Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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From August 2018 through January 2019, plaintiffs were six-year-old first grade students who attended Maple Elementary School (Maple) within the Hesperia Unified School District (the District). Pedro Martinez worked at Maple as a janitor. Martinez’s position as a janitor did not require him to have any one-on-one contact with the students. Martinez engaged in a variety of activities with the students that plaintiffs characterized as “‘grooming’ activities” that were “designed to lure minor students, including [p]laintiffs, into a false sense of security around him.” Plaintiffs alleged that numerous District employees who were mandated reporters under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), witnessed Martinez’s behavior and did not report it to school officials or to law enforcement, in violation of the District’s policies. In January 2019, the State charged Martinez with numerous felonies involving his alleged sexual abuse of minors. In February 2019, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the District and Martinez, alleging numerous claims arising from Martinez’s alleged sexual abuse of plaintiffs. The trial court was persuaded by the District's argument, concluding that plaintiffs did not adequately plead a negligence cause of action against the District, because they failed to state any facts “establishing that [the] District knew of any prior acts of sexual abuse by Martinez and/or that the District had actual or constructive knowledge that Martinez was abusing [p]laintiffs so as to impose liability upon [the] District.” One month after plaintiffs sought reconsideration, the trial court entered judgment against plaintiffs. Plaintiffs argued on appeal that they were not required to plead facts demonstrating that the District had actual knowledge of past sexual abuse by Martinez, and that they otherwise pled sufficient facts to state negligence causes of action against the District. The Court of Appeal agreed with plaintiffs on all of those points. The Court disagreed with plaintiffs' contention that the trial court erred by dismissing their sex discrimination claims under Title IX and California Education Code section 220: plaintiffs’ allegations are insufficient to constitute actual notice of a violation of Title IX or Education Code section 220. The judgment of dismissal was reversed, the order sustaining the demurrer to the third amended complaint was vacated, and the trial court was directed to enter a new order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend as to the causes of action under Title IX, Education Code section 220, and the Unruh Civil Rights Act but otherwise overruling the demurrer. View "Roe v. Hesperia Unified School Dist." on Justia Law

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Amiodarone was developed in the 1960s for the treatment of angina and was released in other countries. Amiodarone is associated with side effects, including pulmonary fibrosis, blindness, thyroid cancer, and death. In the 1970s, U.S. physicians began obtaining amiodarone from other countries for use in patients with life-threatening ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia who did not respond to other drugs. In 1985, the FDA approved Wyeth’s formulation of amiodarone, Cordarone, as a drug of last resort for patients suffering from recurring life-threatening ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. The FDA’s “special needs” approval issued without randomized clinical trials. In 1989, the FDA described Wyeth’s promotional activities as promoting an unapproved use of the drug. In 1992, the FDA objected to promotional labeling pieces for Cordarone. Other manufacturers developed generic amiodarone, which has been available since 1998.Consolidated lawsuits alleged that plaintiffs suffered unnecessary, serious side effects when they took amiodarone, as prescribed by their doctors, for off-label use to treat atrial fibrillation, a more common, less serious, condition than ventricular fibrillation. The FDA never approved amiodarone for the treatment of atrial fibrillation, even on a special-needs basis. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuits. The claims are preempted as attempts to privately enforce the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 301, regulations governing medication guides and labeling and have no independent basis in state law. The court also rejected fraud claims under California’s unfair competition law and Consumers Legal Remedy Act. View "Amiodarone Cases" on Justia Law

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Under the Government Claims Act, a public entity is not liable for injury except as otherwise provided by statute; a public entity may be vicariously liable for injury caused by an act or omission of its employees acting within the scope of their employment. If a public entity may be sued under a liability statute, the Act also includes immunity provisions that prevail in specified circumstances.Doe alleged that, when she was a minor and ward of the state confined at Napa State Hospital, she was sexually assaulted by a Department counselor between 1997-1999. She claimed that the Department knew or should have known that the counselor had previously engaged in unlawful sexual conduct with other minors and that he continued to do so with Doe. She alleged negligence, negligent supervision/training/hiring/retention, sexual battery, assault, and statutory civil rights violations.The trial court dismissed all except the claim of negligent supervision/training/hiring/retention, with leave to amend, holding that section 815.2 provides minimum personnel standards and triggered the immunity exception. The court of appeal ordered the dismissal of the entire complaint without leave to amend. Doe failed to demonstrate that she can allege the Department’s violation of any minimum standard sufficient to form the basis for liability under Government Code 855(a). View "State Department of State Hospitals v. Superior Court of Napa County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued the City for its negligence in maintaining the City-owned sidewalk in a dangerous condition. The City moved for summary judgment on the ground that the sidewalk was not a “dangerous condition”. Although the hearing was not transcribed, the trial court concluded the hearing by orally granting the City’s motion for summary judgment. Just four minutes after the summary judgment hearing concluded, Plaintiff’s counsel sent the City an email purporting to accept the City’s 998 offer. The City objected to Plaintiff’s attempt to accept its 998 offer after the trial court had ruled on its summary judgment motion. The trial court entered judgment for the City, implicitly ruling that Plaintiff’s acceptance of the City’s 998 offer was inoperative. Plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal of the May 7, 2021 judgment.   At issue on appeal is whether a 998 offer automatically expires when a trial court orally grants the offeror’s summary judgment motion. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that the trial court properly concluded that the City’s 998 offer expired by the time plaintiff purported to accept it. Like any other contractual offer, a 998 offer is not accepted until that acceptance is communicated to the offeror. Here, because Plaintiff did not communicate her acceptance of the City’s 998 offer until after the trial court orally granted summary judgment to the City, the acceptance was not effective as there was no longer any operative 998 offer to accept. View "Trujillo v. City of L.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Nissan, alleging the transmission in a 2013 Nissan Sentra they purchased was defective, bringing statutory claims under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Civ. Code 1790) and a common law fraud claim alleging that Nissan, by fraudulently concealing the defects, induced them to purchase the car. The trial court dismissed the fraudulent inducement claim as barred by the “economic loss rule.” The court also struck the plaintiffs’ request for punitive damages.The court of appeal reversed. Under California law, the economic loss rule does not bar the fraudulent inducement claim. The fraudulent inducement exception to the economic loss rule applies; fraudulent inducement is a viable tort claim under California law. The plaintiffs adequately pleaded that the transmissions installed in numerous Nissan vehicles (including the one they purchased) were defective; Nissan knew of the defects and the hazards they posed; Nissan had exclusive knowledge of the defects but intentionally concealed and failed to disclose that information; Nissan intended to deceive plaintiffs by concealing known transmission problems; plaintiffs would not have purchased the car if they had known of the defects; and plaintiffs suffered damages in the form of money paid to purchase the car. View "Dhital v. Nissan North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Chad Defries suffered injuries while riding a Yamaha dirt bike. He sued the U.S. distributor of that dirt bike, defendant-respondent Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. (Yamaha), among others, asserting that the accident was caused by a throttle assembly that fell off the handlebar as he was riding. The jury found in Yamaha’s favor, and the trial court later awarded Yamaha costs. On appeal, Defries contended, among other things, that the trial court erroneously denied his request to instruct the jury that Yamaha was liable for its dealer’s negligent assembly of the dirt bike, a ruling that limited Defries’s negligence cause of action to Yamaha’s own negligence. The Court of Appeal found that California law, however, placed “responsibility for defects, whether negligently or nonnegligently caused, on the manufacturer of the completed product . . . regardless of what part of the manufacturing process the manufacturer chooses to delegate to third parties.” The same principle applied to distributors. And as the distributor of a completed product, Yamaha “cannot delegate its duty . . . [and thus] cannot escape liability on the ground that the defect in [Defries’s bike] may have been caused by something one of its authorized dealers did or failed to do.” If the dealer negligently assembled the product, Yamaha was jointly liable for damages caused by that negligence. Because the requested instruction should have been given, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment on the negligence cause of action, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Defries v. Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs K.M., H.R., and M.L. sued the Grossmont Union High School District (the District) for negligence based on alleged sexual abuse by their high school drama teacher, James Chatham. They also asserted sexual harassment claims under California Civil Code section 51.9, to which the District successfully demurred. The District made Code of Civil Procedure section 998 offers, which Plaintiffs did not accept. The case proceeded to a jury trial, where the trial court excluded certain evidence and mistakenly included Plaintiffs in an oral jury instruction regarding apportionment of fault. Plaintiffs prevailed, and the jury assigned 60 percent of fault to Chatham, and 40 percent to the District, with resulting damage awards lower than the section 998 offers. The parties moved to tax each other’s costs. The trial court ruled the offers were invalid, granted Plaintiffs’ motion, and denied the District’s motion in pertinent part. Both parties appealed. The California Legislature later enacted Assembly Bill No. 218 which amended Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1, to reduce procedural barriers for childhood sexual abuse claims, and to allow treble damages for a claim involving a prior cover- up of abuse. Plaintiffs sought a new trial, contending they were entitled to pursue treble damages, and that the trial court erred by sustaining the demurrers to their sexual harassment claims, excluding certain evidence, and giving the erroneous oral jury instruction. The District argued the trial court wrongly determined its Code of Civil Procedure section 998 offers were invalid. The Court of Appeal concluded the treble damages provision in Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1 was neither retroactive, nor applicable to public school districts. The Court further concluded Plaintiffs did not establish they could pursue sexual harassment claims against the District under Civil Code section 51.9. The parties do not establish reversible error on the other asserted grounds, either. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment and postjudgment orders. View "K.M. v. Grossmont Union High School Dist." on Justia Law

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After D.G. was injured in a car accident involving a rental car driven by I.M. H.A. rented the car involved in the accident from Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of Los Angeles (ERAC-LA). I.M. was listed as an additional authorized driver in the rental agreement between H.A. and ERAC-LA. At the time of rental, I.M.  presented ERAC-LA with a facially valid driver’s license issued by Kyrgyzstan and a local California address on the rental paperwork. D.G. sued ERAC-LA, I.M., and EAN Holding, LLC (EAN) for negligence. Specifically, D.G. alleged ERAC-LA negligently entrusted I.M. with the rental vehicle, and therefore proximately caused her injuries. ERAC-LA filed a petition for writ of mandate in this court to reverse the trial court’s order denying its motion for summary judgment.   The Second Appellate District issued a writ of mandate directing respondent court to vacate its May 24, 2022 and July 29, 2022 orders denying ERAC-LA’s motion for summary judgment and enter a new order granting the motion. The court held that requiring a rental car agency to investigate whether a prospective renter who presents a facially valid foreign driver’s license is still a resident of that jurisdiction at the time of rental goes beyond the scope of duties prescribed by the Legislature. The court further concluded that D.G. failed to carry her burden to demonstrate a triable issue of material fact exists regarding ERAC-LA’s compliance with section 14608, subdivision (a)(2). View "Enterprise Rent-A-Car of L.A. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The Estate of N.K (the Estate), by and through Plaintiff, appealed from the judgment after the trial court granted the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of Defendant, Glendale Adventist Medical Center (GAMC), following a jury trial of the Estate’s claim of neglect under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. The decedent, presented at the acute care hospital operated by GAMC with complaints of weakness and lightheadedness. N.K. underwent an MRI scan and sustained a burn to his abdomen due to GAMC’s failure to screen N.K. for electrically conductive materials prior to the scan.The trial court concluded that substantial evidence failed to support that GAMC had a substantial caretaking or custodial relationship with N.K., and substantial evidence failed to support that GAMC’s conduct in failing to properly screen N.K. was neglect under the Act   The Second Appellate District affirmed holding that the trial court was correct on both grounds.  The court held that the evidence, in this case, does not permit the conclusion that a robust and substantial caretaking or custodial relationship with ongoing responsibilities existed between GAMC and N.K. The court clarified that it does not suggest that such a relationship can never exist when an elder or dependent adult is an inpatient for only two days. Rather, here, substantial evidence does not support the relationship. Moreover, there is no substantial evidence that GAMC harmed N.K. by “failing to provide medical care” or by failing to “attend to his basic needs and comforts.” View "Kruthanooch v. Glendale Adventist Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Appellant Today’s IV filed a civil complaint against respondents Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Regional Connector Constructors for their “unreasonable” construction of an underground subway line in downtown Los Angeles, which affected the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites (the Bonaventure), owned by Today’s IV.   Today’s IV alleged claims for nuisance and inverse condemnation due to 1) respondents’ use of the cut-and-cover construction method instead of the tunnel boring machine method; 2) construction work during nights and weekends, which was particularly harmful to the Bonaventure’s operation as a hotel; 3) violation of certain noise limits; and 4) interference with access to the Bonaventure. Today’s IV alleged lost contracts, including a $3.3 million airline contract, and loss of business. It requested compensatory and punitive damages from Respondents.   The trial court found no liability and entered judgment in favor of Respondents. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that the first two circumstances that justify an inverse condemnation claim are not applicable here, as Appellant does not contend that its property has been physically invaded or physically damaged. Thus, Appellant necessarily relies upon the intangible intrusion theory. To recover under this theory, Appellant must be able to establish its property suffered from an intangible intrusion burdening the property in a way that is direct, substantial, and peculiar to the property itself. View "Today's IV, Inc. v. L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Auth." on Justia Law