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Fazio v. Fairbanks Ranch Country Club

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division

January 29, 2015

ROBERT FAZIO, JR., Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
FAIRBANKS RANCH COUNTRY CLUB, Defendant and Respondent.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of No. 37-2011-00098387 San Diego County, Randa Trapp, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Brentwood Legal Services and Steven L. Zelig for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Daley & Heft, Lee H. Roistacher, Robert H. Quayle IV and Stephanie M. Skees, for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

HALLER, J.

Robert Fazio, Jr., appeals from summary judgment entered in favor of defendant Fairbanks Ranch Country Club (Fairbanks). Fazio, a professional musician, filed a lawsuit against Fairbanks claiming negligence after he fell from a stage on Fairbanks's property before a performance. Fairbanks argued in its motion for summary judgment, among other things,

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that as a musician who regularly performed on stage Fazio assumed the risk of falling. On appeal, Fazio claims the trial court erred by granting Fairbanks's motion because a triable issue of fact exists as to whether Fairbanks constructed the stage in a way that unreasonably increased the risk of falling. We agree summary judgment was improper and reverse the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Fazio is an experienced musician who had performed on stage many times before this incident. He was employed by a booking agency, Wayne Foster Entertainment Productions, to perform with a band of other musicians at Fairbanks's country club on April 10, 2010. Fazio arrived at the country club around 3:30 p.m. and began setting up his equipment, including an amplifier for his bass guitar, on stage. The stage, which was owned by Fairbanks and put together that day by Fairbanks's employees, consisted of four rows of rectangular platforms, called risers. Each riser was approximately two feet tall and three to four feet wide.

The rows of risers were set up in a corner of the ballroom surrounded by windows. To fit the stage into the corner, each row was narrower than the last, leaving triangular gaps at the end of each row between the walls and the risers. At the time Fazio was setting up his equipment the lights in the room were off, so the only lighting was the natural light coming from the windows. Around 4:00 p.m., as he was connecting wires to his amplifier, Fazio stepped off the side of the stage and fell into one of the gaps.

Fazio was seriously injured by the fall and, as a result, brought suit against Fairbanks alleging a single negligence cause of action. Fazio's complaint states on "April 10, 2010, Mr. Fazio was acting in the capacity as a musician at a performance at... [Fairbanks]. On this date, Mr. Fazio was severely injured when he fell in a defective and dangerous area of the stage, of which he had no prior knowledge." Fazio also alleged "[t]he premises were negligently maintained."

After conducting discovery, Fairbanks brought its motion for summary judgment. Fairbanks argued it owed no duty to Fazio because (1) he assumed the risk of his injuries, (2) Fairbanks had no duty to configure the stage in any particular way, and (3) the allegedly dangerous condition was obvious and known to Fazio. Fairbanks also contended summary judgment was appropriate because the stage was not dangerous as a matter of law and the configuration of the stage did not cause Fazio to fall. Fazio opposed the motion, arguing the doctrine of assumption of the risk did not apply in this ...


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