Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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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

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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

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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

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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

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In August 2011, Long was shot by a third-party assailant in the Candlestick Park parking lot after a professional football game. Long sued the San Francisco Forty-Niners, Ltd. in state court, alleging breach of contract, negligence, and liability under the rescue doctrine. In 2013, Long learned that Ltd. had converted into a Delaware LLC and filed an identical complaint against the LLC and Ltd.'s general partner, in federal court. Long voluntarily dismissed the state court action in July 2013, less than a month before trial. Subsequently, the federal court dismissed the federal case for lack of diversity jurisdiction. Long filed another state suit, against LLC, in November 2013, with the same allegations. The court dismissed the suit as time-barred, having been filed more than two years after the shooting; the court rejected an argument that the statute of limitations was equitably tolled while the federal case was pending. The court of appeal affirmed. Although LLC was on notice of Long’s claims from the beginning of the first state court action, the doctrine of equitable tolling was not intended to burden a defendant or the courts with having to repeatedly re-start litigation that was almost fully adjudicated, simply because the plaintiff had a last-minute change of mind about the forum. The factual allegations do not establish reasonable and good-faith conduct. View "Long v. Forty Niners Football Co." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff suffered serious injuries when he fell off an inflatable slide while attending a carnival held at a school campus owned by the district, he filed suit alleging that he fell because the inflatable slide was not tethered to the ground. The Court of Appeal held that the Education Code allocates liability for negligence between school districts and entities allowed to use school district grounds, including in this case the booster group that planned and held the carnival fundraiser. The court explained that the school district was liable for an injury resulting from the negligence of the school district in the ownership and maintenance of the school facilities or grounds. However, an entity using the school facilities or grounds is liable for an injury resulting from the negligence of that entity during the use of the school facilities or grounds. In this case, the court held that plaintiff's injuries resulted from the alleged negligence of the booster group and others "during the use of" the school grounds, not from the school district's ownership and maintenance of the grounds. Furthermore, Education Code section 38134, subdivision (i)(2), clarifies that the Education Code does not alter the provision in Government Code section 835 limiting a public entity’s liability to "an injury caused by a dangerous condition of public property." The court held that, as a matter of law, the inflatable slide was not a dangerous condition of public property within the meaning of Government Code section 835. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the school district and dismissed the school district's cross-appeal as moot. View "Grossman v. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured at a frat party, she filed suit against Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity for negligence. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the fraternity, holding that the fraternity owed no duty to protect plaintiff from the actions of the local chapter because there was no special relationship between the fraternity and the local chapter and there was no special relationship between the fraternity and plaintiff. The court also held that the negligent undertaking doctrine was inapplicable in this case. Finally, the court held that the fraternity was not vicariously liable for the local chapter's conduct View "Barenborg v. Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity" on Justia Law

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In the underlying action, a plaintiff filed a tort action against the subcontractor and developer for injuries allegedly arising from the subcontractor's work. The subcontractor did not defend the developer, and the jury found that plaintiff's injuries were not caused by the subcontractor's work. The court held that, where plaintiff in an underlying tort action alleges that his injuries arose out of the subcontractor's work, the developer is entitled as a matter of law to a defense under the indemnity clause. In this case, the trial court erred by submitting the question of the subcontractor's duty to defend to a jury. The court also held that the developer was entitled to a jury trial in its action for damages alleging breach of the covenant to provide insurance. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded. View "Centex Homes v. R-Help Construction Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order dismissing plaintiff's complaint against Princess Cruise Lines. Plaintiff's action stemmed from injuries he suffered while he was a passenger on a cruise ship operated by Princess. The court held that the lack of a reporter's transcript did not require affirmances based on an inadequate record; although plaintiff's action was not filed "in a forum outside this state," the statutes governing forum non conveniens motions apply here to determine the enforceability of the forum selection clause; the forum selection clause in this case was mandatory and required that suit be brought in federal court; and the court rejected plaintiff's claims that the enforcement of the mandatory selection clause would be unreasonable. View "Korman v. Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment in an action alleging that defendant, an orthopedic surgeon, committed medical malpractice in connection with his treatment of plaintiff's fractured wrist. The court held that the inferences plaintiff suggested could not reasonably be derived from a barebones statement that defendant's treatment caused plaintiff's further deformity. Therefore, plaintiff failed to present admissible evidence to controvert defendant's evidence that causation could not be established. View "Fernandez v. Alexander" on Justia Law