California uses the legal doctrine of “Comparative Negligence” in determining lawsuits. While we spent great time learning this in law school, here is an example that nails it immediately:

A toddler was tragically killed at Disneyland when he stepped into a manmade lake and was taken by an alligator. The lake was marked with signs reading “No Swimming”, which the family perhaps ignored. Disney would not seem to be fully liable because they posted a warning and, if the family saw the sign, they assumed the risk.

However, if Disney knew…or should have known…that alligators were present or possibly present, the warning of “No swimming” was inadequate (like a “no trespassing” sign where you really mean “beware of killer pit bulls”).

Arguably, the signs should have said, “No Swimming. Alligators.” That would seem to be a warning more likely to be obeyed.

If these facts are accurate, a jury will likely find comparative negligence as to both Disney and the family. They will determine percentage of fault…such as that Disney was 30% responsible…and then apply the percentage against the total dollar amount they feel appropriate to the situation. If $1 million in damages, Disney’s 30% means they pay $300,000.

There you have comparative negligence in a nutshell.

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