Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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After Katherine Rosen, a student at the University of California, was severely injured by another student who had been receiving treatment for mental illness, Rosen filed a negligence action against university personnel for failing to take reasonable measures to protect her from the foreseeable violent conduct. On remand from the California Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal denied defendants' petition for writ of mandate, except with respect to defendant Nicole Green. The court held that the standard of care governing a university's duty to protect its students from foreseeable acts of violence is the ordinary reasonable person standard; triable issues of fact exist as to whether defendants breached their duty of care to Rosen; and although Civil Code section 43.92 precludes liability against defendant Nicole Green, the remaining defendants are not statutorily immune from suit. View "The Regents of the University of California v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Amanda Meleski was injured when Albert Hotlen ran a red light and collided with her vehicle. Unfortunately, Hotlen was deceased at the time of the lawsuit, and he had no estate from which she could recover. However, Hotlen had purchased a $100,000 insurance policy from Allstate Insurance Company (Allstate) covering the accident. Meleski brought her action pursuant to Probate Code sections 550 through 555, which allowed her to serve her complaint on Allstate and recover damages from the Allstate policy, but limited her recovery of damages to the policy limits. Meleski attempted to settle the matter before going to trial by making an offer pursuant to section 998 for $99,999. The offer was not accepted, and at trial a jury awarded her $180,613.86. Because the offer was rejected and Meleski was awarded judgment in excess of her offer to compromise, she expected to recover her costs of suit, the postoffer costs of the services of expert witnesses, and other litigation costs. Meleski argued on appeal that she should have been able to recover costs in excess of the policy limits from Allstate, since it was Allstate that had refused to accept a reasonable settlement offer prior to trial. The trial court disagreed, and Meleski filed this appeal, arguing Allstate was a party within the meaning of section 998 for purposes of recovering costs, and that such costs were recoverable from the insurer despite the limitation on the recovery of “damages” found in Probate Code sections 550 through 555. The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed judgment: "Even though the decedent’s estate is the named defendant in actions under Probate Code sections 550 through 555, this is a legal fiction. The insurance company accepts service of process, hires and pays for counsel to defend the action, makes all decisions regarding settlement of the litigation, is responsible for paying the judgment in favor of the plaintiff if such judgment is rendered, and makes the decision whether or not to appeal an adverse judgment. There is no actual person or entity other than the insurance company to do any of this. This is a reality we will not ignore. Moreover, we find it manifestly unfair that section 998 could be employed by Allstate to recover costs from the plaintiff (which costs it would have no obligation to pay to the estate), but Allstate would have no corresponding responsibility to pay costs merely because it is not a named party." View "Meleski v. Estate of Hotlen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, cross-defendant and respondent David Morgan sued Daniel Pena and defendant, cross-complainant and appellant Claudia Davidson for battery. Davidson filed a cross-complaint against Morgan, alleging (1) assault, (2) battery, (3) conversion, and (4) invasion of privacy. Morgan and Davidson were next-door neighbors; Lynda Delgado was Morgan’s next-door neighbor on the other side of Morgan’s house. Delgado had seen Davidson’s dogs attempting to go under Morgan’s fence to enter Morgan’s property. Delgado had also seen Davidson’s dogs viciously bark at Morgan’s alpacas. One of Davidson’s dogs was a white, unneutered male pitbull, named Cotton. The other dog was a German Short Haired Pointer, named Coco. Coco and Cotton ran through a gate onto Morgan’s property. Delgado “heard really loud barking and just really scary sounding growling and barking” at the alpacas. Delgado then heard the alpacas’ stress cry. Morgan was able to capture Cotton while the dog was on his property; Davidson’s teenaged son pleaded with Morgan for Cotton back, but Morgan refused, vowing to hold the dog until animal control came to impound the dog. Morgan repeatedly told the Son, Pena, and Davidson to leave his property because they were trespassing. Pena opened the gate, and punched Morgan in the face. Morgan fell to the ground, on his knees. Morgan did not strike anyone. Pena and Davidson continued striking Morgan, approximately five to 10 times each. When Morgan was bent forward on the ground, Davidson kicked Morgan’s ribs, while Pena kicked Morgan’s head and upper torso. Morgan screamed. Davidson and Pena yelled profanities. The son remained on the other side of the gate, watching the beating. Davidson, Pena, and the son left with Cotton. Morgan laid on the ground moaning in pain. Within an hour, sheriff’s deputies arrived at Morgan’s house. A trial court found in favor of Morgan and awarded him $209,000. Davidson argued on appeal: (1) substantial evidence did not support a $100,000 punitive damages award; (2) the trial court erred by not permitting her to use a deposition transcript when attempting to impeach Morgan during cross-examination; and (3) the trial court erred by not applying the continuing violation doctrine to extend the statute of limitations for the invasion of privacy cause of action. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "Morgan v. Davidson" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Wife was married to Andres Marin (the victim). Wife and the victim shared four children: Andres, Jazmyn, Christal, and Julyan. On March 1, 2014, at approximately 6:30 a.m., the victim left the Family’s residence in Corona to ride his mountain bike up Santiago Peak in the Cleveland National Forest. The bike ride would be approximately 55 miles. The victim was scheduled to arrive back home at 2:00 p.m. When he did not, his Wife called police. Wife was able to speak to her husband on the trail: he had been injured, and she was concerned about falling temperatures the later it took him to come home. Riverside County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Zachary Hall was the “Incident Commander” for the case. Lieutenant Hall was not trained in search and rescue techniques, and dismissed Wife’s concerns for her husband’s safety, particularly overnight when the temperatures dropped. The victim ultimately was found by volunteers trained to respond to wilderness emergencies; he died of hypothermia. The victim’s family sued the County of Riverside (the County) for: (1) wrongful death; (2) negligence; (3) negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (4) a deprivation of constitutional rights (42 U.S.C. 1983). The trial court sustained the County’s demurrer to the complaint without leave to amend. The Family contended on appeal the trial court erred. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed as to the causes of action for wrongful death, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. In all other respects, the judgment was affirmed. View "Arista v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

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Hart suffers from mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos. In 1976-1977, Hart worked on a McKinleyville sewer project, for Christeve, cutting asbestos-cement pipe, manufactured by Johns-Manville. Hart had no access to information regarding the pipe supplier. Glamuzina a foreman on the project, testified that he observed Hart cut and bevel asbestos-cement pipe without any respiratory protection; knew Johns-Manville manufactured the pipe based on a stamp on the pipe; and believed Keenan supplied the pipe, based on seeing invoices that contained “their K.” Christeve’s then-bookkeeper testified that she did not know whether Keenan supplied asbestos-cement pipe to McKinleyville. Keenan’s corporate representative testified he had “no information” that Keenan sold anything that was used in the McKinleyville project.. A jury found that Hart was exposed to asbestos-cement pipe supplied by Keenan; awarded economic damages, non-economic damages, and damages for loss of consortium; and allocated fault among 10 entities, finding Keenan 17% at fault. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that Glamuzina’s testimony about the invoices was inadmissible hearsay and there was no other evidence Keenan supplied the pipes. The wording on these invoices constitued out-of-court statements offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted: that Keenan supplied the pipes. Glamuzina lacked personal knowledge of who the supplier was. View "Hart v. Keenan Properties, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of a new trial in an action where the jury found in favor of the school district on claims related to a student's fall from a tree located on the campus of his middle school. The court held that the trial court did not clearly err by prohibiting additional mini-opening statements and case specific facts under Code of Civil Procedure section 222.5. The court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's for cause challenges to two jurors. View "Alcazar v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jose Sandoval was severely burned by an "arc flash" from a live circuit breaker while working with contractor TransPower Testing, Inc. and its principal Frank Sharghi, at a cogeneration plant owned by defendant Qualcomm Incorporated (Qualcomm). The jury returned a special verdict finding that Qualcomm retained control over the safety conditions at the jobsite; that it negligently exercised such control; and that its negligence was a substantial factor in causing Sandoval's harm. The jury found Sandoval's employer, ROS Electrical Supply (ROS), not liable, and apportioned fault between the defendants. Following the verdict, Qualcomm moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and for a new trial. The trial court denied the JNOV motion but granted the motion for new trial on the theory the jury had improperly apportioned liability. Qualcomm appealed order denying its JNOV motion, arguing Sandoval failed to proffer any evidence to show that Qualcomm, as the hirer of an independent contractor, "affirmatively contributed" to Sandoval's injury under the "retained control" exception to the general rule that a hirer is not liable for the injuries of an independent contractor's employees or its subcontractors; the order only partially granting its new trial motion; and the original judgment. Sandoval appealed the order granting Qualcomm a new trial on the apportionment of fault issue. The Court of Appeal concluded substantial evidence supported the jury's finding that Qualcomm negligently exercised retained control over the safety conditions at the jobsite. Therefore, the Court concluded the trial court properly denied Qualcomm's JNOV. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court properly exercised its discretion when it granted Qualcomm a limited new trial only on the issue of apportionment of fault as between Qualcomm and TransPower. View "Sandoval v. Qualcomm Incorporated" on Justia Law

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The presumption of parentage is rebuttable and a non-biological parent can be a presumed parent. After Brian Pickett died, his partner, two biological children, and his partner's child, A.G., filed a wrongful death action against defendants. The trial court held that A.G. lacked standing to sue, and entered judgment against him. The Court of Appeal reversed the grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that the record did not rebut the presumption that Brian Pickett was A.G.'s natural parent. In this case, from the time A.G. was one, Pickett was the only father he knew and unrebutted testimony established that Pickett held A.G. out as his child. View "A.G. v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Defendant-respondent YMCA of San Diego County had a number of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) on its premises, for the emergency use of its members, employees and users of the premises. Plaintiffs-appellants were the Jabo family, whose 43-year-old husband and father, Adeal Jabo (Jabo) died of sudden cardiac arrest after playing soccer at an enclosed East County field owned by Respondent and regularly rented to a private organization of which Jabo was a member, the Over 40 Chaldean Soccer League of San Diego (the League). At issue before the Court of Appeal was whether additional statutory or common law duties were owed by Respondent to ensure that its trained staff members utilize and apply AEDs under circumstances in which an adult is having an on-site medical emergency that appears to be sudden cardiac arrest, while the adult was a permissive user of the facility whose group rented an outdoor portion of Respondent's soccer field. Appellants' filed a wrongful death complaint against Respondent, they seek damages on theories of ordinary and gross negligence arising from alleged violations of statutory and common law duties, based on Jabo's status as a League member using the facility's field. Appellants alleged that although one of Respondent's part-time employees was assigned to serve as scorekeeper for the League's games that evening, he was away from the field at the moment that Jabo collapsed and did not bring one of the five AED devices it had acquired to the field. Respondent did not dispute that for its own scheduled events, its policy was to have one of its staff members check out and bring an AED to the field. The trial court ultimately granted a defense summary judgment on the complaint, finding that Appellants could not establish an essential element of duty. The court dismissed Respondent's cross-complaint, finding that the release was unenforceable. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court correctly declined to impose an additional common law duty of care and affirmed summary judgment. View "Jabo v. YMCA of San Diego Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Teresa Martine hurt her knee while skiing at Heavenly Valley Ski Resort and was being helped down the mountain by a ski patrolman when the rescue sled in which she was riding went out of control and hit a tree. Martine sued resort owner Heavenly Valley Limited Partnership (Heavenly) for negligence and for damages arising from her injuries. Heavenly moved for summary judgment arguing that there was no evidence that its employee had been negligent in taking Martine down the mountain thus causing the sled to hit the tree and that, in any event, Martine’s action was barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk. The trial court granted Heavenly’s motion and entered judgment accordingly. Martine argued on appeal: (1) there was evidence to support her claim that employee was negligent; (2) her action was not barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk; (3) the trial court erred in not allowing her to amend her complaint to allege negligence and damages arising from a second injury she incurred the same day while being taken off the mountain; and (4) the trial court erred in not granting her motion for a new trial. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Martine v. Heavenly Valley L.P." on Justia Law