An intoxicated tenant died on New Year’s morning after he accessed the roof of his apartment building, climbed to the highest point of the roof, and then fell or jumped to the street below. The trial court initially denied summary judgment to the building owner based on its view that the owner may have acted negligently by leaving the roof open and accessible via an unlocked door.
The owner retained Horvitz & Levy to petition the Court of Appeal for a writ of mandate to challenge the denial of summary judgment. Horvitz & Levy further developed an argument that there is no legal duty to warn of or remedy an open and obvious danger unless there is a foreseeable practical necessity requiring the injured party to encounter the danger. The Court of Appeal issued an order requiring the trial court to conduct a new hearing to reconsider the summary judgment motion in light of this argument, or to show cause why it would not.
The trial court ordered a new summary judgment hearing and Horvitz & Levy prepared supplemental briefing to further advance the no-duty argument. The trial court then granted summary judgment in favor of the owner, agreeing with Horvitz & Levy’s argument that the owner did not owe a legal duty to protect its tenant from the obvious risk of falling from the roof. Plaintiffs appealed and Horvitz & Levy responded on behalf of the owner. The Court of Appeal agreed with Horvitz & Levy’s no-duty arguments in a published opinion affirming the summary judgment.