Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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After plaintiff was attacked suddenly, and without provocation, by two other men at a Phi Mu sorority party at SCUN, he filed suit against members of Phi Mu alleging a claim for negligence based on their alleged failure to follow certain risk management protocols adopted by CSUN and its fraternal organizations pertaining to off-campus events. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's decision sustaining defendants' demurrers and dismissal. The court held that defendants did not owe plaintiff a legal duty to follow CSUN's fraternal organizational safety protocols to prevent a third party criminal attack. In this case, plaintiff cannot allege sufficient facts to establish the high degree of foreseeability necessary to charge defendants with a legal duty to take highly burdensome measures to prevent the type of sudden and unprovoked third party criminal attack that allegedly occurred here. The court also held that defendants' agreement to CSUN's fraternal organization safety protocols does not support a negligent undertaking claim. View "Hanouchian v. Steele" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Andrew Pankey (Andrew) filed a products liability claim against Petco Animal Supplies, Inc., after his son Aidan contracted a rare bacterial infection from a rat purchased at Petco. Aidan later died as a result of complications related to his infection. Andrew alleged, among other things, that Petco was strictly liable for injuries resulting from the sale of the pet rat, which he argued was a product for purposes of strict products liability. The trial court instructed the jury on negligence under ordinary negligence and negligent failure-to-warn theories, as well as three theories of strict products liability: (1) failure to warn, (2) manufacturing defect, and (3) design defect under a risk-benefit test. The jury returned verdicts in favor of Petco. On appeal, Andrew contended the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on an alternative strict liability design defect theory, the "consumer expectations test." He argued there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could have concluded the pet rat purchased from Petco failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding a live pet animal sold in its unaltered state was not a product subject to the design defect consumer expectations theory of strict products liability. The Court therefore did not reach a conclusion regarding applicability of the consumer expectations test or the prejudicial effect of its exclusion. View "Pankey v. Petco Animal Supplies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Verrazono was seriously injured when a rough terrain forklift he was operating tipped over. He sued the manufacturer. The jury returned a defense verdict, finding the forklift was not defective and the manufacturer was not negligent. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Verrazono’s claim that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the “consumer expectations” test for design defect and erred in giving a “dynamite instruction” when the jury became deadlocked. Verrazono presented no evidence as to the safety expectations of a “hypothetical reasonable” telehandler user under the circumstances that occurred. Rather, Verrazono’s engineering expert’s testimony bore on a risk-benefit analysis. This was not a case where evidence about the objective features of the product, alone, was sufficient for an evaluation of whether the forklift was defectively designed in the manner Verrazono claimed. Verrazono’s failure to set forth all material evidence forfeited his substantial evidence claims. View "Verrazono v. Gehl Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Ahern Rentals after Ruben Dickerson was killed in an accident on Ahern's premises while he was replacing the tires on one of Ahern's forklifts. Dickerson was employed by 24-Hour Tire Service as a tire changer and tire technician. Dickerson's surviving heirs were paid workers' compensation benefits by 24-Hour Tire's workers' compensation insurer. Plaintiffs alleged that Ahern's negligence was a substantial factor in causing Dickerson's death. The Court of Appeals held that plaintiffs failed to present evidence that Ahern affirmatively contributed to Dickerson's injuries under the retained control exception to the Privette rule under Hooker v. Department of Transportation (2002) 27 Cal.4th 198, 202. The court also held that there is no evidence that Ahern affirmatively contributed to Dickerson's injury and death. View "Horne v. Ahern Rentals, Inc." on Justia Law

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In November 2007, Marten performed surgery on Doe’s face and neck. In June 2008, Doe sent Marten a letter stating she was considering suing him and demanded that he preserve her documents, files, and photos. In November, Doe’s attorney served Marten with a written demand for arbitration pursuant to a Physician-Patient Arbitration Agreement. In January 2009 Marten’s counsel responded, identifying an arbitrator, without questioning the origin of the agreement or disputing that Marten had signed it. The applicable one-year statute of limitations ran in March 2009. (Code Civ. Proc.340.5) In May 2009, Merten subpoenaed and obtained the records of Dr. Daniel, whom Doe earlier consulted. Located within Daniel’s records was a signed arbitration agreement. Nearly three years later, Marten’s counsel first confronted Doe with the arbitration agreement and refused to continue with the arbitration. Doe sued for medical malpractice and medical battery. The court overruled dismissal motions, finding triable issues as to whether equitable tolling or equitable estoppel disallowed the statute of limitations defense. The court imposed sanctions after hearing evidence that Marten destroyed electronically stored information. After the close of evidence, the trial court dismissed the medical battery claim. On the malpractice claim, the jury awarded over $6.3 million in damages. The court then found the malpractice claim time-barred. The court of appeal reversed in part. The medical malpractice claim was not time-barred because Merten’s conduct actually and reasonably induced Doe to refrain from filing a timely action. View "Doe v. Marten" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the hospital in an action brought by the family of an emergency room patient who was released from the hospital and died eight hours later of "acute dissection of aorta." The court held that no evidence showed that the nursing staff caused or contributed to the patient's death; no evidence showed the hospital was negligent in the selection and retention of the two emergency room doctors who treated the patient; and the evidence conclusively established the emergency room doctors were not the ostensible agents of the hospital. View "Wicks v. Antelope Valley Healthcare District" on Justia Law

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While going down Festival’s waterslide, Sharufa inadvertently slipped from a seated position on an inner tube onto his stomach. When he entered the pool below, his feet hit the bottom with enough force to fracture his hip and pelvis. Sharufa sued for negligence, product liability (including breach of express and implied warranties), and negligent misrepresentation. Sharufa’s opposition to a summary judgment motion included a mechanical engineer's opinion that going down the slide on one’s stomach could lead to injury because it would cause a person to enter the water with more velocity than sliding on one’s back. The court found that the engineer did not qualify as an expert on the relevant subject matter and granted Festival summary adjudication on all but the negligent misrepresentation claim. Sharufa dismissed that claim without prejudice to allow an appeal. The court of appeal affirmed as to Sharufa’s negligence cause of action, Festival owes a heightened duty of care as a common carrier; but there was no evidence of breach. The court reversed as to Sharufa’s products liability causes of action; the record is insufficient to show the park provided primarily a service rather than use of a product. The purpose of riding a waterslide is “entertainment and amusement,” but where a product is intended for entertainment, to allow a supplier to be characterized as an “amusement service” provider would risk weakening product liability protections for consumers. View "Sharufa v. Festival Fun Parks, LLC" on Justia Law

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Goros, age 92, filed suit alleging that Kindred Healthcare violated the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (Welf. & Inst. Code 15600) by failing to timely obtain medical treatment for her after she suffered a stroke while a patient at their nursing home. After Goros’s death about two years later, her daughter substituted in as successor in interest and added a claim for wrongful death. The trial court granted the defendants summary judgment, predicated on the exclusion of the opinion of the plaintiff’s expert on the issue of causation. The court of appeal affirmed. The plaintiff’s expert failed to provide any basis for his opinions and stated only that “his opinion is based on his experience and documented medical literature.” The plaintiff cites no evidence contradicting the court’s finding that her expert did not have the education or experience to render an opinion about the cause or treatment of Goros’s stroke, as required by Evidence Code section 720(a). Qualifications on a related subject matter are insufficient. View "Lowery v. Kindren Healthcare Operating, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged the trial court's reduction of economic damages awarded by the jury in a negligence/trespass action where the jury returned a special verdict in plaintiffs' favor and against Capital Agriculture. The Court of Appeal modified the judgment to vacate the 68 percent reduction of the economic damages award. The court held that the trial court erred by reducing Capital Agriculture's joint and several liability for economic damages, and agreed with plaintiffs that Capital Agriculture was jointly and severally liable for 100 percent of the economic damages, reduced by 2 percent for plaintiffs' contributory negligence and an offset for amounts paid by settling tortfeasors. View "Shuler v. Capital Agricultural Property Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-respondent Melanie Arace, as personal representative and successor in interest for Grace R. Miller (Miller) and trustee of the Grace R. Miller Trust dated May 8, 2002, filed a complaint against Medico Investments, LLC (Medico), a residential care facility, and others. Plaintiff alleged that Medico, or its employee Elizabeth Colon (Colon), engaged in multiple acts of elder abuse of Miller. The jury found in favor of plaintiff, who was awarded damages, attorney fees, and costs. On appeal, Medico contended: (1) the trial court erred in denying its motion to continue the trial based on the unavailability of a material witness; (2) the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees and costs; and (3) plaintiff was not entitled to economic damages under her claim for elder abuse (neglect) since the jury declined to award noneconomic damages. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed judgment against Medico. View "Arace v. Medico Investments, LLC" on Justia Law