Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order dismissing plaintiff's complaint against Princess Cruise Lines. Plaintiff's action stemmed from injuries he suffered while he was a passenger on a cruise ship operated by Princess. The court held that the lack of a reporter's transcript did not require affirmances based on an inadequate record; although plaintiff's action was not filed "in a forum outside this state," the statutes governing forum non conveniens motions apply here to determine the enforceability of the forum selection clause; the forum selection clause in this case was mandatory and required that suit be brought in federal court; and the court rejected plaintiff's claims that the enforcement of the mandatory selection clause would be unreasonable. View "Korman v. Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd." on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment in an action alleging that defendant, an orthopedic surgeon, committed medical malpractice in connection with his treatment of plaintiff's fractured wrist. The court held that the inferences plaintiff suggested could not reasonably be derived from a barebones statement that defendant's treatment caused plaintiff's further deformity. Therefore, plaintiff failed to present admissible evidence to controvert defendant's evidence that causation could not be established. View "Fernandez v. Alexander" on Justia Law

by
Linton fell from her wheelchair while being transported in a county paratransit van and sustained injuries. Linton alleged violations of the California Disabled Persons Act (Civ. Code 54, DPA) and the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code 51) and sought general damages, medical and related expenses, interest, costs of suit, and statutory attorney fees. Settlement attempts failed because defendants insisted on a global settlement amount whereas Linton’s counsel demanded a settlement amount for damages and a separate right to seek attorney fees. After several years of litigation, Linton made a section 998 offer, which provided for judgment in the amount of $250,001, “Plus costs under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032 and attorney’s fees allowed by law as determined by the court.” Defendants accepted Linton’s offer. Defendants opposed Linton’s fee motion arguing that the DPA and Unruh Act require a finding of liability, and the section 998 offer did not include such a finding. The trial court agreed. The court of appeal affirmed. While Linton’s section 998 offer provided her the right to seek attorney fees as “allowed by law,” no such fees were in fact “allowed by law.” View "Linton v. County of Contra Costa" on Justia Law

by
This appeal stemmed from a wrongful death action alleging that a humidifier cleaning agent manufactured in Korea and sold in California caused Sunja An's death. Jayone was a California importer and distributor of Korean consumer products that sold the cleaning agent to a Los Angeles retail store where An allegedly purchased the product. Jayone filed a complaint against Aekyung, a Korean manufacturer and distributor of personal care and household products that sold the cleaning agent to Jayone. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of Aekyung's motion to quash service of summons for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that Aekyung purposefully availed itself of the benefits of doing business in California and reasonably could expect to be subject to the specific jurisdiction of California courts. The court also held that the trial court applied the relatedness prong too narrowly, and that Jayone met its burden of showing that plaintiffs' wrongful death action was related to or arises out of Aekyung's sale of the Humidifier Mate. Finally, Aekyung has not made the requisite showing that jurisdiction would be unfair or unreasonable in California. View "Jayone Foods v. Aekyung Industrial Co. Ltd." on Justia Law

by
Pro se plaintiff Elena Dogan appeals after the trial court granted a motion for nonsuit brought by her landlord, defendant Comanche Hills Apartments, Inc., and related individuals and entities at the close of her case. Dogan alleged she was injured when some concrete stairs at the apartment complex broke under her foot, causing her to fall. She claimed defendants were responsible for her injuries based on their control of the premises. Shortly after the filing of her initial complaint, the superior court granted Dogan a fee waiver. The case ultimately went to trial on a negligence theory. Several months before trial, Dogan filed a request to waive additional court fees and specifically asked for a waiver of court reporter fees. The request was denied with the stamped notation, "The Court does not provide Court Reporter Services." As a result, there was no court reporter at trial and no reporter's transcript on appeal. Dogan sought to challenge the trial court's decision to grant a nonsuit in defendants' favor. Defendants argued in response that Dogan could not establish error due to the absence of a reporter's transcript. After initial briefing in this case was complete, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Jameson v. Desta, 5 Cal.5th 594 (2018), holding that the San Diego Superior Court's policy on providing court reporters "is invalid as applied to plaintiff and other fee waiver recipients, and that an official court reporter, or other valid means to create an official verbatim record for purposes of appeal, must generally be made available to in forma pauperis litigants upon request." As defendants appropriately conceded in their post-Jameson supplemental brief, Jameson applied retroactively to all cases, including this one, not yet final on appeal. Because there was no way to now provide a reporter for a trial that has already occurred, the Court of Appeal determined it had no choice but to reverse and remand for a new trial at which an official court reporter would be furnished. View "Dogan v. Comanche Hills Apartments" on Justia Law

by
A jury convicted former United States Postal Service employee Robert Hamilton of three counts of making a false or fraudulent statement for the purpose of obtaining compensation under the California workers' compensation law. On appeal, Hamilton argued: (1) because, as a federal employee, his workers' compensation benefits were provided under the Federal Employment Compensation Act, the doctrine of federal preemption barred him from being prosecuted under California law for any offense alleging fraud in obtaining federal workers' compensation benefits under FECA; and (2) regardless of whether the prosecution was preempted, his conviction was supported by insufficient evidence under Insurance Code section 1871.4 (a)(1) because that statute applied only to false or fraudulent statements made for the purpose of obtaining compensation afforded under the California workers' compensation law, which was not applicable to him as a federal employee. On the issue of federal preemption, the Court of Appeal concluded that Hamilton did not meet his burden to establish that the State's prosecution of him was preempted. With respect to the sufficiency of the evidence, the Court agreed with the State's concession that insufficient evidence supported Hamilton's convictions because he did not receive compensation under the California workers' compensation law. The Court declined to exercise discretion to modify the judgment to impose convictions on a lesser included offense. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed. View "California v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff was injured while he was a passenger in a pickup truck involved in a rollover accident, plaintiff filed suit against the driver (his father), the corporation employed by the driver, and an affiliated corporation that owned the vehicle. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of summary adjudication for the defendant corporations on a respondeat superior claim. The court held that a reasonable trier of fact could find the driver was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred. In this case, the evidence showed that defendants required the driver to be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond immediately to cell phone calls for repairs and maintenance needed at the ranches, farms and dairies operated by defendants. Furthermore, there was conflicting evidence about whether the driver was required to use the company-owned vehicle, which contained tools and spare parts, at all times so he could respond quickly to call for repairs at defendants' various locations. View "Moreno v. Visser Ranch, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After a non-USC student filed suit against the University and others for negligence, the trial court denied USC's motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeal granted USC's motion for a peremptory writ of mandate challenging the denial and held that USC had no duty to protect members of the public from the conduct of a third party at an off-campus fraternity house. In this case, the non-student was injured when she was dancing on a makeshift raised platform and was bumped by another partygoer, causing her to fall to the ground and suffer injuries. View "University of Southern California v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
The Salinas intersection's crosswalk, on city property, was painted in 1997 and never repainted. An ordinance provided that the city “shall . . . maintain crosswalks at intersections . . . by appropriate . . . marks . . . .” By 2013, the crosswalk had faded. Guernsey was in that crosswalk when a truck (driven by Capulin) struck and severely injured her. Guernsey sued the city and Capulin, alleging that city property was in a dangerous condition. (Gov. Code 835.) Over Guernsey’s objections, the court gave a special jury instruction, refused to give jury instructions requested by Guernsey on negligence per se and mandatory duty based on the ordinance, and provided a special verdict form containing two fact-specific questions on dangerous condition. The jury returned a multi-million dollar verdict against Capulin, but found for the city on the fact-specific questions. The court awarded the city its expert witness fees, finding that its $250,000 pretrial offer was reasonable. The court of appeal reversed. The court prejudicially erred in giving the city’s requested instruction, which read: “Plaintiffs have not alleged that the design of the Driveway created a dangerous condition. Instead, Plaintiffs have alleged that it was the City’s failure to maintain the crosswalk lines and the bushes that created a dangerous condition. To find that the Driveway presented a dangerous condition, you cannot rely on characteristics of the Driveway itself (e.g., the placement of the stop sign, the left turn pocket, and the presence of the pink cement). Although you can consider those elements of the Driveway when weighing whether or not the faded crosswalk lines and bushes created a dangerous condition, you cannot rely on those design elements of the intersection to find that a dangerous condition existed.” View "Guernsey v. City of Salinas" on Justia Law

by
The Modisettes were traveling in their car on Interstate 35W in Denton County, Texas. Wilhelm was also driving on I-35, while using the FaceTime application on his Apple iPhone. Wilhelm crashed into the Modisettes’ car, which had stopped due to police activity. The accident caused severe injuries to each of the Modisettes; Moriah, age five, subsequently died. Police found Wilhelm’s iPhone at the scene with FaceTime still activated. The Modisettes sued, alleging that Apple’s failure to design the iPhone to lock out the ability of drivers to use the FaceTime application while driving resulted in their injuries. The complaint incorporated data that show the compulsive/addictive nature of smartphone use and concerning the number of accidents that involve smartphone use. They alleged that Apple had failed to warn users and that Apple applied for a patent for its lockout technology in 2008, to disable the ability of a handheld computing device to perform certain functions, such as texting, while one is driving. The patent issued in 2014. Apple released Wilhelm’s iPhone 6 model in September 2014; FaceTime was a “factory-installed, non-optional application.” The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the action. Apple did not owe the Modisettes a duty of care. The Modisettes cannot establish that Apple’s design of the iPhone constituted a proximate cause of their injuries. View "Modisette v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law