Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Plaintiffs-appellants, Paula and Christopher LeRoy lost their 15-year-old son, Kennedy LeRoy, to suicide two days after finishing his sophomore year at Ayala High School in Chino. The LeRoys sued the Chino Valley Unified School District, Ayala’s principal, Diana Yarboi, and its assistant principal, Carlo Purther (collectively, Respondents). The LeRoys alleged Respondents were liable for Kennedy’s suicide because of their inadequate response to his complaints of bullying by his classmates. The trial court granted summary judgment for Respondents, and the LeRoys timely appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded Respondents were statutorily immune from liability and therefore affirmed the judgment. View "Leroy v. Yarboi" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, plaintiffs Michael and Crystal Haytasingh appealed a judgment entered in favor of the City of San Diego and Ashley Marino, a City lifeguard. Plaintiffs sued the City after an incident at Mission Beach in 2013: Michael was surfing and defendant Marino was operating a City-owned personal watercraft. Although the parties offered different versions of what occurred that day, the plaintiffs alleged in their complaint that Marino was operating her personal watercraft parallel to Haytasingh, inside the surf line, when she made an abrupt left turn in front of him. In order to avoid an imminent collision with Marino, Haytasingh dove off of his surfboard and struck his head on the ocean floor. Haytasingh suffered serious injuries, including a neck fracture. Plaintiffs alleged that Marino was negligent in her operation of the personal watercraft. Prior to trial, the trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment of plaintiffs’ negligence cause of action, determining that Government Code section 831.7 provided complete immunity to the defendants on plaintiffs’ negligence cause of action. After the trial court granted summary adjudication as to plaintiffs’ claim of ordinary negligence, plaintiffs amended their complaint to allege they were entitled to relief pursuant to two statutory exceptions to the statutory immunity provided for in section 831.7: (1) that Marino’s conduct constituted an “act of gross negligence” that was “the proximate cause of injury;” and (2) that the City failed to “guard or warn of a known dangerous condition or of another hazardous recreational activity known to the public entity…that is not reasonable assumed by the participant as inherently a part of the hazardous recreational activity out of which the damage or injury arose.” A jury ultimately found in favor of defendants. While the Court of Appeal determined the trial court did not err in finding section 831.7 provided defendants with complete immunity with respect to plaintiffs’ ordinary negligence claim, the trial court did err, however, in determining that Harbors and Navigation Code section 655.2’s five mile per hour speed limit did not apply to City lifeguards, and in instructing the jury that all employees of governmental agencies acting within their official capacities were exempt from the City’s five mile per hour speed limit for water vessels that are within 1,000 feet of a beach under San Diego Municipal Code section 63.20.15. The Court concluded this error was prejudicial. Judgment was therefore reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Haytasingh v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Guzman, driving a truck for his employer (Progressive), rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff was driving a truck for his employer. Following the accident, the plaintiff returned to work for three weeks, but then left his employment. During the following months, the plaintiff continued to receive treatment. His former employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, Liberty, paid for the treatment.Plaintiff sued The defendants served a $200,000 offer to settle (Code of Civil Procedure 998). Plaintiff rejected the offer. The parties stipulated that a $256,631.76 workers’ compensation lien existed and that the defendants would admit negligence, but not causation as to the plaintiff’s injuries. The jury returned a verdict of $115,000.Opposing the plaintiff’s fee petition, the defendants argued that the plaintiff should not recover fees and post-offer costs because the verdict did not exceed the section 998 offer. Defendants’ costs totaled $174,830.29. The court awarded the plaintiff $50,600 in attorney fees and the $475.98 pre-offer filing fee in costs. Although Labor Code section 3856 requires costs to be paid from the judgment, the court added the fees and costs to the verdict, then concluded the defense had a net gain over the plaintiff and was the prevailing party and entered an $8,754.22 final judgment in favor of the defendants.The court of appeal affirmed. The court erred by adding attorney fees to the verdict when calculating the net judgment. A $59,354.31 defense judgment should have been entered there was no “judgment for damages recovered” from which the plaintiff’s reasonable litigation expenses and attorney fees or Progressive’s workers’ compensation lien could be paid. (Lab. Code 3856(b)). The defendants had not challenged their $8,754.22 judgment. View "Oakes v. Progressive Transportation Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Martinez regularly crosses a Beverly Hills alley to get to her satellite office. The alley, paved with asphalt, has a concrete drainage channel (swale) running down its center. Martinez was walking through the alley when the front edge of her flip-flop hit the swale; the asphalt, normally flush against the swale, had worn away, creating a divot, 1.75 inches deep. The divot had been there since “at least 2014.” The city is aware that people sometimes walk in its alleys, but alleys are used by heavy commercial trucks and equipment, which degrades asphalt. Every two years, the city inspects streets and alleys for purposes of prioritizing resurfacing; it will inspect potential hazards in response to user calls. The city had not inspected the alley at issue since 2009 and received no complaints with respect to the divot.The court of appeal affirmed the summary judgment rejection of Martinez’s suit. Under Government Code 835.2, a public entity is charged with constructive notice of a dangerous condition only if that condition was sufficiently obvious that the entity acted negligently in not discovering and repairing it. Because alleys, unlike sidewalks, are primarily used for purposes other than walking, and because the cost of inspecting alleys with the same vigilance as inspecting sidewalks would be astronomical relative to the benefit of doing so, what is an obvious defect in the condition of an alley is not the same as for a sidewalk. The divot was not an obvious defect. View "Martinez v. City of Beverly Hills" on Justia Law

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Mitchell swallowed 60 Naproxen tablets. With her husband, she arrived at the Hospital emergency department on May 27, 2017, alert, oriented, and with no acute distress. The physician noted no motor deficits or sensory deficits. A nurse placed an IV catheter in Mitchell’s forearm. Nearly two hours later, Mitchell walked to the toilet with assistance from her husband, then walked back to her bed without assistance. On the way back, Mitchell fell, causing abrasions to her face and severely injuring her knee. The nursing staff had no reason to suspect Mitchell presented a high fall risk because she did not complain of dizziness; they had no observed balance problems. An x-ray and CT scan of Mitchell’s knee showed serious injuries. Mitchell was referred to physical therapy and was discharged from Hospital.Mitchell filed her complaint, alleging general negligence and premises liability on May 17, 2019. The hospital argued that the complaint alleged professional negligence, rather than general negligence or premises liability, and was barred under Code of Civil Procedure section 340.5’s one-year limitations period. Mitchell acknowledged that the condition of the floor did not contribute to her fall. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. The nursing staff’s decision to not assist Mitchell in walking to the restroom was “integrally related” to her medical care. View "Mitchell v. Los Robles Regional Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Smith’s hip resurfacing implant consists of a metal ball that covers the top of the femur and a cup that fits inside the hip socket. When a surgeon puts these ball-and-cup surfaces in the joint, the polished metal surfaces are supposed to allow smoother movement than the damaged bone or cartilage they replace. Gall, who had hip resurfacing surgery for his left hip, recovered and became physically active. Years later, convinced his implant was unsatisfactory, Gall sued Smith.Gall argued that Smith failed to properly warn Gall’s surgeon, Dr. Hernandez, about the risks of using Smith’s product. The trial court granted Smith summary judgment because Hernandez independently knew these risks and whether Smith gave Hernandez redundant warnings did not matter. Gall also argued that Smith’s product was defective. The trial court granted summary judgment because Gall did not show anything was wrong with his implant. Gall did show Smith’s quality control procedures once failed to satisfy regulatory authorities, but the court concluded this fact did not imply the parts Gall received were defective. The court of appeal affirmed. Gall’s claims share the same causation element and Gall did not establish causation. View "Gall v. Smith & Nephew, Inc." on Justia Law

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Doe and Damron twice traveled together to California. In Riverside, according to Doe, Damron forcibly groped her on a sidewalk, attempted to force her to perform oral sex on him in the street, and then raped, battered, and strangled her in their hotel room. The hotel staff called the police; she received medical assistance. Damron pled guilty to willfully inflicting corporal injury on his spouse. Doe alleges that, during another trip, Damron grabbed her, shoved her to the floor, strangled her, and bruised her neck, and also assaulted her numerous times in Georgia. Apart from the Riverside incident, Damron denies assaulting Doe. A Georgia court granted the couple a divorce.Doe sued Damron in California, alleging domestic violence, sexual battery, and gender violence based on acts that took place in California. Damron moved to quash service of process, challenging the court's personal jurisdiction over him. He had never lived, owned property, paid taxes, registered to vote, opened a bank account, or held a driver’s license in California. His only contacts arose from his two trips to California with Doe. He identified witnesses and documents located in Georgia. The court of appeal reversed the dismissal of the suit. Absent compelling circumstances that would make the suit unreasonable, a court may exercise jurisdiction over a non-resident who commits a tort while present in the state. View "Doe v. Damron" on Justia Law

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Doe claims that in 1988, while he (then 10 years old) was attending catechism classes at a Catholic Church, Father Higson sexually molested Doe. Doe did not tell his teacher what happened; the teacher did not ask why Doe was upset. In 1987 or 1988, the Archdiocese had purchased sexual abuse insurance and began developing policies and procedures for preventing clergy sexual abuse.Doe filed suit in 2017, alleging the Archdiocese had a duty to protect him when he was entrusted to its care, including a duty to “educate, train and warn” Doe and other minors involved in youth programs “regarding prevention, detection, and reporting of child abuse” and a duty to educate, train and warn parents and other employees. Doe alleged the Archdiocese knew of the “epidemic” of priests sexually abusing minors and had received multiple complaints that its priests had sexually abused minors beginning in the 1950s. The trial court entered summary judgment, finding no triable issue of material fact as to whether the Archdiocese had reason to know that Higson committed any sexual misconduct before the purported abuse of Doe.The court of appeal reversed, A church has a duty to protect children from sexual abuse by clergy while the children are attending religious school or participating in other church-sponsored programs. The Archdiocese had a special relationship with Doe, who presented considerable evidence the Archdiocese was aware in the late 1980s that numerous priests had been accused of sexually abusing minors in the Archdiocese and around the country. It was reasonably foreseeable that minors attending catechism classes in 1988 might be sexually molested by a priest, even though the Archdiocese did not have knowledge of prior sexual misconduct by Higson specifically. View "Doe v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Mitchell sued Twin Galaxies for defamation and false light after Twin Galaxies issued a statement asserting Mitchell’s world record scores in the Donkey Kong arcade game were not achieved on original unmodified hardware as required under its rules. Twin Galaxies removed all of Mitchell’s world record scores and banned him from participating in its leaderboards. The trial court denied Twin Galaxies’ special motion to strike under the strategic lawsuits against public participation statute (anti-SLAPP motion). (Code Civ. Procedure 425.16.) The court of appeal affirmed. Mitchell showed a probability of prevailing on his claims; the trial court properly denied the anti-SLAPP motion. Mitchell made a prima facie showing of falsity by providing his own declaration and others’ declarations attesting to the equipment used and made a prima facie showing of actual malice. Twin Galaxies failed to take any steps to inquire into the truth of Mitchell’s statements even after he was provided the names of witnesses and having confirmation of the procedures under which the disputed scores were achieved. View "Mitchell v. Twin Galaxies, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Maria Carachure suffered serious injuries when she was struck by a vehicle driven by defendant Celia Acosta Scott. Plaintiff filed suit, and a jury found the action was barred because of a “‘binding and enforceable settlement.’” On appeal, plaintiff contended the trial court erred in granting partial nonsuit on the issue of plaintiff’s consent to settle and acted in excess of its power by approving the settlement on her behalf. She further contended the trial court erred in striking the allegations and prayer for punitive damages. After review, the Court of Appeal rejected plaintiff’s contentions and affirmed. View "Carachure v. Scott" on Justia Law