Beauchamp v. Los Gatos Golf Course

Decision Date16 May 1969
Citation77 Cal.Rptr. 914,273 Cal.App.2d 20
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesArvilla C. BEAUCHAMP, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. LOS GATOS GOLF COURSE, a corporation, Trioco, Inc., a corporation, dba Los Gatos Course, Earl Scannell and Madelyn Scannell, individually and dba Trioco, Inc., Defendants and Respondents. Civ. 24710.

Matthew M. Fishgold, San Francisco, for appellant.

Popelka, Graham, Van Loucks & Allard, San Jose, for respondents.

DAVID, * Associate Justice pro tem.

Appeal from judgment of nonsuit. Judgment reversed.

Accompanying her husband and C. D. Wellwood, on June 6, 1965, Arvilla C. Beauchamp, a business invitee at the Los Gatos Golf Course, was proceeding from the parking lot to the starting area, over the almost new level cerment veranda. This was 8 feet wide and 90 feet long, with a rough troweled surface colored patio green. She was wearing golf shoes with half-worn spikes. She had taken three or four steps, having left her golf cart behind her, when her feet slipped from under her, despite the rough trowled surface of the concrete, and she fell down hard on her buttocks, with resulting injuries to back, legs and an arm. This was not the only approach she had used to enter. One could get out of a car, and go directly to the golf cart area, near the start without using the concrete walk. There was a passageway between the bumperlogs to which parking cars nosed in, and parallel to the concrete walk for its entire length, paved as the parking lot was paved with oiled rock.

It was a common practice for golfers to put their golf shoes on in the parking area, and to walk over this pathway and also the concrete walk. Appellant's husband and witness, Ralph Beauchamp, in his regular use of the club, only traveled this concrete walk once before; usually taking the path straight in. On the day in question when he, Mrs. Beauchamp and Charles D. Wellwood were the entering threesome, he stated 'Why we went this way I don't know.'

A portion of the concrete walkway 10 to 15 feet beyond the point of her fall was covered by a rubber mat. Mrs. Beauchamp had entered over this on a prior occasion. This rubber mat had been moved out of the clubhouse onto the walkway when a new carpet was installed in the clubhouse.

The rubber mat was not placed on the concrete primarily as a safety measure, though it could act as a safety feature. The veranda was more slippery when there was no mat, said Earl Scannell, who operated the golf course. He testified over objection that he had never been notified of any accidents concerning this particular area in question, other than Mrs. Beauchamp's, and without further objection testified that between 3,500 to 4,000 people a month traversed the area. As an expert, he testified that Mrs. Beauchamp's spikes or cleats were half-worn, almost down to the nub, and should be replaced, as worn spikes do not obtain traction.

Mr. Wellwood, Mrs. Beauchamp's witness, testified that every golfer knows that one wearing golf spikes must walk with more care and caution on cement than on normal fairways or greens.

There were no imperfections or defects in the concrete walk surface. There was no debris, water, grease, wax or foreign substance upon which Mrs. Beauchamp slipped; nor were there any on the soles of her cleated or spiked shoes. These were received in evidence at the jury trial.

Mrs. Beauchamp testified that the cement where she fell was slippery, and looked smooth to her. She testified that she knew her footing on cement, wearing golf spikes, wouldn't be as stable as it would have been walking on grass. She had played at this golf course regularly since 1958, but this was the first time she used that area of the recently completed cement veranda. She had played golf for 8 or 9 years. No one had told her the veranda or patio cement walkway was slippery, though her husband had slipped on it the day before, but did not inform anyone. Witness Wellwood stated such slips were not unusual, and were not normally given attention.

Before the accident, Mrs. Beauchamp was physically active. In addition to golf, she bowled and went square dancing.

At the conclusion of plaintiff's case, motion for nonsuit was granted, and this appeal followed. The rules prescribing the legal gauntlet to be run by such a motion need not be dittoed here, other than to refer to Elmore v. American Motors Corp. 70 A.C. 615, 620, 75 Cal.Rptr. 652, 451 P.2d 84, and Lucas v. Hesperia Golf & Country Club, 255 Cal.App.2d 241, 244, 63 Cal.Rptr. 189.

At the time of trial, it was stipulated that Mrs. Beauchamp was an invitee. If disputed, her status would then have been a jury question. (Clawson v. Stockton Golf etc. Club, 220 Cal.App.2d 886, 897, 34 Cal.Rptr. 184.

The duty of the possessor of golf club premises is 'sufficiently extensive to protect the business visitor in his use of such means of ingress and egress as by allurement or inducement, express or implied, he has been led to employ.' (Johnston v. De La Guerra Properties, Inc., 28 Cal.2d 394, 399, 170 P.2d 5, 8; Rest., Torts, § 343, comment (b).)

This case was tried a year before the Supreme Court decided the case of Rowland v. Christian, 69 A.C. 89, at p. 100, 70 Cal.Rptr. 97, at p. 104, 443 P.2d 561, at p. 568, in which the court adopts as the superseding rule, 'The proper test to be applied to the liability of the possessor of land in accordance with section 1714 of the Civil Code is whether in the management of his property he has acted as a reasonable man in view of the probability of injury to others, and, although the plaintiff's status as a trespasser, licensee, or invitee may in the light of the facts giving rise to such status have some bearing on the question of liability, the status is not determinative.'

The Ratio decidendi of the case is that social policy demands that the legal definition of the duty of care due a licensee, theretofore prevailing, be abrogated. If, as the quotation indicates, status of one as an invitee still has some relevancy on the question of liability of the possessor of land under the announced policy, we have to determine what that may be, both procedurally and substantively.

The term 'invitee' has not been abandoned, nor have 'trespasser' and 'licensee'. In the minds of the jury, whether a possessor of the premises has acted as a reasonable man toward a plaintiff, in view of the probability of injury to him, will tend to involve the circumstances under which he came upon defendant's land; and the probability of exposure of plaintiff and others of his class to the risk of injury; as well as whether the condition itself presented an unreasonable risk of harm, in view of the foreseeable use of the property. In turn, that reinvolves the degree to which those on the property could be expected to be there, and the use they could be expected to make of the premises. In this, there is a wide difference between a trespasser, who actually may be forbidden the use of the property, and an invitee, invited or urged to be there. 'The knocker says, 'Come and knock me;' the bell says, 'Come and ring me;' and a person going on the step to do so is injured. Would not the owner be liable? ' (Byles, J. in Smith v. London & Saint Katherine Docks Co., 3 Law Reports, Common pleas, 326, 331.)

The leading American case and bellwether of all that followed on the liability of the invitee is Sweeny v. Old Colony etc. R.R. Co., 87 Am.Dec. 644. The distinctions between the three categories of users therein by Bigelow, C.J. (Id. at 647--650) are classic.

Short of an absolute liability, which may arise independently of negligence or want of it (Green v. General Petroleum Corp., 205 Cal. 328, 270 P. 952, 60 A.L.R. 475), the legal duties declared to exist in favor of the invitee upon the premises have been the highest judicially imposed upon the possessor of land. We do not believe they have been jettisoned by Rowland v. Christian, Supra. Likewise, we do not believe that such established decisional principles have been abandoned and free--wheeling by the triers of fact substituted in their stead. If guidelines are withdrawn from juries relative to the invitor and invitee, proof of fault might tend to consist of the fact of plaintiff's injury and defendant's ability to pay, assumed to exist since a reasonably prudent man would be silly not to have insurance. If withdrawal of such guidelines expanded the discretion of juries on the one hand, it would limit Pro tanto the power of the court to control abuses on the other, for want of yardsticks applicable to appropriate categories of situations. The citizen would be at a loss to learn factually just what the law demands of him as a landowner. The diversity of jury decisions on like facts, plaintiff by plaintiff, and defendant by defendant, might well work inequality before the law.

After study and reflection, we are persuaded that the legal duties heretofore announced in relation to the invitor-invitee relationship are generally consonant with Civil Code section 1714. One is reminded, of course, that Civil Code section 1708 is in Pari materia. 'Every person is bound, without contract, to abstain from injuring the person or property of another, or infringing fringing upon any of his rights.' (§ 1708.)

Civil Code section 1714 states: 'Every one is responsible, not only for the result of his willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself. * * *'

Under Civil Code sections 1708 and 1714 the jury has the burden of deciding, not only what the facts are, but what any unformulated standard is of reasonable conduct of the ordinary prudent or reasonable person under like circumstances. But the proper conduct of a reasonable person under particular situations may...

To continue reading

Request your trial
55 cases
  • Peterson v. San Francisco Community College Dist.
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • September 6, 1984
    ...plaintiff's status is relevant under certain circumstances to the question of liability. (See also Beauchamp v. Los Gatos Golf Course (1969) 273 Cal.App.2d 20, 25, 77 Cal.Rptr. 914.)6 The characterization of students as invitees is not a novel proposition. In Vreeland v. State of Arizona Bo......
  • Henderson v. U.S.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • September 4, 1987
    ...status is not determinative"); see also Alva v. Cook, 49 Cal.App.3d 899, 903, 123 Cal.Rptr. 166 (1975); Beauchamp v. Los Gatos Golf Course, 273 Cal.App.2d 20, 25, 77 Cal.Rptr. 914 (1969).Other courts have also considered either the improper or illegal nature of a plaintiff's activities as a......
  • Brantley v. Pisaro
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • February 29, 1996
    ...tenancy is absolutely irrelevant to whether a defect existed in the handrail. See Evid.Code, § 351; Beauchamp v. Los Gatos Golf Course (1969) 273 Cal.App.2d 20, 37, 77 Cal.Rptr. 914.) Instead, under the circumstances disclosed by respondent's undisputed facts, the absence of an earlier acci......
  • Ouellette v. Blanchard
    • United States
    • New Hampshire Supreme Court
    • September 30, 1976
    ...The citizen would be at a loss to learn factually just what the law demands of him as a landowner.' Beauchamp v. Los Gatos Golf Course, 273 Cal.App.2d 20, 26, 77 Cal.Rptr. 914, 919 (1969). The court purports to reject the classification of 'good' and 'bad' trespassers and yet states that in......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT