Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California

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At issue was which statute of limitations applies to a suit brought by a child allegedly harmed by in utero exposure to hazardous chemicals: that for toxic exposure claims - Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 340.8(a) - or that for prenatal injuries - Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 340.4. Plaintiff brought suit when she was twelve years old alleging that she and her mother were exposed to toxic chemicals at a Sony Electronics, Inc. manufacturing plant, resulting in her birth defects. Sony moved for summary judgment, arguing that the action was barred by the six-year statute of limitations under section 340.4. In response, Plaintiff argued that her action fell under section 340.8. Section 340.8’s limitations period is only two years but, unlike section 340.4, permits tolling during minority and periods of mental incapacity. The trial court granted summary judgment after applying section 340.4. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the toxic exposure statute was more recently enacted, and its language plainly encompasses prenatal injuries, it applies in this case; and (2) therefore, Plaintiff’s claims are not time-barred. View "Lopez v. Sony Electronics, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue was the validity of a court order entered upon default judgment in a defamation case, insofar as it directed Yelp Inc. to remove certain consumer reviews posted on its website. Plaintiffs brought the underlying lawsuit alleging that certain consumer reviews posted on Yelp were libelous. Yelp was not named as a defendant and did not participate in the judicial proceedings that led to the eventual default judgment. Yelp only became involved in the litigation after being served with a copy of the judgment and order directing that the challenged reviews be purged. Yelp field a motion to set aside and vacate the judgment, arguing that, to the extent the removal order would impose upon Yelp a duty to remove the reviews at issue, the order was barred under the Communications Decency Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 230. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the order as to Yelp was beyond the scope of section 230. The Supreme Court reversed, holding the the court of appeal adopted too narrow a construction of section 230 and that section 230 immunity applied in this case. View "Hassell v. Bird" on Justia Law

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At issue was the claim and issue preclusive significance in future litigation of a conclusion relied on by the trial court and challenged on appeal but not addressed by the appellate court. The Supreme Court overruled People v. Skidmore, 27 Cal. 287 (1865), holding that Skidmore reflects a flawed view of preclusion and that stare decisis does not compel continued adherence to Skidmore. Plaintiff sued both Dr. Haitham Matar and Dr. Stephen Nahigian for professional negligence and alleged that Matar was vicariously liable for Nahigian’s alleged tort. The trial court granted summary judgment for both defendants in two successive judgments. In the first judgment with respect to Nahigian, the trial court concluded that the suit was untimely and that there was no genuine issue regarding causation. In the second judgment, the trial court concluded that the court’s earlier no-causation determination precluded holding Matar liable for Nahigian’s conduct. The court of appeals affirmed the first judgment on statute of limitations grounds without reaching the no-causation ground. As to Matar, the court of appeal reversed, concluding that claim preclusion was unavailable because Plaintiff sued both defendants in a single lawsuit and that Skidmore was inapplicable to issue preclusion. The Supreme Court held that Skidmore must be overruled and that Matar was not entitled to summary judgment on preclusion grounds. View "Samara v. Matar" on Justia Law

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When a third party sues an employer for the negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of an employee who intentionally injured that third party, the suit alleges an “occurrence” under the employer’s commercial general liability policy so long as the injury can be considered “accidental.” Jane Doe alleged that Construction Company negligently hired, retained, and supervised an employee, who allegedly sexually abused Doe. Construction Company tendered the defense to Insurer. Insurer sought declaratory relief in federal court contending that it had no obligation to defend or indemnify Construction Company. The commercial general liability policy at issue provided coverage for “bodily injury caused by an “occurrence.” “Occurrence” was defined as an “accident.” The district court granted summary judgment to Insurer, reasoning that Doe’s injury was not caused by an “occurrence” because the alleged negligent hiring, retention, and supervision were acts too attenuated from the injury-causing conduct committed by the employee. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the causal connection between Construction Company’s alleged negligence and the injury inflicted by its employee was close enough to justify the imposition of liability on Construction Company. View "Liberty Surplus Insurance Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Construction Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Universities have a special relationship with their students and a duty to protect them from foreseeable violence during curricular activities. Damon Thompson, a student at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), stabbed fellow student Katherine Rosen during a chemistry lab. Thompson was experiencing auditory hallucinations, and school administrators had attempted to provide him with mental health treatment. Rosen sued UCLA and several of its employees (collectively, UCLA), alleging negligence for UCLA’s failure to protect her from Thompson’s foreseeable violent conduct. UCLA moved for summary judgment, arguing that colleges have no duty to protect their adult students from criminal acts. The trial court denied the motion. The Court of Appeal granted UCLA’s petition for writ of mandate, ruling that UCLA owed no duty to protect Rosen. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that universities owe a duty to protect students from foreseeable violence during curricular activities. View "Regents of University of California v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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In this appeal arising from a demurrer, Plaintiffs could allege a cause of action against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation for warning label liability. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal, which directed the trial court to enter an order sustaining Novartis’s demurrer with leave to amend Plaintiffs’ negligence and negligent misrepresentation causes of action. Plaintiffs claimed, inter alia, that Novartis knew or should have known that its warning label failed to alert pregnant women or their doctors to the risk Brethine posed to fetal brain development. Novartis filed a demurrer, arguing that it had no duty to Plaintiffs. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend. The Court of Appeal reversed and directed that the order sustaining the demurrer be modified to grant Plaintiffs leave to amend their causes of action for negligence and negligent misrepresentation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) brand-name drug manufacturers have a duty to use ordinary care in warning about the safety risks of their drugs, regardless of whether the injured party was dispensed the brand-name or generic version of the drug; and (2) a brand-name manufacturer’s sale of the rights to a drug does not terminate its liability for injuries foreseeably and proximately caused by deficiencies present in the warning label prior to the sale. View "T.H. v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal ruling that a court’s error in failing to issue a statement of decision as required by Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 632 is not reversible per se but is subject to harmless error review. The trial court issued a tentative decision finding that Defendant committed acts of sexual assault against Plaintiff and that Defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing Plaintiff’s injuries. Plaintiff’s counsel submitted a proposed judgment to the court. The court signed the judgment without issuing a separate statement of decision. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in failing to issue a statement of decision and that the error was reversible per se. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court erred but that the error did not result in a miscarriage of justice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a trial court’s error in failing to issue a statement of decision upon a timely request is not reversible per se but is, rather, subject to harmless error review. View "F.P. v. Monier" on Justia Law

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A landowner does not have a duty to assist invitees in crossing a public street when the landowner does no more than site and maintain a parking lot that requires invitees to cross the street to access the landowner’s premises, as long as the public street’s dangers are not obscured or magnified by some condition of the landowner’s premises or by some action taken by the landowner. Plaintiff sued Grace Family Church (the Church) for injuries he received when he was struck by a car as he crossed a public street between the main premises of the Church and the Church’s overflow parking area. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the Church, which did not control the public street, owed him a duty of care to assist him in safely crossing the public street and that the Church was negligent in failing to do so. The trial court granted the Church summary judgment. The Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the Church did nothing more than site and maintain a parking lot that required its invitees to cross a public street, the Church owed Plaintiff no duty to protect him from the obvious dangers of crossing the public street. View "Vasilenko v. Grace Family Church" on Justia Law

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The interim adverse judgment rule applies when a trial court had initially denied summary judgment on the basis that a lawsuit had sufficient potential merit to proceed to trial but concluded after trial that the suit had been brought in bad faith because the claim lacked evidentiary support. In the underlying case, Plaintiffs were sued for misappropriation of trade secrets. Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. The trial court subsequently granted judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs later brought a malicious prosecution against the opposing parties’ lawyers in the trade secrets case. Defendants filed an anti-SLAPP motion, arguing that Plaintiffs could not establish a probability of success because the order denying summary judgment in the underlying trade secrets action established probable cause to prosecute that action. The trial court granted the motion to strike, concluding that the action was untimely. The court of appeal concluded that the action was timely but that the interim adverse judgment rule applied, thus barring the malicious prosecution suit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the denial of summary judgment in the trade secrets action established probable cause to bring that action, and therefore, Plaintiffs could not establish a probability of success on their malicious prosecution claim. View "Parrish v. Latham & Watkins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a minor, filed a complaint against Huntington Beach Union High School District (District), alleging that he was injured in a school football game. Plaintiff’s personal injury action accrued on October 31, 2011, the date of his diagnosis. Plaintiff did not file a claim within six months, as required by Cal. Gov't Code 911.2(a), but presented the District with an application to file a late claim nearly one year after the claim accrued. Because the District took no action on the application, it was deemed denied on December 8, 2012 by operation of law. Under Cal. Gov't Code 946.6(b), a petition for relief from the obligation to present a claim before brining suit must be filed within six months after a late claim application is either denied or deemed denied. Plaintiff did not file such a petition until October 28, 2013. The trial court rejected the petition. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff missed the six-month window for petition the trial court for relief, and therefore, the trial court properly dismissed the petition as untimely. View "J.M. v. Huntington Beach Union High School District" on Justia Law