Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
by
Plaintiffs, heirs of a nursing home resident who died after wandering off-site and getting hit by a car, filed a lawsuit against the nursing facility, its director, and its manager, alleging negligence, willful misconduct, elder abuse, and wrongful death. The facility demurred to the complaint on the ground that it is barred by the two-year statute of limitations. Plaintiffs argued that the managers and director’s felony convictions revived the statute of limitations under section 340.3. Plaintiffs claimed that because the facility was liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior, the statute of limitations was also revived as to the facility.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s ruling and held that the extended statute of limitations does not apply to the employer of the felon in an action based on the doctrine of respondeat superior. Further, the court held that Labor Code section 2802, which allows an employee to be indemnified by his or her employer, does not apply to third parties. The court reasoned that Plaintiffs’ reliance on the Victims’ Bill of Rights embodied in Article I, Section 28 of the California Constitution is misplaced. Under that section, victims have the right to seek restitution “from the persons convicted of the crimes causing the losses they suffer.”  Further, the court reasoned that Labor Code section 2802 allows an employee to be indemnified by his or her employer. It does “not provide access to the employer’s or its insurer’s pocketbook through a third-party suit against the employee.” View "Cardenas v. Horizon Senior Living" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-appellant Nshan Simonyan had a dispute with his insurer, Nationwide Insurance Company of America ("Nationwide") over the company's handling of his defense arising out of a three-car accident in which Simonyan was a driver. Simonyan asked Nationwide to appoint, as "Cumis" counsel, a law firm that he had already hired to advance his affirmative claim against the driver who hit him. Nationwide refused. Simonyan appealed the dismissal of his case after the trial court sustained Nationwide’s demurrer to his second amended complaint without leave to amend. Simonyan argued his allegations were sufficient to state claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to reconsider based on new allegations. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Simonyan v. Nationwide Ins. Co. of America" on Justia Law

by
A cryogenic storage tank, manufactured by Chart and used by PFC, a San Francisco fertility clinic, to store patients’ reproductive material, experienced a failure. A putative class action was filed in federal court against four defendants. Claims against Chart proceeded in federal court; claims against other defendants proceeded in arbitration. Claimants not involved in the federal litigation filed subsequently-coordinated suits in California state courts against the four defendants. Arbitration was compelled for about 260 claims against PFC but not the other defendants. After 18 months of negotiations and discovery, three defendants reached an agreement to resolve the claims against them in all proceedings. The trial court entered a good faith settlement determination, dismissing with prejudice “[a]ll existing cross-complaints” for equitable indemnity or contribution against the settling defendants.Chart, the non-settling defendant, unsuccessfully challenged the good faith settlement determination in a mandamus proceeding, then filed an appeal. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal, noting a split among the divisions. When one tortfeasor defendant intends to settle a case before it is resolved against all defendants, the tortfeasor may petition the court for a determination that the settlement was made in good faith. (Code Civ. Proc. 877.6.) so that the other defendants are barred from obtaining contribution or indemnification from the settling tortfeasor based on the parties’ comparative negligence or fault. The court’s good faith determination is reviewable only by a timely petition for writ of mandate. View "Pacific Fertility Cases" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against a Hilton hotel after she was allegedly hit by a shuttle operated by Hilton. Although Hilton denied liability, mid-trial the parties settled for $85,000. The trial court confirmed Plaintiff's desire to accept the agreement on the record. Through different counsel, Plaintiff later filed a motion to rescind the settlement agreement, claiming counsel forced her to accept the agreement. According to Plaintiff, counsel stated that if she did not accept the settlement "he would not be coming back to trial tomorrow."The trial court denied Plaintiff's motion and the Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that Hilton was not involved in any potential duress, but was unaware of counsel's refusal to resume proceedings if Plaintiff did not accept the agreement. The court explained the contract was not voidable because Hilton acted in good faith and lacked knowledge of any potential duress. View "Fettig v. Hilton Garden Inns Management LLC" on Justia Law

by
Daniel Schafer, a teacher at a high school in the Anderson Union High School District (District), had a sexual relationship on school premises with one of his students, plaintiff Jane Doe. Doe sued the District, principal Carol Germano, and superintendent Tim Azevedo for negligent hiring and negligent supervision. The trial court granted the District’s motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of the District, finding that there was no evidence the District knew or should have known that Schafer posed a risk of harm to students. On appeal, Doe contended the trial court erred by granting summary judgment because the District had a duty to supervise and monitor Schafer and Doe, and whether the District breached its duty to Doe was a question of fact for the jury to decide. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding that on the trial court record, the District did not have a duty to review alarm data and video recordings in order to constantly monitor all teachers, students, and campus visitors, nor did it have such a duty specifically with regard to Schafer and Doe. View "Doe v. Anderson Union High School Dist." on Justia Law

by
Appellant Dameron Hospital Association (Dameron) required patients or their family members sign Conditions of Admissions (COAs) when Dameron provides the patients’ medical care. The COAs at issue here contained language assigning to Dameron direct payment of uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM) benefits and medical payment (MP) benefits that would otherwise be payable to those patients under their automobile insurance policies. Dameron treated five of AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah Insurance Exchange’s (CSAA) insureds for injuries following automobile accidents. Those patients had UM and/or MP coverage as part of their CSAA coverage, and Dameron sought to collect payment for those services from the patients’ UM and/or MP benefits at Dameron’s full rates. Instead of paying to Dameron the lesser of either all benefits due to the patients under their UM and MP coverage, or Dameron’s full charges, CSAA paid portions of those benefits directly to the patients which left balances owing on some of Dameron’s bills. Dameron sued CSAA to collect UM and MP benefits it contended CSAA owed Dameron under the assignments contained in the COAs. The trial court concluded that Dameron could not enforce any of the assignments contained in the COAs and entered summary judgment in CSAA’s favor. After its review, the Court of Appeal held Dameron could not collect payment for emergency services from the UM or MP benefits due to patients that were covered under health insurance policies. Additionally, the Court found: (1) the COA forms were contracts of adhesion; (2) it was not within the reasonable possible expectations of patients that a hospital would collect payments for emergency care directly out of their UM benefits; and (3) a trier of fact might find it is within the reasonable expectations of patients that a hospital would collect payments for emergency care directly out of their MP benefits. Accordingly, the Court concluded Dameron could not maintain causes of action to collect MP or UM benefits due to four of the five patients directly from CSAA. However, consistent with its opinion, the trial court could consider whether an enforceable assignment of MP benefits was made by one adult patient. View "Dameron Hospital Assn. v. AAA Northern Cal., Nevada etc." on Justia Law

by
Petitioner State of California (the “State”) is a defendant in an action in which Plaintiffs sought damages for wrongful death and personal injuries suffered in an automobile collision. The superior court ordered the State to produce unredacted accident reports revealing identifying information of the parties and witnesses involved in accidents that occurred in the same area.   The Second Appellate Division denied the State’s petition for a writ of mandate and required the State to reveal the information the Plaintiffs/real parties in interest seek. Petitioner argued the superior court abused its discretion when it ruled that personally identifiable information was not protected under section 20014 of the Vehicle Code. Plaintiffs contended that under section 20012 they have a proper interest in the disclosure of unredacted police reports. The court reasoned that Plaintiffs have shown the accidents are similar in nature and the evidence of the reported accidents “either is itself admissible in evidence or appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Thus, this evidence illustrated that Plaintiffs are persons with a “proper interest” in obtaining the unredacted accident reports they seek. View "State of Cal. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

by
While shopping at the Carmel Mountain Ranch location of Costco in San Diego, plaintiff Lilyan Hassaine slipped and fell on a slippery substance that she believed was liquid soap. Claiming serious injuries from the fall, she sued Costco and Club Demonstration Services (CDS), an independent contractor that operated food sample tables within the store. The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment filed by CDS, concluding that the company owed Hassaine no duty of care. In the court’s view, it was dispositive that CDS’s contract with Costco limited its maintenance obligations to a 12-foot perimeter around each sample table, and that Hassaine’s fall occurred outside that boundary. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding the trial court erred in concluding CDS’s contract with Costco delineated the scope of its duty of care to business invitees under general principles of tort law. Businesses have a common law duty of ordinary care to their customers that extends to every area of the store in which they are likely to shop. "While the CDS-Costco agreement may allocate responsibility and liability as a matter of contract between those parties, it does not limit the scope of CDS’s common law duty to customers. ... Breach and causation present triable factual issues here, precluding summary judgment on those grounds." View "Hassaine v. Club Demonstration Services, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center, Inc., d/b/a Sovereign Health of San Clemente, and its owner, Tonmoy Sharma, (collectively Sovereign) appealed the trial court's denial of Sovereign's motion to compel arbitration of claims asserted by Allen and Rose Nelson for themselves and on behalf of their deceased son, Brandon. The Nelsons alleged a cause of action for wrongful death, and on behalf of Brandon, negligence, negligence per se, dependent adult abuse or neglect, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud. According to the complaint, despite concluding that 26-year-old "Brandon requires 24 hour supervision ... at this time" after admitting him to its residential facility following his recent symptoms of psychosis, Sovereign personnel allowed him to go to his room alone, where he hung himself with the drawstring of his sweatpants. The trial court denied Sovereign's motion to compel arbitration because: (1) the court found Sovereign failed to meet its burden to authenticate an electronic signature as Brandon's on Sovereign's treatment center emollment agreement; and (2) even assuming Brandon signed the agreement, it was procedurally and substantively unconscionable, precluding enforcement against Brandon or, derivatively, his parents. Sovereign challenged the trial court's authentication and unconscionability findings. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Nelson v. Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center" on Justia Law

by
Relator Gilbert Ellinger brought a qui tam suit on behalf of the People of the State of California against Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich), ESIS, Inc. (ESIS), and Stephanie Ann Magill, under Insurance Code section 1871.7, a provision of the Insurance Frauds Prevention Act (IFPA). In January 2016, Ellinger injured his back while working, and he immediately informed his supervisor. The following month, Ellinger reported to his employer’s human resources manager that he had sustained a work-related injury and had told his supervisor about it. The human resources manager created a “time line memorandum” summarizing the conversations she had with Ellinger about the injury. She placed the memorandum in Ellinger’s personnel file. Ellinger filed a workers’ compensation claim. Magill worked as a senior claims examiner for ESIS and was the adjuster assigned to investigate Ellinger’s claim. ESIS denied Ellinger’s claim on an unspecified date. Magill later testified that she denied the claim because of a written statement from Ellinger’s supervisor in which the supervisor claimed that Ellinger had not reported the injury to him. When the human resources manager was deposed in November 2016, she produced the time line memorandum, which Ellinger’s counsel in the workers’ compensation action did not know about until then. Nearly eight months after that disclosure, in July 2017, ESIS reversed its denial of the claim and stipulated that Ellinger was injured while working, as he had alleged. Contrary to Magill’s testimony, her email messages showed that the human resources manager had emailed Magill the time line memorandum in March and April 2016, and Magill thanked the manager for sending it. Ellinger alleged that Magill’s concealment of or failure to disclose the time line memorandum violated Penal Code section 550 (b)(1) to (3). On the basis of those alleged violations, Ellinger alleged that defendants were liable under section 1871.7. Against each defendant, Ellington sought a civil penalty and an assessment of no greater than three times the amount of his workers’ compensation claim. The trial court sustained defendants’ demurrers without leave to amend, concluding defendants could not be held liable under section 1871.7 for any failures of Magill in the claims handling or review process. Finding no reversible error in sustaining the demurrers, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California ex rel. Ellinger v. Magill" on Justia Law