Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

by
After Philip and Febi Mettias died from complications associated with mesothelioma, their children brought a wrongful death action against various defendants. The jury returned a special verdict in favor of Honeywell and Pep Boys, and plaintiffs appealed the verdict solely as to Pep Boys. The Court of Appeal held that any error in denying plaintiffs' request to instruct the jury pursuant to negligence instructions was harmless where it was not reasonably probable that a different result would have been reached. In this case, there was no evidence to support a theory of negligence against Pep Boys other than its alleged violation of its duty of care as a supplier of asbestos-containing brakes. The court also held that plaintiffs' contention that the trial court's oral reading of certain instructions was erroneous and prejudicial was without merit. View "Mettias v. The Pep Boys" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Clara and Vaughn Stokes filed suit alleging that defendant, Dr. Ellen Baker M.D., negligently failed to diagnose a subarachnoid hemorrhage afflicting Ms. Stokes when she was presented to Dr. Baker's emergency department. Plaintiffs alleged that Dr. Baker's negligence caused Ms. Stokes's aneurysm to go untreated until it ruptured, resulting in the cognitive and neurological difficulties Ms. Stokes now experiences. The trial court granted Dr. Baker's motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that the trial court erred by concluding that plaintiffs' causation expert was not qualified to offer medical testimony under Health and Safety Code section 1799.110. The court held that section 1799.110's structure and legislative history confirm that the Legislature intended the expert qualification provision to ensure only that emergency physicians are subject to a fair and practical appraisal of the applicable standard of care. View "Stokes v. Baker" on Justia Law

by
In 2012, appellant Stephen Taulbee suffered catastrophic injuries after driving his Jeep into the back of a truck parked in a triangular-shaped zone demarcated by the freeway and the exit ramp (gore point). Taulbee and his wife (collectively “appellants”) sued respondent Carlos Aldana, the truck driver, and his employer, respondent EJ Distribution Corporation (collectively “respondents”). The trial court instructed the jury that it could find Aldana negligent per se for parking in the gore point, and that Taulbee could be found negligent per se for driving into the gore point. The court declined to instruct the jury that Aldana also could be found negligent per se for driving into the gore point to park his vehicle, although appellants requested the instruction. After the jury found Aldana was not negligent for parking in the gore point, the court entered judgment for respondents. Appellants argued the trial court erred in refusing to give their requested jury instruction, and that substantial evidence supported their theory Aldana was liable for the traffic collision by driving into the gore point. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court properly declined to give the requested instruction because Aldana’s negligent driving into the gore point was not a proximate cause of the traffic accident. In any event, the Court concluded any instructional error in failing to give the instruction was harmless given the jury’s finding that Aldana was not negligent for parking in the gore point. View "Taulbee v. EJ Distribution Corp." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the school district, alleging negligent supervision arising out of her claim that she was sexually abused by her high school teacher. Plaintiff also alleged that the school district knew or should have known of the danger posed by the teacher, and the school district's failure to respond appropriately to that knowledge resulted in harm to her. After the jury found in favor of the school district, plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court abused its discretion by finding that the only evidence relevant to this case was other instances of physical touching and excluding other relevant evidence, such as a sexual comment by the teacher to a student that was egregious enough to trigger an investigation by the school. The court also held that the error was prejudicial to plaintiff as it distorted much of the evidence presented and severely hampered plaintiff's ability to present her case. View "D.Z. v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff was injured while giving a tour of a noted architectural residence, he filed suit against James Goldstein and Ring the Alarm, LLC, the entity that hired him and hosted the party. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in determining that the firefighter's rule applied to Goldstein, because the circumstances presented in this case did not fit under the primary assumption of risk doctrine where plaintiff had not been expressly hired to manage the hazardous condition that injured him and there was no public policy in favor of applying such a bar. Therefore, the trial court erred by instructing the jury on this issue and including the defense as the first two questions on the special verdict. Accordingly, the court reversed the jury's findings in favor of Goldstein and remanded for a new trial. View "Harry v. Ring the Alarm, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Webcor, the general contractor for the rehabilitation of the California Memorial Football Stadium in Berkeley, hired ACCO to perform ventilation and plumbing services. Strouse, an ACCO employee, suffered a workplace injury when his leg fell into a 12-inch deep expansion joint after the plywood safety cover gave way. He sued Webcor for negligence. Webcor filed a cross-complaint against ACCO for indemnity. A jury found Webcor 100 percent liable for Strouse’s injuries. The court of appeal affirmed, upholding the trial court’s use of a jury instruction (CACI 1009B), which omits any language that a hirer “affirmatively contribute” to the plaintiff’s injury, and uses “substantial factor” causation in lieu of “affirmative contribution.” Counsels’ arguments properly directed the jury to determine whether Webcor affirmatively contributed to the injury and there was no indication of jury confusion. The court rejected an argument that the trial court erroneously instructed on negligence per se based on regulations promulgated under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act. The undisputed evidence established that Webcor affirmatively contributed to Strouse’s injuries, and the jury apportioned no fault to ACCO or Strouse, so the failure to instruct the jury regarding the precise language of “affirmative contribution,” even if erroneous, was harmless. View "Strouse v. Webcor Construction, L.P." on Justia Law

by
In 2015, Krein, a Tuolomne Water District employee, fell from a bridge and “sustained paraplegic injuries.” Du-All had contracted to periodically inspect the wastewater treatment plant, including the Bridge. Plaintiffs sued multiple defendants. All parties apparently fully complied, without compulsion, in discovery. On May 7, 2018, Du-All served its expert witness disclosure, identifying the two experts it expected to call at trial and plaintiffs served their expert witness disclosure. Following receipt of plaintiffs’ expert disclosure and the life care plan, Du-All retained supplemental experts to rebut the anticipated testimony. On May 25, Du-All served its supplemental expert disclosure (Code of Civil Procedure 2034.280), listing five experts. On June 4, plaintiffs moved to strike Du-All’s supplemental disclosure, arguing that Du-All should have disclosed all the experts in its original disclosure because these types of experts are commonly used in personal injury cases. Expert discovery had not begun. The parties stipulated to continue the trial date to October 29. The trial court ruled that four experts could not testify because they are not disclosed. The court of appeal vacated. Du-All disclosed the experts it expected to call at trial; when plaintiffs disclosed five other experts and a life care plan, Du-All designated experts to rebut plaintiffs’ position. "This is the precise reason why the Legislature codified the right to designate rebuttal experts." The trial court denied that right by placing limitations not found in the Code of Civil Procedure. View "Du-All Safety, LLC v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
Burch contracted mesothelioma following many years of installing asbestos-cement (A/C) pipe throughout California. Burch sued CertainTeed, an A/C pipe manufacturer, and won a verdict on claims for negligence, failure to warn, strict product liability, intentional concealment, and intentional misrepresentation. The court entered a judgment holding CertainTeed 100 percent liable for Burch’s economic damages and 62 percent liable for the noneconomic damages according to the jury’s fault apportionment. The court later granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on the intentional misrepresentation claim and denied JNOV on the intentional concealment claim. The court of appeal affirmed the JNOV order and upheld the trial court’s refusal to give a special jury instruction on the duty of Burch’s employers to provide a safe workplace and refusal to compel Burch to execute an acknowledgment of partial satisfaction of the judgment. The court reversed the original judgment and remanded with directions to enter a new judgment for Burch, holding CertainTeed jointly and severally liable for all of Burch’s economic and noneconomic damages. The trial court erred in allocating noneconomic damages according to CertainTeed’s proportion of fault because Civil Code section 1431.21 (Proposition 51) does not eliminate an intentional tortfeasor’s joint and several liability for noneconomic damages. View "Burch v. CertainTeed Corp." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against defendant after defendant rear-ended a car driven by plaintiff and injured him. Defendant stipulated to the liability for the accident and the remaining issues were tried to a jury. The jury then returned a damages award of just over $610,000, far below plaintiff's requested damages of $23.5 million for himself and $4 million for his wife. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the trial court's finding of no misconduct by Juror No. 11 was supported by the record. In this case, the court rejected plaintiff's argument that the juror committed prejudicial misconduct during voir dire by intentionally concealing that he had been named as a defendant in two prior lawsuits. The court also held that there was no prejudicial violation of the collateral source rule and rejected plaintiff's contention that the trial court allowed defendant to violate the rule multiple times during trial through references to plaintiff's past treatment at Kaiser Permanente and Kaiser medical insurance, as well as references to Medicare and Social Security disability benefits in relation to future medical expenses. View "Stokes v. Muschinske" on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff was seriously injured when he fell from a ladder at work, he filed suit against several defendants, alleging they were all responsible for the unsafe conditions which led to his fall. Plaintiff was employed by an independent contractor which provided maintenance engineering staff for Raytheon. The prime contractor for Raytheon's water cooling tower renovation was Systems XT, and plaintiff was employed by ABM, an independent contractor which provided control room staff to Raytheon. The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Raytheon and Systems XT. The court held that there were no triable issues of material fact under the Hooker exception to Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 689, where Raytheon did not represent that the partial extension ladder was a safe replacement for the platform ladder, nor did Raytheon promise to provide ABM's employees with light fixtures at the water cooling tower. In the alternative, there were no triable issues of material fact under the Kinsman exception to Privette where there was undisputed evidence that the hazard could reasonably have been discovered by inspecting the ladder, and once discovered, avoided. The court also held that Systems XT owed no duty to provide plaintiff with lighting. In this case, Systems XT did not leave plaintiff in the dark with no way to perform his task, because he had a flashlight that he simply chose not to use when he inspected the water level. View "Johnson v. Raytheon Co." on Justia Law