Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Plaintiff, the lessee under a lease for commercial premises, filed suit against defendants, alleging causes of action for premises liability and negligence after he fell down a staircase after hitting his head on a beam in the doorway at the top of the staircase. Plaintiff alleged that his fall was caused by the inherently dangerous condition of the staircase due to numerous building code violations.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment based on the exculpatory clause in the lease. In this case, plaintiff alleges ordinary, passive negligence -- the failure to discover a dangerous condition or to perform a duty imposed by law. The court held that the exculpatory clause shields the lessor from liability for ordinary negligence; its language is clear that the lesser shall not be liable for injury to the person of lessee; and these circumstances make this a case where, when the parties knowingly bargain for the protection at issue, the protection should be afforded. View "Garcia v. D/AQ Corp." on Justia Law

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Where, as here, a child of the landowner is living with the landowner on the landowner's property and the landowner has consented to this living arrangement, the child's express invitation of a person to come onto the property operates as an express invitation by the landowner within the meaning of Civil Code section 846, subdivision (d)(3), unless the landowner has prohibited the child from extending the invitation.Appellant filed suit against her friend and his parents after she was injured while riding her motorcycle on the parents' motocross track. The jury found that the parents had no liability for the collision or the allegedly negligent medical care provided to appellant after the collision. The court held that the friend's express invitation to appellant stripped his parents of the immunity that would otherwise have been provided to them by the recreational use immunity defense under section 846. In this case, the trial court erroneously instructed the jury that the express invitation exception to the immunity defense applies only if one of the friend's parents, i.e., the actual landowner, expressly invited appellant onto the property. The court held that the erroneous instruction was prejudicial to appellant. Furthermore, the trial court erroneously instructed the jury that the express invitation must be for a recreational purpose. The court reversed as to the general negligence and premises liability causes of action. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "Hoffman v. Young" on Justia Law

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After Katie Dix ingested an illegal drug and collapsed while at a Live Nation electronic music festival, she was later pronounced dead from Ecstasy-related dehydration. Katie's parents filed suit against Live Nation for negligence and other causes of action. The trial court granted summary judgment for Live Nation. Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because Live Nation owed a duty of care to music festival attendees and that triable issues of material fact exist on their negligence cause of action.The Court of Appeal reversed and held that, because of its special relationship with festival attendees, an operator of electronic music festivals like Live Nation owes a duty of reasonable care to festival attendees. The court explained that Live Nation's argument that it did not owe Katie a duty because she voluntarily consumed an illegal drug and died from acute drug intoxication may be relevant to causation or comparative fault, but not duty. Furthermore, after examining the Rowland factors, the court held that the foreseeability factors and policy factors weigh against finding an exception to the legal duty of ordinary care for operators of electronic music festivals. Finally, triable issues of fact for the jury to decide preclude summary judgment regarding breach of duty and causation. View "Dix v. Live Nation Entertainment, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Union Pacific under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), alleging that he developed a sarcoma as a result of his exposure to diesel fumes and other carcinogenic substances while working as a diesel mechanic for Union Pacific (and for a predecessor, Southern Pacific) for 31 years. Plaintiff previously filed suit against Union Pacific for damages arising from an unrelated 2007 accident and the parties settled that case in 2010. As part of the settlement, plaintiff executed a release of all claims arising from his employment, including any claims concerning exposure to toxic chemicals or fumes.The Court of Appeal held that the "bright line" rule in Babbitt v. Norfolk & W. Ry. (6th Cir. 1997) 104 F.3d 89, best conforms to the governing statute and to the United States Supreme Court opinions interpreting it. Under the rule, which the court partially adopted, a release of a FELA claim is valid only to the extent that it applies to a "bargained-for settlement of a known claim for a specific injury." In this case, plaintiff's settlement of claims from an accident in 2007 did not validly release claims in 2018 for alleged exposure to carcinogenic substances. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that the release at issue here purported to extend to future claims unrelated to the particular injury that plaintiff previously settled. To that extent, the court held that the release is invalid. View "Chacon v. Union Pacific Railroad" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a movie-making accident. After her father was injured diving in French Polynesia, Mira Chloe Prickett sued Bonnier Corporation and World Publications, LLC (collectively Bonnier) for compensatory and punitive damages under general maritime law. The trial court granted a judgment on the pleadings against her on the grounds that neither compensatory damages for loss of her father’s society nor punitive damages were available under general maritime law. Appellant Prickett did not cite on appeal any admiralty authority that would allow a child to recover loss of society damages for a nonfatal injury to a non-seaman on the high seas, and – without legislative impetus or compelling logic for such a result – the Court of Appeal declined to do so. The trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Prickett v. Bonnier Corp." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of respondent's motion to disqualify appellant's attorney, who is also appellant's mother and respondent's ex-wife, from representing appellant in all phases of tort litigation based primarily on the advocate-witness rule. In this case, appellant alleged that respondent sexually abused her from the time she was nine to 13 years old.The court held that the trial court reasonably concluded that the attorney is nearly certain to be a key witness at trial and thus the trial court acted within its discretion by effectuating the advocate-witness rule's purpose of avoiding factfinder confusion. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in applying the rule to disqualify the attorney not only at trial, but also in depositions and pretrial evidentiary hearings at which the attorney is likely to testify. The trial court also acted within its discretion in disqualifying the attorney from representing appellant in all other phases of the litigation on the ground of the attorney's potential misuse of confidential information obtained through her 17-year marriage with respondent. View "Doe v. Yim" on Justia Law

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Defendants were performing road construction work, implementing a “reversing lane closure” traffic control, reducing traffic to one lane. A flagger to control northbound traffic was positioned at the south end of the reversing lane closure on Latrobe Road, north of where it intersected with Ryan Ranch Road. Because the flagger was positioned north of the intersection, when the flagger stopped northbound traffic, that traffic could back up, extending south into the intersection. Plaintiff Kevin Shipp was driving south on Latrobe Road when he came to a stop behind two other vehicles. The vehicle two cars ahead of plaintiff was attempting to turn left onto Ryan Ranch Road, but it could not because northbound traffic, stopped by the flagger at the south end of the reversing lane closure, was stopped in the intersection. Seconds after plaintiff stopped, a vehicle driven by George Smithson rear-ended plaintiff’s vehicle. This case presented the question of whether a highway contractor controlling traffic on a public highway owed a duty of care to a motorist who was rear-ended when forced to stop behind a vehicle that was unable to turn left at an intersection that was blocked by stopped traffic controlled by the contractor. The Court of Appeal concluded the contractor here did indeed owe a duty of care. View "Shipp v. Western Engineering, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff, a pedestrian, tripped and fell in a pothole located on city-owned property, he filed suit against the City and Wally's Wine & Spirits for negligence and premise liability. The Court of Appeal held that the commercial business leasing the property that the driveway services did not exercise control over the location of the pothole (so as to create a duty of care to passersby) when the business has done no more than put the driveway and gutter to their "ordinary and accustomed" uses. Therefore, the trial court was correct in granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict to overturn a jury verdict that found the business partially liable for the pedestrian's injury. View "Lopez v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Schmitz's estate sued Avon, alleging that Schmitz used Avon’s perfumed talc powder products for around 20 years and that these products contained asbestos and caused Schmitz’s mesothelioma. The court granted Avon’s motion to quash service of summons, concluding that it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over Avon because Bader failed to establish that her claims were related to or arose from Avon’s forum contacts--Bader failed to establish that Avon sold, and Schmitz used, in California talc powder products that contained asbestos as opposed to talc powder products without asbestos. The court also found that Bader failed to show that Avon injected the particular products at issue into California in a manner that related to Schmitz’s acquisition and usage of those products.The court of appeal reversed. Bader satisfied her burden on the relatedness prong and Avon does not contest purposeful availment or argue that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over it would be unreasonable. Precedent does not require the estate to establish at the jurisdictional stage the alleged defect in the Avon products that she used. Bader contended and Avon never disputed that Avon’s sale of talc powder products through its sales representatives directly to Schmitz in California are contacts that Avon created with California that satisfy purposeful availment; the claims arise out of or relate to Avon’s California contacts. View "Bader v. Avon Products, Inc." on Justia Law

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Williams and a friend began a 30-mile bicycle ride. As they biked down a hill on a road maintained by Sonoma County, they encountered a pothole measuring four feet long, three feet four inches wide, and four inches deep. Williams was traveling at least 25 miles per hour and, by the time she saw the pothole, was unable to avoid it. She was thrown to the pavement, incurring serious injuries. The pothole had been reported to the County more than six weeks earlier. Williams sued the County for the dangerous condition of public property (Gov. Code 835). A jury found for Williams, allocating 70 percent of the fault to the County and 30 percent to Williams. Williams was awarded about $1.3 million in damages.The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting the County’s argument that Williams’s claim was barred by the primary assumption of risk doctrine, which precludes liability for injuries arising from those risks deemed inherent in a sport. Because the County already owed a duty to other foreseeable users of the road to repair the pothole, the policy reasons underlying the primary assumption of risk doctrine support the conclusion that the County owes a duty not to increase the inherent risks of long-distance, recreational cycling. View "Williams v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law