Vega v. EASTERN COURTYARD ASSOCIATES, No. 33932

Docket NºNo. 34059.
Citation24 P.3d 219, 117 Nev. 436
Case DateJune 13, 2001
CourtSupreme Court of Nevada

24 P.3d 219
117 Nev. 436

Wendy VEGA, Appellant,
v.
EASTERN COURTYARD ASSOCIATES, A Limited Partnership, Respondent.
Wendy Vega, Appellant,
v.
Eastern Courtyard Associates, A Limited Partnership, Respondent

Nos. 33932, 34059.

Supreme Court of Nevada.

June 13, 2001.


Parker Nelson & Arin, Chtd., and Casey D. Gish, Las Vegas, for Appellant.

Pyatt & Silvestri and Phillip V. Tiberi, Las Vegas, for Respondent.

Before the Court En Banc.

OPINION

ROSE, J.

In these consolidated appeals1 we are asked to determine whether the violation of a validly adopted building code provision constitutes negligence per se. We conclude that the violation of a building code provision adopted by a county ordinance is negligence per se if the plaintiff belongs to the class of persons the building code provision is intended to protect, and the injury the plaintiff suffered is of the type the provision was intended to prevent. Accordingly, because the district court failed to properly instruct

24 P.3d 220
the jury regarding the negligence per se doctrine, we reverse the district court's judgment in favor of the respondent, as well as the district court's order awarding attorney fees, and remand this case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion

FACTS

On September 10, 1993, appellant Wendy Vega had a scheduled appointment at respondent Eastern Courtyard Associates' medical facility in Las Vegas. While attempting to negotiate a ramp2 leading to the main entrance, Vega slipped, fell and was injured. Vega commenced suit, claiming Eastern Courtyard was negligent.

Prior to trial, Vega moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of duty and breach pursuant to the theory that Eastern Courtyard was negligent per se. Vega argued that Eastern Courtyard, as owner of the premises, had violated a provision of the Uniform Building Code ("UBC"), which had been adopted as part of the Building Code of Clark County.3 Vega claimed that the slope of the ramp leading into the entrance of the medical complex exceeded the slope allowed under the UBC, and that such a violation constituted negligence as a matter of law, or negligence per se. The district court, however, found that factual issues remained for trial, and, accordingly, denied Vega's motion for partial summary judgment.

Vega again raised the theory of negligence per se in her trial brief. Vega proposed that the jury be charged with Nevada Jury Instruction 4.12, which reads:

There was in force at the time of the occurrence in question [a law] [laws] which read as follows:
A violation of the law[s] just read to you constitutes negligence as a matter of law. If you find that a party violated a law just read to you, it is your duty to find such violation to be negligence; and you should then consider the issue of whether that negligence was a [proximate] [legal] cause of injury or damage to the plaintiff.4

The district court, however, again ruled that Vega's negligence per se theory did not apply to the facts of this case. The district court refused to allow Vega to utilize the negligence per se doctrine because Vega only alleged that Eastern Courtyard violated a building code provision enacted into law by an ordinance, not a statute. Thus, the case proceeded to trial solely on the issue of liability.5

At trial, Vega presented expert testimony demonstrating that the slope of the ramp exceeded the slope allowed under the UBC. Notably, Eastern Courtyard presented no evidence of its own regarding the slope of the ramp, nor did Eastern Courtyard challenge the characterization of the slope in question as a "ramp" under the UBC. Instead, Eastern Courtyard argued that even if the ramp violated the UBC, such a violation was not the proximate cause of Vega's injuries. In support of this argument, Eastern Courtyard

24 P.3d 221
demonstrated that if the jury accepted Vega's expert's calculations, any violation of the UBC was minimal

At the close of evidence, the district court instructed the jury that if it found that Eastern Courtyard had, in fact, violated the UBC, the jury could consider such a violation as evidence of Eastern Courtyard's negligence.6 The jury subsequently returned a verdict in favor of Eastern Courtyard. Following the favorable verdict, Eastern Courtyard filed a motion for attorney fees pursuant to NRCP 68. Because Vega failed to oppose the motion, the district court granted attorney fees to Eastern Courtyard in the sum of $31,596.25. This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

Whether a particular statute, administrative regulation or local ordinance is utilized to define the standard of care in a negligence action is clearly a question of law to be determined exclusively by the court.7 Accordingly, our review is de novo.8

Although we have never ruled on the applicability of an alleged violation of a building code provision in a plaintiff's negligence action, we have consistently held that the violation of a statute constitutes negligence per se if the injured party belongs to the class of persons that the statute was intended to protect, and the injury suffered is of the type the statute was intended to prevent.9 In Barnes v. Delta Lines, Inc.,10 we held that where a plaintiff adduced evidence at trial showing that the defendant violated a statute designed to protect a class of persons to which the plaintiff belonged, the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury regarding the negligence per se doctrine.11 And later, in Del Piero v. Phillips,12 we applied the same analysis to a municipal ordinance. In that case we determined that a violation of the Reno Municipal Code, along with the defendant's failure to yield to pedestrians as required by the "rules of the road," required that the jury be instructed regarding negligence per se.13

In Ashwood v. Clark County,14 we declined to decide whether a violation of the UBC could be utilized as the basis for a plaintiff's theory that the defendant was negligent per se.15 But as dictum in Ashwood evidences, we recognized that the UBC was legislative in nature. We also determined, however, that the UBC arguably appeared to be akin to an administrative regulation. We now take this opportunity to refute the dictum contained in Ashwood, and hold that the UBC is not administrative in nature.

Instead, we conclude that an alleged violation of a provision of the UBC may be utilized as part of a plaintiffs negligence per se theory if the plaintiff belongs to the class of persons that the provision was intended to protect, and the injury suffered is of the type the provision was intended to prevent. We see no reason not to apply the reasoning and analysis we employed in Barnes and Del-Piero

24 P.3d 222
to an alleged violation of a building code provision. Other jurisdictions that have addressed this issue are in accord with this ruling.16

Accordingly, we hold that if (1) a violation of a building code provision adopted by local ordinance is established, (2) an injured party fits within the class of persons that a particular provision of a building code was intended to protect, and (3) the injury suffered is of the type the provision was intended to prevent, the alleged violation constitutes negligence per se. We also hold that whether an injured party belongs to the class of persons that the provision at issue was meant to protect, and whether the injury suffered is the type the provision was intended to prevent, are questions of law to be determined by the court.17 If the district court had utilized Vega's proffered instruction, the jury would have been...

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20 practice notes
  • Prescott v. Slide Fire Solutions, LP, Case No.: 2:18-cv-00296-GMN-BNW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • September 26, 2019
    ...motorists who negligently proceed onto a roadway without yielding the right of way to moving traffic.); Vega v. E. Courtyard Assocs. , 117 Nev. 436, 24 P.3d 219, 221 (2001) ("[A]n alleged violation of a provision of the [Uniform Building Code] may be utilized as part of a plaintiff's n......
  • Mazzeo v. Gibbons, Case No.: 2:08-cv-01387-RLH-PAL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • June 29, 2009
    ...se. Whether a particular statute establishes a standard of care in a negligence action is a question of law. Vega v. E. Courtyard Assocs., 117 Nev. 436, 24 P.3d 219, 221 (2001). In general, "[a] statutory violation is negligence per se if the injured party belongs to the class of perso......
  • Williams v. Univ. Med. Ctr. Of Southern Nev., No. 2:09-CV-00554-PMP-PAL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • February 25, 2010
    ...held a building code adopted by local ordinance may impose a duty sufficient to support a negligence claim. Vega v. E. Courtyard Assocs., 117 Nev. 436, 24 P.3d 219, 222 (2001). For a duty to exist, harm must be foreseeable. Ashwood, 930 P.2d at 743. The Court concludes that, like an adminis......
  • Chavez v. Sievers, No. 34580, 34932.
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court of Nevada
    • April 12, 2002
    ...infliction of emotional distress. Accordingly, this issue is not before us. See Vega v. Eastern Courtyard Assocs., 117 Nev. ___, ___ n. 5, 24 P.3d 219, 220 n. 5 (2001) (noting that this court will not consider an issue when resolution of the issue would not affect the outcome of a case); Ba......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • Prescott v. Slide Fire Solutions, LP, Case No.: 2:18-cv-00296-GMN-BNW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • September 26, 2019
    ...motorists who negligently proceed onto a roadway without yielding the right of way to moving traffic.); Vega v. E. Courtyard Assocs. , 117 Nev. 436, 24 P.3d 219, 221 (2001) ("[A]n alleged violation of a provision of the [Uniform Building Code] may be utilized as part of a plaintiff's n......
  • Mazzeo v. Gibbons, Case No.: 2:08-cv-01387-RLH-PAL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • June 29, 2009
    ...se. Whether a particular statute establishes a standard of care in a negligence action is a question of law. Vega v. E. Courtyard Assocs., 117 Nev. 436, 24 P.3d 219, 221 (2001). In general, "[a] statutory violation is negligence per se if the injured party belongs to the class of perso......
  • Williams v. Univ. Med. Ctr. Of Southern Nev., No. 2:09-CV-00554-PMP-PAL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • February 25, 2010
    ...held a building code adopted by local ordinance may impose a duty sufficient to support a negligence claim. Vega v. E. Courtyard Assocs., 117 Nev. 436, 24 P.3d 219, 222 (2001). For a duty to exist, harm must be foreseeable. Ashwood, 930 P.2d at 743. The Court concludes that, like an adminis......
  • Chavez v. Sievers, No. 34580, 34932.
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court of Nevada
    • April 12, 2002
    ...infliction of emotional distress. Accordingly, this issue is not before us. See Vega v. Eastern Courtyard Assocs., 117 Nev. ___, ___ n. 5, 24 P.3d 219, 220 n. 5 (2001) (noting that this court will not consider an issue when resolution of the issue would not affect the outcome of a case); Ba......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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