Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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After crossing the finish line at the 2011 Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon, Hass suffered a cardiac arrest and died. Hass’s wife and his minor children filed a wrongful death action, alleging that race-affiliated individuals and entities, including the organizer, were negligent in the organization and management of the race, particularly with respect to the provision of emergency medical services. After initially concluding that the action was barred under theories of primary assumption of the risk and express waiver, the trial court reversed itself, finding that primary assumption of the risk was inapplicable and that the plaintiffs should have been allowed to amend their complaint to plead gross negligence, which was outside of the scope of the written waiver and release. The court of appeal affirmed in part, agreeing that summary judgment was not warranted. The release at issue is not void on public policy grounds and was intended to be, and was accepted as, a comprehensive assumption of all risks associated with race participation and constituted a complete defense to a wrongful death action based on ordinary negligence. However, the trial court erred in requiring amendment of the complaint to plead gross negligence because a triable issue of material fact exists on this issue. View "Hass v. RhodyCo Productions" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a negligence and product liability action against defendants, in which plaintiff alleged that she developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos contained in talcum powder products. At issue was the trial court's order granting plaintiff's motion to tax costs. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court abused its discretion in denying all costs requested by Colgate. In this case, Colgate was entitled to its allowable costs under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032 and 1033.5 and plaintiff conceded that certain items were allowable. In regard to the remaining items, the trial court did not consider plaintiff's challenges to specific costs or assess which costs were reasonable and reasonably necessary. The court also held that the trial court erred in failing to determine whether Colgate made its section 998 offer in good faith. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Alfaro v. Colgate-Palmolive Co." on Justia Law

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Harvey Cohoon was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer and was residing at Victoria Healthcare Center while he underwent treatment and recovered from various injuries he had suffered. For 19 days, Cohoon did well at Victoria Center. On the 20th day, he was observed to have difficulty swallowing thin liquids, and after evaluation, his diet was changed. Plaintiff contended that change was not properly communicated to the kitchen, and that night he was served a dinner that did not comport with his new diet. Less than 20 minutes after being served dinner, a nurse found him in respiratory arrest. The paramedics had to remove large pieces of chicken from his throat before intubating him. More pieces of chicken were removed from his airway at the hospital. He died the following day due to complications from oxygen deprivation to his brain. Donna Cochrum, Cohoon’s niece, filed suit against Victoria Center, asserting causes of action for elder abuse and negligence. As personal representative of Cohoon’s estate, Cochrum asserted a wrongful death cause of action. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Cochrum on all causes of action. Subsequently, the trial court granted a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), finding insufficient evidence of recklessness to support the elder abuse cause of action. It also adjusted the remaining damages pursuant to Civil Code section 3333.2. Cochrum appealed the amended judgment, contending the evidence supported the elder abuse cause of action. Two of the defendants cross-appealed, contending the court improperly applied the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 cap. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the amended judgment. View "Cochrum v. Costa Victoria Healthcare, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Mary Anselmo attended Pierce College, a public community college within the Los Angeles Community College District. In 2016, Anselmo traveled to Grossmont College as a member of the Pierce College Women's Volleyball team to participate in an intercollegiate beach volleyball tournament. The Grossmont College campus and the volleyball courts where the tournament took place were owned, controlled, and maintained by defendant Grossmont Cuyamaca Community College District (Grossmont). Anselmo alleged she was injured during one of the tournament games when she dove into the sand and her knee struck a rock in the sand. Anselmo filed a complaint against Grossmont alleging claims for negligence, gross negligence, and premises liability. Grossmont relied on several cases in which immunity was granted to school districts that were conducting athletic-related field trips or excursions for their students, but the Court of Appeal determined the facts of those cases were readily distinguishable from the facts here. The Court held field trip immunity under California Code of Regulations section 55220 did not extend to Grossmont as the host of an interscholastic athletic competition for injuries suffered by a player on a visiting team merely because her team traveled to the site of the competition. The trial court therefore erred in sustaining Grossmont's demurrer on this ground. View "Anselmo v. Grossmont-Cuyamaca Com. College Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Mary Jones appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant Danita Sorenson. Sorenson hired a gardener to work on her property and the gardener hired Jones to help her. Jones was injured when she fell from a ladder while trimming a tree at least 15 feet tall. Jones sued Sorenson, claiming such work required a license but the gardener was not licensed and the gardener’s negligence caused the fall. Jones claimed that Sorenson was liable to Jones under a respondeat superior theory, because she was, as a matter of law, the employer of both the gardener and Jones. The trial court ruled that the terms “gardener” and “nurseryperson” as used in Business and Professions Code section 7026.11 were synonymous, and therefore Sorenson could avoid tort liability because a person acting as a nurseryperson may trim trees 15 feet tall or higher without a contractor’s license. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding that “nurseryperson” refers to a licensed operator of a nursery, whereas a gardener does not require a license. This meant Sorenson, the movant on summary judgment, did not refute the claim that she was the gardener’s (and therefore Jones’s) employer, and potentially liable under a respondeat superior theory for the gardener’s alleged negligence. View "Jones v. Sorenson" on Justia Law

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Staats nearly died after being attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets while playing golf on a Yountville course operated by Vintner’s Golf Club. She sued the Club for general negligence and premises liability. The trial court granted summary judgment against her on the basis that the Club owed no duty to protect its patrons from yellow jackets that came from an undiscovered nest on the course. The court of appeal reversed. The duty of golf course operators to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition includes a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect patrons from nests of yellow jackets on the premises. The measures a golf course operator must take to satisfy this duty may vary, the court did not address whether the Club breached its duty, or whether any such breach caused Staats’s injuries. View "Staats v. Vintner's Golf Club, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to a safety consultant. The trial court concluded that the consultant owed no duty of care to the employees because the consultant's allegedly negligent omissions were not affirmative misfeasance and thus were not acts "wrongful in their nature" for purposes of Civil Code section 2343. The court interpreted the phrase "wrongful in their nature" as encompassing conduct that is tortious. Therefore, if plaintiffs are able to prove all of the elements of their negligent undertaking cause of action, they will have established the consultant's acts constituted a tort and were wrongful in their nature and precluded by section 2343. The court explained that, under this statutory interpretation, agents are responsible for their independent torts, but are not held vicariously liable for the torts of their principal. As to this negligent undertaking cause of action, the court held that there were triable issues of material fact as to the precise scope of the consultant's undertaking and of the duty that may have arisen from the undertaking, whether the consultant breached that duty, and whether the breach caused the death of plaintiffs' son. View "Peredia v. HR Mobile Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Larry Tripplett, a former defensive tackle for the Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, petitioned for review of the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board’s (WCAB) decision to deny his claim for worker’s compensation for cumulative injuries he suffered during his career. Tripplett’s primary contention was that the WCAB erred because he satisfied his evidentiary burden of proving he was hired by the Indianapolis Colts in California for purposes of Labor Code sections 3600.5(a), and 53051, and thus was eligible for workers compensation under California law. Although the workers compensation judge (WCJ) found jurisdiction was established by the fact Tripplett’s agent had “negotiated” his contract with Indianapolis while located in California, the WCAB reversed, suggesting instead the salient question in assessing whether Tripplett was “hired” in California was whether he or his agent executed the written employment agreement in this state. The California Court of Appeal agreed with the WCAB that Tripplett was hired when he executed the written employment agreement offered by Indianapolis. Tripplett thus failed to satisfy his burden of proving he was hired in California. Tripplett also claimed the WCAB erred by concluding there was no other basis for establishing subject matter jurisdiction over his cumulative injury claim. He argued his residency in the state, combined with his participation in two games in California during his career, demonstrated he had a greater than de minimus contact with the State of California. The Court of Appeal found no merit to this contention: Tripplett’s residency in California provided no basis for establishing subject matter jurisdiction over his injury, and the WCAB did not err in concluding that his participation in two games in California, out of more than 100 in his career, reflected no significant connection between this state and his cumulative injury. View "Tripplett v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Bd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kathleen Willhide-Michiulis was involved in a tragic snowboarding accident at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. On her last run of the day, she collided with a snowcat pulling a snow-grooming tiller and got caught in the tiller. The accident resulted in the amputation of her left leg, several skull fractures and facial lacerations, among other serious injuries. She and her husband, Bruno Michiulis, appealed after the trial court granted defendant Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s (Mammoth) motion for summary judgment finding the operation of the snowcat and snow-grooming tiller on the snow run open to the public was an inherent risk of snowboarding and did not constitute gross negligence. Plaintiffs contended the trial court improperly granted Mammoth’s motion for summary judgment and improperly excluded the expert declarations plaintiffs submitted to oppose the motion. They also argued the trial court improperly denied their motion to transfer venue to Los Angeles County. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the expert declarations. Further, although snowcats and snow-grooming tillers are capable of causing catastrophic injury, this equipment was an inherent part of the sport of snowboarding and the way in which the snowcat was operated in this case did not rise to the level of gross negligence. Because of this conclusion, the Court of Appeal held the trial court properly granted Mammoth’s summary judgment motion based on the liability waiver Willhide-Michiulis signed as part of her season-pass agreement. With no pending trial, plaintiffs could not show they were prejudiced by the court’s denial of their motion to transfer venue; thus the Court did not reach the merits of that claim. View "Willhide-Michiulis v. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants Angela Belfiore-Braman and Stephen Braman appealed a defense judgment entered on a jury verdict, in their medical malpractice action against orthopedic surgeon, defendant-respondent D. Daniel Rotenberg, M.D. The jury found Defendant was not negligent in the care and treatment of Ms. Belfiore-Braman during the hip replacement surgery he performed on her, and accordingly, it did not answer the special verdict's question on whether such negligence was a substantial factor in causing injury to her, or loss of consortium to her husband and fellow plaintiff. The issues on appeal centered around the trial court's ruling in limine, after a hearing under Evidence Code section 402, that excluded certain medical opinion testimony Plaintiff offered on issues of causation and damage, from her recently designated nonretained expert witness. The court determined that the proposed testimony would be unduly duplicative within the meaning of section 723. Instead, the nonretained expert witness would be allowed to testify to the jury only as to his observations from an imaging study he performed and what the test results revealed to him about Plaintiff's condition. Plaintiff argued to the Court of Appeal this ruling in limine unfairly prevented her from making a showing that Defendant's alleged negligent acts were a substantial factor in causing her injuries. However, the Court concluded the record supported the ruling: Plaintiff could not show the trial court abused its discretion in precluding the offered testimony on causation and damage. View "Belfiore-Braman v. Rotenberg" on Justia Law