Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Supreme Court
Bourhis v. Lord
Plaintiffs, including a California corporation (Corporation), filed a lawsuit for property damage against Defendants. Before trial, Defendants learned the state had suspended Corporation's corporate powers for nonpayment of taxes. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants. Plaintiffs, including Corporation, appealed. On December 1, 2011, Defendants filed separate motions to dismiss Corporation's appeals because its corporate powers were still suspended. Corporation presented documentation showing its corporate powers had been revived on December 8, 2011 and argued that this revival made its appeal effective. The court of appeals denied the motions. Defendants petitioned for review. At issue was whether a corporation that files notices of appeal while its corporate powers are suspended may proceed with the appeals after those powers have been revived, even if the revival occurs after the time to appeal has expired. Relying on precedent, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the appeals may proceed. View "Bourhis v. Lord" on Justia Law
Greb v. Diamond Int’l Corp.
Plaintiffs filed a complaint for personal injuries and loss of consortium against Defendant corporation and other entities, alleging injuries from exposure to asbestos. Defendant demurred, alleging that more than three years before Plaintiffs filed their complaint, it had obtained a corporate dissolution pursuant to the laws of Delaware, Defendant's state of incorporation. Accordingly, Defendant argued, it lacked the capacity to be sued pursuant to Delaware's three-year survival statute. In opposition, Plaintiffs argued their action was permitted under California's own survival statute, which they asserted took precedence over Delaware law in this situation. The trial court sustained the demurrer and dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint, ruling that California's survival statute did not apply to foreign corporations, and hence Delaware's corresponding statute applied to Defendant. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) California's survival statute does not apply to foreign corporations; and (2) North American Asbestos Corp. v. Superior Court was disapproved of to the extent it held otherwise. View "Greb v. Diamond Int'l Corp." on Justia Law
Nalwa v. Cedar Fair, L.P.
At issue in this case was the scope of the primary assumption of risk doctrine, under which participants in, and operators of, certain activities have no duty of ordinary care to protect other participants from risks inherent in the activity. Here, Plaintiff fractured her wrist on a bumper car ride at an amusement park. Plaintiff sued the park owner for negligence. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendant on the basis of the primary assumption of risk doctrine. The court of appeal reversed, concluding the doctrine did not apply to bumper car rides. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the primary assumption of risk doctrine applies to recreational activities such as bumper car rides; (2) the doctrine applied to the ride here; and (3) Defendant's limited duty of care under the doctrine, the duty not to unreasonably increase the risk of injury over and above that inherent in the low-speed collisions essential to bumper car rides, did not extend to preventing head-on collisions between the cars. View "Nalwa v. Cedar Fair, L.P." on Justia Law
DiCampli-Mintz v. County of Santa Clara
Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants, a hospital and doctors, alleging negligence. The hospital was owned by the County. The County filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that Plaintiff failed to comply with the Government Claims Act (Act) because her claim was never presented to or received by a statutorily designated recipient. Plaintiff responded by arguing that she had substantially complied with the Act by delivering a letter of intent to the risk management department of the hospital and that the letter was received by the County risk management department. The trial court granted the County's summary judgment motion, holding that the County made a sufficient showing of noncompliance. The court of appeal reversed, holding (1) a claim may substantially comply with the Act, notwithstanding failure to deliver it to one of the statutorily specified recipients, if it is given to a department whose functions include the management or defense of claims against the defendant entity, and (2) Plaintiff had "substantially complied" with the presentation requirements of the Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred by judicially expanding the statutory requirements; and (2) a claim must satisfy the express delivery provisions language of the statute. View "DiCampli-Mintz v. County of Santa Clara" on Justia Law
Leung v. Verdugo Hills Hosp.
Six days after his birth, Plaintiff suffered irreversible brain damage. Through his mother as guardian ad litem, Plaintiff sued his pediatrician and the hospital in which he was born. Before trial, Plaintiff and the pediatrician agreed to settlement of $1 million. At a jury trial, Plaintiff was awarded both economic and noneconomic damages. The jury found the pediatrician was fifty-five percent at fault and the hospital forty percent at fault. The court of appeal reversed the portion of the trial court's judgment awarding Plaintiff economic damages against the hospital after applying the common law "release rule," under which Plaintiff's settlement with the pediatrician also released the nonsettling hospital from liability for Plaintiff's economic damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the common law release rule is no longer to be followed in California; and (2) therefore, the defendant hospital remained jointly and severally liable for Plaintiff's economic damages. View "Leung v. Verdugo Hills Hosp." on Justia Law
LeFiell Mfg. Co. v. Superior Court
Cal. Lab. Code 4558 contains a power press exception to the general rule that workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy of an injured worker against the employer. Employee was injured while operating a power press without a point of operation guard. Employee and his wife (Spouse) brought a civil suit against Employer under the power press exception that included a claim for loss of consortium on behalf of Spouse, predicated on the facts allegedly establishing a section 4558 violation. The trial court sustained Employer's demurrer to all of Spouse's causes of action except her claim for loss of consortium. The court of appeal disagreed with the trial court, concluding Spouse could plead a claim for damages for loss of consortium because such a claim fell outside the workers' compensation laws and hence was not barred by the exclusivity rule. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the portion of the judgment of the court of appeal as to Spouse's consortium claim, holding that where the worker's power press injuries do not prove fatal, the Legislature has restricted standing to bring the action at law authorized under section 4558 to the injured worker alone; and (2) affirmed in all other respects. Remanded. View "LeFiell Mfg. Co. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Coito v. Superior Court
At issue in this case was what attorney work product production, if any, should be accorded (1) recordings of witness interviews conducted by investigators employed by defendant's counsel, and (2) information concerning the identity of witnesses from whom defendant's counsel was obtained statements. Defendant objected to Plaintiff's request for discovery of these items, invoking the work product privilege. The trial court sustained the objection, concluding as a matter of law that the recorded witness interviews were entitled to absolute work product protection and that the other information sought was work product entitled to qualified protection. A court of appeals reversed, concluding that work product protection did not apply to any of the disputed items. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the recorded witness statements were entitled as a matter of law to at least qualified work product protection; and (2) information concerning the identity of witnesses from whom Defendant's counsel has obtained statements is entitled to protection if (a) Defendant can persuade the trial court that disclosure would reveal the attorney's tactics, impressions, or evaluation of the case (absolute privilege); or (b) disclosure would result in opposing counsel taking undue advantage of the attorney's industry or efforts (qualified privilege).
C.A. v. William S. Hart Union High School, et al.Â
C.A., a minor, sued his public high school guidance counselor and the school district for damages arising out of sexual harassment and abuse by the counselor. At issue was whether the district court could be found vicariously liable for the acts of its employees - not for the acts of the counselor, which were outside the scope of her employment, but for the negligence of supervisory or administrative personnel who allegedly knew, or should have known, of the counselor's propensities and nevertheless hired, retained, and inadequately supervised her. The court concluded that plaintiff's theory of vicarious liability for negligent hiring, retention, and supervision was a legally viable one. Ample case authority established that school personnel owed students under their supervision a protective duty of ordinary care, for breach of which the school district could be held vicariously liable. If a supervisory or administrative employee of the district was proven to have breached that duty by negligently exposing plaintiff to a foreseeable danger of molestation by his guidance counselor, resulting in his injuries, and assuming no immunity provision applied, liability fell on the school district. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment.
Quarry v. Doe I
Plaintiffs brought an action against the Roman Catholic Bishop of Oakland, alleging that defendant bore responsibility for sexual abuse committed during the 1970's by a priest then assigned to the Oakland diocese. Plaintiffs alleged that they discovered for the first time that the cause of their adult psychological injuries was the sexual abuse inflicted by this priest when they were children. At issue was whether their claims were within the limitations period established by Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1. The court held that the revival of any lapsed claims against the subcategory of defendants identified in the 2002 amendments was governed by subdivision (c) of section 340.1. The court also established that as of 1998, plaintiffs' claims necessarily had lapsed and plaintiffs' claims were not revived by the 1999 amendments, but for one year only. Because they did not file their claims within that year, their claims were barred under the applicable statute of limitations. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
O’Neil, et al. v. Crane Co., et al.
Defendants, makers of valves and pumps, were sued for a wrongful death allegedly caused by asbestos released from external insulation and internal gaskets and packing, all of which were made by third parties and added to the pumps and valves post sale. This case involved the limits of a manufacturer's duty to prevent foreseeable harm related to its product. At issue was when was a product manufacturer liable for injuries caused by adjacent products or replacement parts that were made by others and used in conjunction with defendant's product. The court held that a product manufacturer could not be held liable in strict liability or negligence for harm caused by another manufacturer's product unless defendant's own product contributed substantially to the harm, or defendant participated substantially in creating a harmful combined use of the products. Accordingly, the decision of the Court of Appeal was reversed and the case remanded for entry of judgment of nonsuit in favor of defendants.