Gray v. America West Airlines, Inc., No. D008485

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtHUFFMAN; KREMER, P.J., and FROEHLICH
Citation209 Cal.App.3d 76,256 Cal.Rptr. 877
PartiesTwila Kay GRAY, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. AMERICA WEST AIRLINES, INC. et al., Defendants and Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. D008485
Decision Date29 March 1989

Page 877

256 Cal.Rptr. 877
209 Cal.App.3d 76
Twila Kay GRAY, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
AMERICA WEST AIRLINES, INC. et al., Defendants and Respondents.
No. D008485.
Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1, California.
March 29, 1989.
Review Denied June 29, 1989.

[209 Cal.App.3d 79]

Page 878

Harold D. Thompson, San Diego, for plaintiff and appellant.

Higgs, Fletcher & Mack, Harry L. Carter, John Morris, Butz & Lucas and K. Elizabeth Dunn, San Diego, for defendants and respondents.

HUFFMAN, Associate Justice.

In granting separate motions for summary judgment brought by defendants America West Airlines, Inc. (America West) and the San Diego Unified Port District (Port District), the trial court ruled America West had no duty to protect against or warn of certain negligent conduct by third persons on its leased premises, and Port District's public property did not harbor a dangerous condition as alleged. Plaintiff Twila Kay Gray appeals, contending several factual issues remain to be resolved before rulings on these issues of law may properly be made. We affirm the judgments, holding the trial court correctly performed its function by ruling upon the motions as matters of law, recognizing no further factual showings were necessary.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Mrs. Gray, a ticketed passenger on an America West flight, arrived at the airport an hour before flight time and went to the check-in counter with her grandson Byron, who was carrying her luggage. She waited in a roped-off line for her turn to check her luggage and receive her boarding pass, and stepped forward when directed to do so. Byron gave her luggage to the counter clerk and left the counter without interference. While Mrs. Gray [209 Cal.App.3d 80] was occupied at the counter, an unidentified passenger behind her in line (not a party to this action) moved a box, approximately 12-15 inches square and 8-10 inches high, up to the front of the line and left it unattended for 2-3 minutes. America West's counter clerk returned Mrs. Gray's ticket to her after processing it. After asking for and receiving a boarding pass, Mrs. Gray turned to leave the counter and in doing so tripped over the unattended box. The mishap caused her to hit her head on the counter, lacerate her forehead, and fall to her knees. Her personal injury complaint alleged a single cause of action based on premises liability as to both defendants, including allegations of dangerous condition of public property as to Port District.

America West leases its ticket counter from Port District, the operator of the airport. The ticket counter faces directly

Page 879

onto the concourse area through which passengers must travel to arrive at the flight departure gates. In support of its motion for summary judgment or adjudication of issues, 1 America West submitted deposition testimony and a declaration by airport manager Maurice A. McDonald, stating America West has no control over the independent contractor whom Port District employs to maintain the concourse area, where Mrs. Gray's injury was incurred.

In response to America West's motion for summary judgment, Mrs. Gray submitted deposition testimony and Port District's answer to her interrogatory inquiring into what precautions were taken to prevent injuries to users of the premises from objects placed on the floor near the ticket counters:

"15. Objection, vague, ambiguous and unintelligible. Without waiving said objection, it would gave [sic] been the airlines [sic] responsibility to manage the area around its ticket counter."

America West's motion for summary judgment was granted and judgment was entered, the court finding the complaint had no merit and that there were no triable issues of material fact.

Shortly thereafter, Port District's motion was heard. Port District argued no condition of public property caused Mrs. Gray's injury, rather the fellow passenger's unattended box caused her to fall. Immunity under Government Code section 835.4 2 was also urged, on the grounds the Port District's action or inaction that created the alleged dangerous condition was reasonable..[209 Cal.App.3d 81] The motion was granted and judgment entered; Mrs. Gray timely appealed as to both defendants.

DISCUSSION
I

Standard of Review

Where a defendant is the moving party on a motion for summary judgment, its declarations and evidence must either establish a complete defense to plaintiff's action or demonstrate the absence of an essential element of plaintiff's case. If plaintiff does not counter with opposing declarations showing there are triable issues of fact with respect to that defense or an essential element of its case, the summary judgment must be granted. (Dolquist v. City of Bellflower (1987) 196 Cal.App.3d 261, 266, 241 Cal.Rptr. 706.) For example, if defendant can show it had no duty to protect plaintiff, it establishes a complete defense to a claim of negligence and the ruling on the summary judgment motion may be based upon this issue of law. (Sprecher v. Adamson Companies (1981) 30 Cal.3d 358, 362, 178 Cal.Rptr. 783, 636 P.2d 1121; Lopez v. McDonald's (1987) 193 Cal.App.3d 495, 503, 238 Cal.Rptr. 436.)

In making these determinations, the court must strictly construe the affidavits of the moving party and liberally construe those of its opponent. (Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 134, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653.)

In premises liability cases, summary judgment may properly be granted where a defendant unequivocally establishes its lack of ownership, possession, or control of the property alleged to be in a dangerous or defective condition. (Id., 38 Cal.3d at p. 134, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653.) This follows from the rule that the duty to take affirmative action for the protection of individuals coming onto one's property "is grounded in the possession of the premises and the attendant right to control and manage the premises." (Sprecher v. Adamson Companies, supra, 30 Cal.3d 358, 368, 178 Cal.Rptr. 783, 636 P.2d 1121, quoted in Steinmetz v. Stockton City Chamber of Commerce (1985) 169 Cal.App.3d 1142, 1146, 214 Cal.Rptr. 406.) Without the "crucial element" of control

Page 880

over the subject premises (Schwartz v. Helms Bakery Limited (1967) 67 Cal.2d 232, 239, 60 Cal.Rptr. 510, 430 P.2d 68), no duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent injury on such property can be found. (Ibid.)

With these rules stated, we turn to an examination of the two areas in which Mrs. Gray contends triable issues of fact still exist: whether America [209 Cal.App.3d 82] West exercised control over the concourse area where she was injured such that her accident should have been foreseeable to it and thus prevented by it; and whether a particular physical feature of Port District's public property, combined with foreseeable third party negligence, constituted a dangerous condition of public property within the scope of Peterson v. San Francisco Community College Dist. (1984) 36 Cal.3d 799, 205 Cal.Rptr. 842, 685 P.2d 1193, and related cases. These topics will be discussed separately.

II

America West's Control of the Concourse

The basic rule of liability for negligent maintenance of property is stated in Civil Code section 1714, "Everyone is responsible, ... for an injury occasioned to another by his want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his property...." In the case of wrongful or negligent acts of third persons on the property posing a risk to the users of such premises, it is a question of law to be determined on a case-by-case basis whether the landowner or possessor has a duty to take affirmative action to control such acts. (Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital, supra, 38 Cal.3d 112, 123-124, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653.)

The general factors to be weighed in considering whether one owes another a duty of care include:

" ' " '[T]he foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff, the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury, the closeness of the connection between the defendant's conduct and the injury suffered, the moral blame attached to the defendant's conduct, the policy of preventing future harm, the extent of the burden to the defendant and consequences to the community of imposing a duty to exercise care with resulting liability for breach, and the availability, cost, and prevalence of insurance for the risk involved. [Citations.]' " ' " (Id. at pp. 124-125, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653.)

The Supreme Court explained further in Ballard v. Uribe (1986) 41 Cal.3d 564, 572-573, fn. 6, 224 Cal.Rptr. 664, 715 P.2d 624, that while in fact-specific settings foreseeability may be a factual issue for the...

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25 practice notes
  • Kahn v. East Side Union High School Dist., No. H021239.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 27, 2002
    ...Schonfeldt v. State of California (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 1462, 1465, 72 Cal.Rptr.2d 464; Gray v. America West Airlines, Inc. (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 76, 82-83, 86, 256 Cal.Rptr. 877.) In such cases, summary judgment is proper. (Mathews v. City of Cerritos (1992) 2 Cal. App.4th 1380, 1382, 4 Ca......
  • Stagl v. Delta Airlines, Inc., No. 423
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • April 17, 1995
    ...placement of luggage, see Gross v. American Airlines, Inc., 755 F.Supp. 89 (S.D.N.Y.1991); Gray v. America West Airlines, Inc., 209 Cal.App.3d 76, 256 Cal.Rptr. 877 (4th Dist.1989), the district court concluded that Delta had no obligation "to protect against or warn of potential negligent ......
  • Alcaraz v. Vece, No. S050761
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 31, 1997
    ...condition of property which it did not own, possess, or control. " (Italics added.) ]; Gray v. America West Airlines, Inc. (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 76, 81, 256 Cal.Rptr. 877 ["In premises liability cases, summary judgment may properly be granted where a defendant unequivocally establishes its ......
  • Swann v. Olivier, No. G012612
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 23, 1994
    ...or control of the property alleged to be in a dangerous or defective condition' "]; Gray v. America West Airlines, Inc. (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 76, 81, [22 Cal.App.4th 1330] 256 Cal.Rptr. 877 [source of Seaber quote]; Donnell v. California Western School of Law (1988) 200 Cal.App.3d 715, 720,......
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25 cases
  • Kahn v. East Side Union High School Dist., No. H021239.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 27, 2002
    ...Schonfeldt v. State of California (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 1462, 1465, 72 Cal.Rptr.2d 464; Gray v. America West Airlines, Inc. (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 76, 82-83, 86, 256 Cal.Rptr. 877.) In such cases, summary judgment is proper. (Mathews v. City of Cerritos (1992) 2 Cal. App.4th 1380, 1382, 4 Ca......
  • Stagl v. Delta Airlines, Inc., No. 423
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • April 17, 1995
    ...placement of luggage, see Gross v. American Airlines, Inc., 755 F.Supp. 89 (S.D.N.Y.1991); Gray v. America West Airlines, Inc., 209 Cal.App.3d 76, 256 Cal.Rptr. 877 (4th Dist.1989), the district court concluded that Delta had no obligation "to protect against or warn of potential negligent ......
  • Alcaraz v. Vece, No. S050761
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 31, 1997
    ...condition of property which it did not own, possess, or control. " (Italics added.) ]; Gray v. America West Airlines, Inc. (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 76, 81, 256 Cal.Rptr. 877 ["In premises liability cases, summary judgment may properly be granted where a defendant unequivocally establishes its ......
  • Swann v. Olivier, No. G012612
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 23, 1994
    ...or control of the property alleged to be in a dangerous or defective condition' "]; Gray v. America West Airlines, Inc. (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 76, 81, [22 Cal.App.4th 1330] 256 Cal.Rptr. 877 [source of Seaber quote]; Donnell v. California Western School of Law (1988) 200 Cal.App.3d 715, 720,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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