Articles Posted in California Court of Appeal

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Plaintiff Muhammad Iqbal appealed the grant of summary judgment entered against his complaint for personal injuries. In 2011, plaintiff sued Yosemite Auto Sales, Inc. (Yosemite Auto), its owner Eyad Kaid, and Alla Abuziadeh, individually and doing business as Jimmy’s Tow (collectively, the former defendants), for personal injuries. He alleged Yosemite Auto retained him to determine why a vehicle it owned would not start. Unknown to plaintiff, Abuziadeh earlier towed the vehicle to Yosemite Auto and disconnected the transmission shift linkage to do so. He allegedly did not reconnect the shift linkage after towing the car. The trial court ruled the complaint was barred by a general release plaintiff had previously executed that immunized “affiliates” of the defendants in the former case, and defendant Imran Ziadeh was such an affiliate. The Court of Appeal concluded as a matter of law defendant was not a protected “affiliate,” as that term was commonly understood, and reversed. View "Iqbal v. Ziadeh" on Justia Law

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After a jury found that the mesothelioma contracted by James Lester Phillips was caused in part by exposure to asbestos contained in Bendix brakes, Honeywell challenged the $5.8 million awarded to Phillips's wife and surviving children. In the published portion of the opinion, the court rejected Honeywell's claims of evidentiary error, concluding that the trial court properly admitted a 1966 letter of a Bendix employee sarcastically addressing an article in Chemical Week magazine that stated asbestos had been accused, but not yet convicted, as a significant health hazard. The court reasoned that the letter was circumstantial evidence relevant to the issue of Bendix's awareness of asbestos's potential to cause cancer. The court noted that Illinois and Florida cases holding admission of this letter was prejudicial were distinguishable because they did not include a limiting instruction. The court also concluded that the trial court properly admitted the testimony of plaintiffs' expert about causation and the contributions to Phillips's risk of cancer from every identified exposure to asbestos that Phillips experienced. The court rejected Honeywell's remaining contentions in the unpublished portion of the opinion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Phillips v. Honeywell International Inc." on Justia Law

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John Jarman (later represented by his daughter, Janice Jarman, as successor in interest), sued HCR ManorCare, Inc., and Manor Care of Hemet, CA, LLC, (collectively, "Manor Care"), which owned and operated a nursing home facility in Hemet. Jarman was a patient at the facility for three months in 2008, and alleged claims for violations of patient’s rights pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 1430, elder abuse, and negligence, all arising out of the care he received at the nursing home. The jury returned a special verdict finding Manor Care committed 382 violations of Jarman’s rights, and that its conduct was negligent. The jury awarded Jarman statutory and damages caused by the negligence. The jury also made a finding that Manor Care had acted with malice, oppression or fraud. However, the trial court granted Manor Care’s oral motion to strike the punitive damage claim, agreeing with Manor Care that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding of malice, oppression or fraud. The trial court ultimately entered judgment against Manor Care in the amount of $195,500, and awarded Jarman $368,755 in attorney fees. Jarman appealed the portion of the judgment denying him punitive damages, arguing the trial court erred by striking the jury’s finding Manor Care acted with malice, oppression or fraud. The Court of Appeal agreed the court erred in that respect and reversed the punitive damages judgment by the trial court. For its part, Manor Care argued on appeal that: (1) the trial court erred by allowing the jury to award Jarman a separate measure of statutory damages under section 1430 for each of the 382 violations of his rights found by the jury; (2) the statutory damage award must be reversed in its entirety against HCR, because Jarman did not allege HCR engaged in conduct that violated his rights and because HCR was not a “licensee” subject to liability under section 1430; (3) the statutory damage award should have been reversed against both HCR and Hemet because the special verdict on the statutory claim made inconsistent references to each of them, and was thus insufficient to support a judgment against either; (4) the negligence verdict could not stand against HCR because the special verdict on negligence omitted any finding of causation against HCR specifically, and that it cannot stand against either HCR or Hemet because the damages awarded were inherently speculative; and (5) any reversal of the judgment which favors it will also necessitate a reversal and remand of the attorney fees award. Finding no reversible error with respect to Manor Care's arguments, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Jarman v. HCR ManorCare" on Justia Law

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After Gary Lynn Shanks died in a head-on collision with another motorcycle on a state highway, the jury in the ensuing wrongful death action determined that the State and the operator of the motorcycle were at fault. Specifically, the jury found the State liable for a dangerous condition on the highway and awarded Shanks's family a total of $12,690,000 in damages. During deliberation, the court excused Juror 7 and seated an alternate. The court concluded that the record did not show as a "demonstrable reality" that Juror No. 7 failed to deliberate or was otherwise unable to perform her duty, and thus the trial court abused its discretion by discharging her. The court explained that the error was prejudicial in that the jury's apportionment of liability between the State and the other defendant was by a nine-to-three vote, and Juror No. 7 had expressed her inclination to vote for the State. Accordingly, the court remanded for retrial of the apportionment issue and affirmed in all other respects. View "Shanks v. DOT" on Justia Law

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Johnson sued automotive parts manufacturers for injuries alleged to have been caused by secondary exposure to asbestos or asbestos-containing materials, claiming that he suffered exposure from asbestos contamination brought into his home by his father, a mechanic, and from asbestos released from the mechanical components during times he visited his father at work. The defendant manufacturers argued that Johnson did not have and could not obtain evidence that he or his father were exposed to asbestos from their products. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Johnson had no personal knowledge that he or his father were exposed to asbestos from defendants’ products. The potential product identification witnesses named by Johnson either could not be located or had no knowledge that Johnson or his father were exposed to asbestos from defendants’ products. View "Johnson v. ArvinMeritor, Inc." on Justia Law

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Haniff was employed as a delivery truck driver when he was injured in a motor vehicle accident while unloading packages from his parked truck on the Stanford campus. According to Haniff, an automobile owned by Kim and parked by Hohman, a Stanford University employee, rolled down a hill and struck Haniff. As a result of the accident, Haniff sustained multiple fractures of his right femur and pelvis and underwent surgery. He has not returned to work and filed a personal injury complaint naming Hohman, Kim, and Stanford University as defendants. During the course of discovery, defendants successfully sought an order compelling Haniff to undergo a vocational rehabilitation examination by their vocational expert. Haniff challenged the order by filing a petition for writ of mandate in the court of appeal, arguing that a defense vocational rehabilitation examination is not one of the six methods of civil discovery expressly authorized by Code Civ. Proc., 2016.010. The court of appeal agreed and vacated the order. Whether a defense vocational rehabilitation examination should be an available discovery method as a matter of fundamental fairness where the plaintiff seeks compensatory damages for wage loss and loss of earning capacity is better addressed to the Legislature. View "Haniff v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants Gail Lynn (Mrs. Lynn), individually and as executor of the Estate of Brian Griffin Lynn (Mr. Lynn), and Randy Lynn, (son) appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of defendant-respondent Tatitlek Support Services, Inc. (TSSI) in a wrongful death action. The sole question raised on appeal was whether TSSI’s temporary employee, Abdul Formoli, was acting within the scope of his employment when he caused an automobile accident killing Mr. Lynn and seriously injuring Mrs. Lynn. Plaintiffs argued the “going and coming” rule, precluding employer vicarious liability, did not apply because of the nature of Formoli’s employment preceding the accident. Because of the remoteness of the jobsite, Formoli’s employment required him to undertake a lengthy commute home, after working long hours, over three and a half days. Plaintiffs argued that under such circumstances there was a triable issue of material fact as to whether an exception to the “going and coming” rule applied. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded plaintiffs failed to present evidence supporting exceptions to the going and coming rule. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Lynn v. Tatitlek Support Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Jane Doe, a minor, was sexually abused by Fabrizio, her former soccer coach. Fabrizio, who had a prior conviction for battery against his spouse, pleaded no contest to continuous sexual abuse of a child and lewd and lascivious acts on a child under age 14, and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison. Jane Doe sued, alleging negligence and willful misconduct against the United States Youth Soccer Association, the California Youth Soccer Association, and West Valley Youth Soccer League. The trial court dismissed on the ground that the defendants had no duty to protect plaintiff from criminal conduct by a third party. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the defendants had a duty to conduct criminal background checks of all adults who would have contact with children involved in their programs. The court noted that the defendants knew that Fabrizio had violated rules and engaged in inappropriate conduct, but had not notified the parents and had allowed Fabrizio to continue to have access to the plaintiff. View "Doe v. United States Youth Soccer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured after a motorcycle crash with defendant Aram Tonakanian, who was driving a green and white taxi marked with United's insignia. After the jury found that Tonakanian was United's agent, but not an employee, the trial court granted United's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) under Code of Civil Procedure 629. The court reversed the trial court's order and reinstated the jury's verdict, concluding that California law does not preclude consideration of controls required by public regulations in finding an agency relationship. In this case, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the court concluded that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support a jury finding that Tonakanian was United's agent and United was vicariously liable for Tonakanian's acts. View "Secci v. United Independent Taxi Drivers" on Justia Law

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After Leigh Anne Flores injured plaintiff in an auto accident, plaintiff filed suit against Flores and Pacific Bell, her employer, for damages. Flores was driving a van Pacific Bell had furnished to her, but that she used for both business and personal purposes. The trial court found Pacific Bell, who self-insured the van, was not vicariously liable for Flores's actions because she was not acting in the course and scope of her employment at the time of the accident. In a subsequent arbitration involving only plaintiff and Flores, plaintiff was awarded over half a million dollars by the arbitrator. Geico, Flores's personal insurer, refused to pay the judgment. Plaintiff then filed suit against Geico, alleging breach of contract, bad faith, and declaratory relief. The trial court granted summary judgment for Geico. The court concluded that, under the circumstances here, because Flores was able to use the van for both business and personal purposes, and her personal use of the van at the time of the accident was not a departure from its customary use, the van was furnished to Flores for her regular use and there is no coverage under the GEICO policy. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Medina v. GEICO Indemnity" on Justia Law