Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Plaintiff L.G. is the former nanny for M.B. and M.B.'s ex-husband, S.B. L.G. filed suit against M.B. for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress based upon statements that M.B. made about her in a declaration filed in support of M.B.'s request for a domestic violence restraining order in her dissolution action. On appeal, M.B. challenged the trial court's denial of her motion to dismiss under the anti-SLAPP statute. The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that the divorce proviso applied in this case. The court also held that M.B.'s success in obtaining two temporary restraining orders—one against S.B. in the dissolution action and one against L.G. in a separate civil harassment action—did not establish as a matter of law that there was "reasonable and probable cause" to believe that M.B.'s challenged statements about L.G. were true. Furthermore, the record did not contain sufficient information concerning the reasons for the two temporary restraining orders to permit a conclusion that the judges who granted those orders actually made any findings concerning the facts underlying the particular statements that L.G. challenged in this action. Finally, the court held that M.B.'s appeal was not frivolous or solely intended to cause unnecessary delay. Therefore, the court denied L.G.'s request for attorney fees. View "L.G. v. M.B." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Vons in a slip and fall action alleging negligence and premises liability claims. The court held that there was no admissible evidence to create a triable issue of material fact as to whether Vons was on constructive notice that the floor was slippery or otherwise dangerous; even if Vons did not conduct an inspection of the bakery area in the 10 to 15 minutes before the fall, plaintiffs failed to show that Vons would have discovered the condition had it conducted such an inspection; and Vons could not be held liable for failing to correct a condition it would not have discovered through the exercise of reasonable care. View "Peralta v. The Vons Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

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An employee must be driving a personal vehicle in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident to extend vicarious liability to an employer. Liability may be imposed on an employer for an employee's tortious conduct while driving to or from work, if at the time of the accident, the employee's use of a personal vehicle was required by the employer or otherwise provided a benefit to the employer. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment imposing liability on the employer in an action where an employee driving home from work on a day that he did not have any job duties outside of the office injured a third party. The court held that the evidence showed that the employee in this case was driving a routine commute to and from work on the day of the accident, and he was not required to use his personal vehicle for work purposes that day. Furthermore, the employer did not otherwise benefit from his use of a personal vehicle that day. Therefore, the employer was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Newland v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Michele Coyle sued defendan-respondent Historic Mission Inn Corporation (the Mission Inn) for negligence and premises liability. Coyle ate lunch with a friend on a patio at the Mission Inn. During lunch, a spider bit Coyle’s back. As a result of the spider bite, Coyle “was hospitalized with numbness and weakness in her extremities due to demyelination in [her] thoracic spine.” In the negligence and premises liability causes of action, Coyle alleged the Mission Inn “knew or should of known that spiders were prevalent in the outside patio area of its restaurants.” Coyle asserted the Mission Inn was aware or should have been aware of the risk the spiders posed to patrons. Coyle alleged the Mission Inn was negligent in failing to warn of the danger of the spiders, or in failing to take reasonable care to prevent spiders from coming into contact with patrons. Coyle sought compensatory damages. In its defense, Mission Inn asserted, “[A] hotel operator does not have an absolute duty to insure the safety of its guests, and this includes a duty to protect against spider bites.” The Mission Inn contended, it “did not owe [Coyle] a duty to protect her from the alleged black widow spider bite [because s]uch a duty would be unreasonable under the circumstances in this case” due to: (1) the Mission Inn following “pest control protocols that exceeded industry standards”; (2) the Mission Inn lacking any knowledge of black widow spiders on its dining patio; and (3) the costs of a duty outweighing the benefits of a duty. Further, the Mission Inn asserted it exercised reasonable care in this case because the Mission Inn “met and exceeded the industry standard of insect inspection and extermination.” The trial court granted the Mission Inn’s motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeal concluded after review of the trial court record, that the evidence presented did not preclude a finding in favor of Coyle on damages. Therefore, the trial court erred by granting summary judgment. The matter was reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Coyle v. Historic Mission Inn Corp." on Justia Law

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The driver of a motor vehicle who lawfully has the right of way is 1) not required to foresee "roadrage"; and 2) that cars merging on a freeway onramp will unsafely merge and then "slam" on the brakes in front of the driver. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment that defendants were not liable for plaintiff's injury pursuant to the sudden emergency doctrine. The court held that no triable issues of material fact existed as to whether the emergency was sudden and unexpected, defendants did not cause the emergency, and defendants' conduct was reasonable. View "Shiver v. Laramee" on Justia Law

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This lawsuit alleged a Trinity County deputy sheriff phoned citizens James and Norma Gund (who did not work for the County) and asked them to go check on a neighbor who had called 911 for help likely related to inclement weather. The Gunds unwittingly walked into a murder scene and were savagely attacked by the man who apparently had just murdered the neighbor and her boyfriend. The Gunds sued the County of Trinity and Corporal Ron Whitman for negligence and misrepresentation, alleging defendants created a special relationship with the Gunds and owed them a duty of care, which defendants breached by representing that the 911 call was likely weather-related and “probably no big deal” and by withholding information known to defendants suggesting a crime in progress. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiffs’ exclusive remedy was workers’ compensation, because Labor Code section 3366 provides that any person “engaged in the performance of active law enforcement service as part of the posse comitatus or power of the county, and each person . . . engaged in assisting any peace officer in active law enforcement service at the request of such peace officer, is deemed to be an employee of the public entity that he or she is serving or assisting in the enforcement of the law, and is entitled to receive compensation from the public entity in accordance with the provisions of this division [workers’ compensation]. . . .” Defendants’ motion did not acknowledge or address plaintiffs’ factual allegations that the deputy misled them about the nature of the activity, minimized the risk, lulled them into a false sense of security, and that plaintiffs relied on the deputy’s misrepresentations. Absent section 3366, these allegations potentially supported imposing tort liability against defendants. The Court of Appeal concluded section 3366 applied to this case, because responding to a 911 call for help of an uncertain nature is active law enforcement, regardless of the deputy’s misrepresentations. Since the Court concluded section 3366 barred plaintiffs’ lawsuit on the ground they were assisting in active law enforcement, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Gund v. County of Trinity" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in an action alleging that plaintiff was sodomized by his roommate while a patient in the adolescent psychiatric unit of the Hospital. The panel held that the Hospital did not foreclose as a matter of law plaintiff's theories of negligence raised on appeal and thus the burden did not shift to plaintiff to demonstrate the existence of a triable issue of material fact. The court reasoned that, even if plaintiff's evidence was properly excluded, summary judgment should not have been granted. In this case, the Hospital's expert did not opine specifically as to the standard of care regarding room assignments and did not dispose of this theory as a matter of professional negligence. In regard to the theory of hospital safety and negligent supervision, without any evidence of standards and requirements, there was no basis on which to determine the standard of care, the scope of the duty, or to conclude that the Hospital complied. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Doe v. Good Samaritan Hospital" on Justia Law

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This case raised issues concerning the legal obligations imposed on health care providers when a patient's health care directives conflict with the providers' opinions that the requested care would be medically ineffective and may cause harm. Elizabeth Alexander, a 70-year-old woman suffering from end-stage terminal pancreatic cancer, died four days after she was transferred from a skilled nursing facility to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla (Scripps). Elizabeth had an advance health care directive stating she wanted all measures taken to prolong her life. Defendants declined to provide Elizabeth with certain advanced life support measures on the basis that such measures would have been ineffective and caused her to suffer further harm. After Elizabeth's death, her estate (Estate) and children, Clenton Alexander, Christopher Alexander, and Jacquelyn McDermet (together, Plaintiffs), sued Scripps and numerous medical professionals, alleging Elizabeth died after defendants failed to provide the life-sustaining treatment and comfort care requested in her advance health care directive. The trial court resolved Plaintiffs' claims in favor of Defendants either by sustaining demurrers or granting summary judgment. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly sustained Defendants' demurrers to Plaintiffs' causes of action for elder abuse because Plaintiffs did not allege Defendants' conduct was sufficiently egregious to constitute elder abuse within meaning of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, and Plaintiffs did not meet the pleading requirements for their elder abuse claims. Plaintiffs' allegations, at best, stated a claim for professional negligence; the Court concluded the trial court properly granted Defendants summary judgment. On Plaintiffs' professional negligence and wrongful death claims, they could not defeat summary judgment because their expert did not set forth sufficient reasoning or explanation for his opinion that Defendants' breaches of the standard of care and violations of the Probate Code caused Elizabeth injury or death. Plaintiffs' negligent misrepresentation claims failed because the statements they relied upon were not positive assertions by Defendants, and Plaintiffs did not justifiably rely on Defendants' statements. The Court found Defendants were immune from liability under section 4740 for alleged violations of sections 4730 concerning communication of health care decisions; 4732 concerning recordation of information about a patient's capacity; 4736 concerning a health care provider's or institution's duties upon declining to comply with a patient's health care instructions; and 4742, subdivision (b) concerning liability for concealing or coercing or fraudulently inducing an individual to change an advance health care directive. View "Alexander v. Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla" on Justia Law

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An insured plaintiff who has chosen to be treated with doctors and medical facility providers outside his insurance plan shall be considered uninsured, as opposed to insured, for the purpose of determining economic damages. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly allowed the plaintiff in this case, as a plaintiff who is treating outside his insurance plan, to introduce evidence of his medical bills. The trial court also permitted defendants to present expert testimony that the reasonable and customary value of the services provided by the various medical facilities was substantially less than the amounts actually billed. The jury rejected the expert evidence and awarded plaintiff the billed amounts. The court held that defendants have not demonstrated error except with respect to two charges regarding the amounts billed by Ventura County Medical Center and American Medical Response. Accordingly, the court reduced the damage award and affirmed the judgment as modified. View "Pebley v. Santa Clara Organics" on Justia Law

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An insured plaintiff who has chosen to be treated with doctors and medical facility providers outside his insurance plan shall be considered uninsured, as opposed to insured, for the purpose of determining economic damages. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly allowed the plaintiff in this case, as a plaintiff who is treating outside his insurance plan, to introduce evidence of his medical bills. The trial court also permitted defendants to present expert testimony that the reasonable and customary value of the services provided by the various medical facilities was substantially less than the amounts actually billed. The jury rejected the expert evidence and awarded plaintiff the billed amounts. The court held that defendants have not demonstrated error except with respect to two charges regarding the amounts billed by Ventura County Medical Center and American Medical Response. Accordingly, the court reduced the damage award and affirmed the judgment as modified. View "Pebley v. Santa Clara Organics" on Justia Law