t a problem. However, in August 2013, they moved to spots 38 and 39. These two spots were only 26 feet below live power lines. It all happened in an instant. As they set up that day, Zuniga and Flores put up their sign poles as usual. As they made adjustments to their booth, one of the poles came into contact with the wires above. A jolt of electricity made its way down and instantly knocked both of them to the ground. Araceli was briefly knocked out. When she regained consciousness, she saw her husband laying down beside her. His lips moved, and then he died in front of her.
Tricky Legal Battle
Naturally, this tragedy led to a legal battle – but who was to blame? The power company for laying lines above a commercial space? The couple for not taking the wires into consideration? Or the owners of the property, for not warning their vendors of the potential hazard that awaited them? After all, under California’s premises liability laws, property owners are not liable for open and obvious dangers.
The jury ended up ruling in Zuniga’s favor – but not to the full extent of culpability. They decided that Zuniga and her late husband were at least partially responsible for the incident, given that the power lines were in clear view. However, because one of the owners of the property had known about the dangerous exposed wires but never placed a warning for vendors on either the seller permits or in the form of signage nearby; they were deemed mostly at fault.
In the end, they found that the Cherry Avenue swap meet was 77.5% at fault and Zuniga and her husband were each 11.25% at fault. The total award would have been $12.5 million, but after being adjusted for the percentages of fault, Zuniga’s final award came to $9,493,750.
Contact Gokal Law
Have you recently been injured and deserve to be paid for your pain and suffering? You may be entitled to a case. Contact Alison Gokal of Gokal Law Group, Inc. Our team will diligently investigate your claims, interview witnesses, and give you the support you need to win your case. The sooner you contact us, the more effective we are at getting you the justice you deserve.
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