Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Five diabetic patients, Henry J. Hebert, Traci Moore, Aliya Campbell Pierre, Tiffanie Tsakiris, and Brenda Bottiglier, were prescribed the Dexcom G6 Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (Dexcom G6) to manage their diabetes. The device allegedly malfunctioned, failing to alert them of dangerous glucose levels, resulting in serious injuries and, in Hebert's case, death. The patients and Hebert's daughters filed separate product liability actions against Dexcom, Inc., the manufacturer. Dexcom moved to compel arbitration, arguing that each patient had agreed to arbitrate disputes when they installed the G6 App on their devices and clicked "I agree to Terms of Use."The trial court granted Dexcom's motions to compel arbitration in all five cases. The plaintiffs petitioned the appellate court for a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its orders compelling them to arbitrate. The appellate court consolidated the cases and issued an order directing Dexcom to show cause why the relief sought should not be granted.The appellate court concluded that the trial court erred. Although a clickwrap agreement, where an internet user accepts a website’s terms of use by clicking an “I agree” or “I accept” button, is generally enforceable, Dexcom’s G6 App clickwrap agreement was not. The court found that Dexcom undid whatever notice it might have provided of the contractual terms by explicitly telling the user that clicking the box constituted authorization for Dexcom to collect and store the user’s sensitive, personal health information. For this reason, Dexcom could not meet its burden of demonstrating that the same click constituted unambiguous acceptance of the Terms of Use, including the arbitration provision. Consequently, arbitration agreements were not formed with any of the plaintiffs. The court granted the petitions and directed the trial court to vacate its orders granting Dexcom’s motions to compel arbitration and to enter new orders denying the motions. View "Herzog v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Brady Helm, tripped and fell on a wire cable while walking to a recreational area at Diaz Lake. The wire cable was suspended between two wooden poles and was intended to prevent vehicles from accessing a pedestrian pathway. Helm sued the County of Inyo and the City of Los Angeles, alleging causes of action for dangerous condition on public property, premises liability, and negligence.The defendants prevailed on summary judgment in the Superior Court of Inyo County, arguing that Helm tripped while walking along a trail, and thus, they were immune under Government Code section 831.4 (trail immunity). Helm appealed the final judgment, contending that trail immunity does not apply in this case and that disputed questions of material facts exist regarding the alleged dangerous condition of the subject public property.The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One State of California, disagreed with Helm’s first contention and concluded that the trial court did not err in granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment because trail immunity barred Helm’s claims. The court found that the area where Helm fell was a trail for purposes of section 831.4 and the wooden poles and wire cable were incorporated into the design of the trail. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Helm v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between neighbors in a six-unit condominium building. Robert Dubac, the plaintiff, and Sandra Itkoff and Jonathan Diamond, the defendants, were owners of units in the same building. The defendants made several statements about Dubac, accusing him of various wrongdoings, including discrimination, self-dealing, acting in bad faith, racism, and harassment of their daughter. These statements were made through emails and oral communications to other residents of the building, the homeowners association, and an insurance carrier.The case was initially heard in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Dubac sued Itkoff and Diamond for defamation, infliction of emotional distress, interference with economic advantage, and civil harassment. In response, the defendants filed a special motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute, arguing that their statements were made in connection with a public issue. The trial court denied most of the motion, ruling that the majority of the statements did not meet the first prong of the anti-SLAPP analysis, which required a showing that the statements were connected to a public issue.The case was then brought before the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Eight. The defendants appealed the trial court's refusal to strike the majority of Dubac's suit. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision, concluding that the dispute did not involve a public issue or an issue of public interest. The court reasoned that the dispute was essentially a private feud between neighbors and did not contribute to public discussion of public issues. The court also noted that the audience for the defendants' statements was small and confined to the building's residents and associated parties, further indicating that the matter was not of public interest. View "Dubac v. Itkoff" on Justia Law

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In March 2017, Monique Howard, the plaintiff, stayed at a hotel operated by the defendant, Accor Management US, Inc. During her stay, the handheld shower head in her room fell apart, cutting her and causing her to fall. Howard subsequently sued the hotel for negligence and premises liability. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff could not establish that the hotel had actual or constructive notice of any problem with the handheld shower head. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County granted summary judgment, concluding that the plaintiff did not provide evidence to establish a triable issue of material fact regarding the hotel's notice of the shower head's unsafe condition.On appeal to the Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Eight, the plaintiff argued that summary judgment was inappropriate because her evidence raised triable issues regarding the hotel's knowledge of the unsafe shower wand. She also argued that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applied. However, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision, stating that the plaintiff's evidence was insufficient to raise a triable issue on notice. The court also rejected the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. Regarding the plaintiff's reliance on an expert's declaration, the court sustained most of the defendant's evidentiary objections, finding the expert's conclusions speculative and lacking foundation. Therefore, the court concluded that the evidence did not establish a triable issue of material fact as to the hotel’s notice of a flaw in the shower wand, thus affirming the trial court's decision. View "Howard v. Accor Management US" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, Ali Shalghoun, was the administrator of a residential facility, Hargis Home, where a client of the North Los Angeles County Regional Center, Inc. (the Regional Center), a man identified as J.C. with developmental disabilities and a history of violent outbursts, was housed. In May 2018, Hargis Home notified the Regional Center that it could no longer meet J.C.'s needs and requested help in finding alternative placement for him. While the Regional Center was searching for a new facility, J.C. attacked Shalghoun in July 2018, causing him serious injuries. Shalghoun sued the Regional Center for his injuries, arguing that it had a duty to protect him from harm.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District, however, disagreed. It held that the Regional Center had no legal duty of care towards Shalghoun. While the Regional Center has a responsibility to provide services and support to developmentally disabled persons, it does not have a duty to protect the employees of a residential facility. The court further noted that the Regional Center could not unilaterally relocate J.C. without the agreement of another facility to accept him. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Regional Center. View "Shalghoun v. North Los Angeles County Regional Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Ty Whitehead, participated in a training ride for the AIDS LifeCycle fundraiser in March 2017. During the ride, Whitehead hit a pothole on a road maintained by the defendant, the City of Oakland, causing him to flip over his bicycle handlebars, hit his head on the pavement, and suffer injury. Prior to the ride, Whitehead had signed a release agreement which exempted the “owners/lessors of the course or facilities used in the Event” from future liability. Whitehead sued the City of Oakland for injuries he suffered due to the pothole. The trial court granted the City's motion for summary judgment, concluding the release was enforceable. Whitehead appealed, arguing the release was invalid because it concerned a matter of public interest, and that the court erred by not addressing whether there was a triable issue of fact as to the City's gross negligence.The Court of Appeal of the State of California First Appellate District Division Three affirmed the trial court's decision. The court found that the release was valid and enforceable because the cycling event was a nonessential, recreational activity that did not affect the public interest within the meaning of Civil Code section 1668. The court also found that Whitehead failed to adequately raise and support a claim of gross negligence. View "Whitehead v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Court of Appeal of the State of California First Appellate District Division Four, the plaintiffs, thousands of individuals who suffered adverse effects from the use of a prescription drug, TDF, made by Gilead Life Sciences, Inc., brought a claim of negligence and fraudulent concealment against Gilead. The plaintiffs alleged that while Gilead was developing TDF, it discovered a similar, but chemically distinct and safer potential drug, TAF. However, Gilead allegedly decided to defer development of TAF because it was concerned that the immediate development of TAF would reduce its financial return from TDF. Gilead sought summary judgment on the ground that in order to recover for harm caused by a manufactured product, the plaintiff must prove that the product was defective. The trial court denied Gilead's motion for summary judgment in its entirety.In reviewing this case, the appellate court held that the trial court was correct to deny Gilead's motion for summary judgment on the negligence claim. The court reasoned that a manufacturer's duty of reasonable care can extend beyond the duty not to market a defective product. The court found that the factual basis of the plaintiffs' claim was that Gilead knew TAF was safer than TDF, but decided to defer development of TAF to maximize its profits. The court held that if Gilead's decision to postpone development of TAF indeed breached its duty of reasonable care to users of TDF, then Gilead could potentially be held liable.However, the appellate court reversed the trial court's decision regarding plaintiffs' claim for fraudulent concealment. The court concluded that Gilead's duty to plaintiffs did not extend to the disclosure of information about TAF, as it was not available as an alternative treatment for HIV/AIDS at the time the alleged concealment occurred. Consequently, the court granted in part and denied in part Gilead's petition for a writ of mandate, directing the superior court to vacate its order denying Gilead's motion for summary judgment and to enter a new order denying summary adjudication of the negligence claim but granting summary adjudication of the fraudulent concealment claim. View "Gilead Tenofovir Cases" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Two, the plaintiff, Ali Shalghoun, appealed a judgment from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in favor of the defendant, North Los Angeles County Regional Center, Inc. Shalghoun, an administrator of a residential facility for developmentally disabled persons, sued the regional center after he was attacked by a resident at the facility. The resident, known as J.C., was a client of the regional center, which had arranged for his placement at the facility.The central issue in the case was whether the regional center had a legal duty to protect the employees of a residential facility from a developmentally disabled person who had been placed there. The plaintiff argued that the regional center was negligent in failing to immediately move J.C. to another facility after being informed that the facility could no longer provide the level of care he required.However, the appellate court affirmed the lower court's decision, finding that the regional center did not owe a duty of care to the facility's employees. The court reasoned that the regional center's duty, as mandated by the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, was to provide services and support to the developmentally disabled person (the "consumer"), not to protect third-party employees at a residential facility. The court also noted that the regional center did not have the unilateral power to relocate a consumer; it depended on the acceptance of the consumer by another residential facility.According to the court, the imposition of liability on regional centers for injuries inflicted by consumers could potentially drive the centers out of business, disrupt the entire system of services and support for developmentally disabled individuals, and contradict the Act's mandate to place consumers in the least restrictive environment. The court therefore concluded that public policy factors weighed against recognizing a duty of care running from the regional center to the employees of the residential facility. View "Shalghoun v. North Los Angeles County Regional Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this personal injury case from the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, the plaintiff, Mark Olson, sued the defendant, Patrick Saville, for injuries sustained while both were surfing at Miramar Beach in Montecito. Olson claimed that Saville negligently caused his injuries by "dropping in" on his wave, failing to control his board, and not using a leash on his longboard. Saville moved for summary judgment, arguing that Olson's claim was barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk, which typically applies to sports and recreational activities involving inherent risks of injury.The court granted Saville's motion, holding that the doctrine of primary assumption of risk barred liability for injuries caused by a negligent surfer to a fellow surfer because those injuries were caused by risks inherent in the sport of surfing. The court found that the inherent risks of surfing included surfers "dropping in" on other surfers, not wearing leashes while riding longboards, and using surfboards with sharp fins.On appeal, Olson argued that there were triable issues of material fact as to whether Saville was protected by the primary assumption of risk doctrine. The appellate court disagreed, finding that no reasonable trier of fact could determine that Saville's conduct fell outside the protection of the primary assumption of risk doctrine. The court affirmed the lower court's decision, concluding that imposing liability in these circumstances would likely chill vigorous participation in surfing. View "Olson v. Saville" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, John GM Roe, a childhood sexual assault victim, filed an action against three "Doe" defendants, including his former Boy Scout leader. The Superior Court of Fresno County dismissed his complaint with prejudice, citing failure to timely file certificates of merit as required by California's Code of Civil Procedure, section 340.1, subdivisions (f) and (g). The court also claimed that the statute of limitations had expired by the time Roe filed compliant certificates.Roe appealed, arguing that Emergency rule 9, enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, tolled the statute of limitations governing his claims. This rule, he contended, meant that when the court dismissed his complaint, the limitations period had not yet expired. Therefore, he insisted that the dismissal should have been without prejudice so he could refile his complaint and certificates of merit before the limitations period ended.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fifth Appellate District agreed with Roe. The court ruled that section 340.1, subdivision (q), which created a three-year revival period for all civil claims arising from childhood sexual assault that were barred as of January 1, 2020, is part of a statute of limitations. Consequently, Emergency rule 9, which tolled statutes of limitations for civil causes of action that exceed 180 days, also tolled section 340.1, subdivision (q)’s three-year revival period. This interpretation extended the deadline to file childhood sexual assault claims to June 27, 2023. As such, the court reversed the trial court’s order dismissing Roe's claims with prejudice, allowing him to refile his complaint and certificates of merit. View "Roe v. Doe 1" on Justia Law