Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Appellants, adult children of Decedent, who died in 2010 of mesothelioma allegedly caused by exposure to asbestos in brakes he purchased from Pep Boys, an automotive parts retailer, brought claims for wrongful death, strict liability, and negligence. The trial court rejected appellants’ wrongful death claims as untimely and a claim for punitive damages. The court awarded $213,052 as economic damages but found that amount was entirely offset by settlements with other parties. The court of appeal reversed in part, agreeing that the trial court erred in failing to award damages for the costs of providing home health services to Decedent and his wife and erred in awarding Pep Boys expert fees under section 998. The court rejected claims that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing Pep Boys to amend its answer to correct a previously-asserted statute of limitations defense; erred in granting Pep Boys’ motion for judgment under section 631.8; and erred in applying offsets to the award of economic damages based on prior settlements without allocating between estate claims and wrongful death claims. Damages recoverable in a survival action brought by a decedent’s personal representative or successor in interest are limited to damages that the decedent incurred before death and do not include “ ‘lost years’ damages” that would have been incurred had the decedent survived. View "Williams v. The Pep Boys Manny Moe & Jack of California" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in this negligence action brought by plaintiff alleging that her yoga instructor, while adjusting her posture in class, injured her. In this case, defendants filed expert declarations stating that defendants had not breached the standard of care and that the instructor had not caused plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff offered no experts of her own, but opposed the motion with her own deposition testimony and medical records. The court held that plaintiff failed to show a triable issue of material fact that defendants breached the applicable standard of care, and plaintiff failed to show a triable issue of material fact that defendants caused her injuries. View "Webster v. Claremont Yoga" on Justia Law

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Richard Fournier and Wendy Crossland (collectively, the Fourniers) filed an action (the Fournier case) against Monster Energy Company (Monster) and a related defendant. The Fourniers were represented by the R. Rex Parris Law Firm (Parris) and Bruce Schechter (collectively the Attorneys). In 2015, the Fourniers and Monster entered into an agreement to settle the Fournier case. The parties agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. Brenda Craig was a reporter for Lawyersandsettlements.com. Lawyersandsettlements.com “provide[s] a source of information about [readers’] legal rights” and also “help[s] lawyers reach out to the clients they seek.” Shortly after the Fournier case settled, Craig interviewed Schechter about cases his office was handling that involved energy drinks. In general, Schechter discussed other cases against Monster, as well as what he viewed as the negative health effects of Monster’s products. Lawyersandsettlements.com published an online article that included statements Schechter told Craig. Lawyersandsettlements.com sent the leads that it generated to attorneys who had signed up to be “advertisers.” It had “forwarded hundreds of thousands of requests for legal representation directly to lawyers.” One employee of Lawyersandsettlements.com was also a non-lawyer employee of Parris. Monster filed this action against the Attorneys, asserting causes of action for: (1) breach of contract, (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (3) unjust enrichment, and (4) promissory estoppel. The Attorneys filed a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (SLAPP motion), arguing, among other things, that Monster could not show a probability of prevailing on its breach of contract claim because they were not parties to the settlement agreement. In opposition, Monster argued, among other things: (1) Schechter’s statements were commercial speech and therefore unprotected, and (2) the Attorneys were “[c]learly” bound by the settlement agreement. The trial court denied the motion with respect to the breach of contact cause of action but granted it with respect to the other causes of action. When a settlement agreement provides that plaintiffs and their counsel agree to keep the terms of the agreement confidential, and plaintiffs' counsel signs the agreement under the words "approved as to form and content," the Court of Appeal held plaintiffs' counsel could not be liable to defendant for breach of the confidentiality provision. View "Monster Energy Co. v. Schechter" on Justia Law

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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