Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court granting a writ of mandate directing the trial court to issue a new order denying Ford Motor Company's motion to exclude all of Plaintiff's proffered deposition testimony, holding that the court of appeal erroneously construed Wahlgren as establishing a categorical bar to admitted deposition testimony under Cal. Evid. Code 1291(a)(2).Plaintiff, a putative member of a federal multidistrict class action suit against Ford arising from the diesel engine used in some of Ford's vehicles, opted out of a federal suit in order to pursue his own lawsuit. Plaintiff filed ten designations of deposition testimony listing the depositions of nine out-of-state Ford employees or former employees had given deposition testimony in the federal action or in subsequent related California opt-out litigation that Plaintiff proposed to introduce at trial. Ford moved to exclude the proffered testimony, which the trial court granted. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the appellate court’s analysis was incompatible with (1) the established principle that the party proposing to introduce evidence under section 1291(a)(2)’s former testimony exception to the hearsay rule bears the burden of establishing the requirements for admission; and (2) the Legislature’s official comment reflecting its understanding when it enacted the provision at issue as part of the Evidence Code in 1965. View "Berroteran v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the judgment of the trial court sustaining Well Fargo Bank, N.A.'s demurrer to Plaintiff's negligence claim, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on his claims of error.At issue on appeal was whether a lender owes the borrower a tort duty sounding in general negligence principles to process and respond carefully to a borrower's loan modification application such that, upon a breach of this duty, the lender may be liable for the borrower's pecuniary losses unaccompanied by property damage or personal injury. The Supreme Court held that there was no such duty, holding that neither Plaintiff's assertion of a "special relationship" between himself and Wells Fargo nor his invocation of the factors articulated in Biakanja v. Irving, 49 Cal.2d 647 (1958), provided a compelling basis to recognize such a duty. View "Sheen v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Cal. Civ. Code 3333.2 applies to a physician assistant who has a legally enforceable agency relationship with a supervising physician and provides services within the scope of that agency relationship, even if the physician violates his obligation to provide adequate supervision.Under a provision of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), damages for noneconomic losses shall not exceed $250,000 in any action for injury against a healthcare provider based on "professional negligence." At issue before the Supreme Court was whether section 3333.2 applies to actions against physician assistants who are nominally supervised by a doctor but receive minimal or no supervision when performing medical services. The Supreme Court held that a physician assistant practices within the scope of her license for purposes of MICRA’s cap on noneconomic damages when the physician assistant acts as the agent of a licensed physician, performs the type of services authorized by that agency relationship, and does not engage in an area of practice prohibited by the Physician Assistant's Practice Act. See Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code, former 3502, subd. (d). View "Lopez v. Ledesma" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Curtis Olson failed to show the requisite "minimal merit" on a critical element of his breach of contract claim and thus could not defeat Jane Doe's anti-SLAPP motion.Doe and Olson each owned units in the same condominium building. Doe brought a civil harassment restraining order against Olson, and as a result of court-ordered mediation, the parties agreed if they encountered each other in a public or common place "not to disparage one another." Doe later filed a civil lawsuit against Olson seeking damages. Olson cross-complained for breach of contract and specific performance, and Doe moved to strike Olson's cross-complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal's judgment insofar as it reversed the trial court's order granting Doe's special motion to strike the breach of contract clause of action with respect to statements in Doe's civil complaint, holding that Doe had no obligation under the contract to refrain from making disparaging statements in litigation, and therefore, Olson could not defeat Doe's anti-SLAPP motion. View "Olson v. Doe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a company that hired the contractor that hired the injured plaintiff in this case, owned the premises, and operated the electrical equipment, was not liable for the plaintiff's injuries.Plaintiff, an electrical parts specialist, sustained burns to a substantial portion of his body after he triggered an arc flash from a circuit he did not realize was live with flowing electricity. A jury concluded that the contractor for whom Plaintiff had been working and who had removed the protective cover on that live circuit while work was underway acted negligently and was liable for Plaintiff's injuries. At issue was whether Defendant, the entity that hired the independent contractor, owed a tort duty to Plaintiff, who was working for Defendant at the time of Plaintiff's injuries. The Supreme Court held that Defendant owed no tort duty to Plaintiff because Defendant neither failed to sufficiently disclose the hazard nor affirmatively contributed to the injury. View "Sandoval v. Qualcomm Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a landowner may not be liable for injuries to an independent contractor or its workers that result from a known hazard on the premises where there were no reasonable safety precautions the landowner could have adopted to minimize or avoid the hazard.Plaintiff's company was hired by Defendant to clean his home's skylight. While Plaintiff was walking on the edge of the roof he slipped and fell, sustaining serious injuries. Plaintiff brought this action, contending that his accident was caused by certain dangerous conditions on Defendant's roof. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, finding that Defendant owed no duty to Plaintiff pursuant to the Privette doctrine, or the presumption that the hirer of an independent contractor delegates to the contractor all responsibility for workplace safety. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that a landowner may be liable to an independent contractor for injuries resulting from known hazards. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, unless a landowner retains control over any part of the contractor's work and negligently exercises that retained control in a manner that affirmatively contributes to the injury, it is not liable to an independent contractor or its workers for an injury resulting from a known hazard on the premises. View "Gonzalez v. Mathis" on Justia Law

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In this wrongful death action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal determining that a minor's eighteenth birthday is excluded in calculating when the statute of limitations begins to run, holding that an individual's eighteenth birthday is excluded when calculating the applicable limitations period.Plaintiff brought this lawsuit against the City of Fontana and several of its police officers (collectively, Defendants) under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that one of the officers wrongfully shot and killed his father. Plaintiff was a minor at the time of his father's death. The trial court ruled that the claim was time-barred because Plaintiff filed suit one day outside the two-year limitations period and that Plaintiff's eighteenth birthday must be included in calculating the limitations period. The court of appeal reversed, ruling that Plaintiff's eighteenth birthday should have been excluded pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 12. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) in cases in which the statute of limitations is tolled bad on a plaintiff's minor age, the day after tolling ends is excluded in calculating whether an action is timely filed; and (2) Plaintiff's lawsuit in this case was timely filed. View "Shalabi v. City of Fontana" on Justia Law

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In this negligence action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the trial court's decision to dismiss one of several named defendants, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), for failure to adequately allege a special relationship giving rise to an affirmative duty to protect, holding that the court of appeals did not err.Plaintiffs, former athletes who trained in the Olympic sport of taekwondo, filed this suit against their former coach, Marc Gitelman, and several others, alleging, among other things, that USOC and USA Taekwondo (USAT) were negligent in failing to protect them from Gitelman's sexual abuse. USOC and USAT both demurred to the complaint, contending that Plaintiffs had not adequately alleged that they had an affirmative duty to take action to protect Plaintiffs from Gitelman's abuse. The trial court sustained the demurrers and entered judgments of dismissal. The court of appeal reversed as to USAT but affirmed as to USOC. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeal did not err by declining to apply the factors set out in Rowland v. Christian, 69 Cal. 2d 108 (1968), as an alternative source of duty. View "Brown v. USA Taekwondo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that when Norma and James Gund suffered a violent attack after being asked by law enforcement to check on a neighbor who had called 911 requesting help, the only remedy available to the Gunds was through workers' compensation.When members of the public engage in "active law enforcement service" at the request of a peace officer, California treats those members of the public as employees eligible for workers' compensation benefits. However, workers' compensation becomes an individual's exclusive remedy for his or her injuries under state law. At issue in this case was whether the Gunds were engaged in "active law enforcement service" when they assisted law enforcement by checking on a neighbor who had called 911, walked into an active murder scene, and had their throats cut. The Supreme Court held that the Gunds engaged in active law enforcement under California Labor Code 3366 even though the peace officer allegedly misrepresented the situation, and therefore, their only remedy was through workers' compensation. View "Gund v. County of Trinity" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the monetary cap of $500 in statutory damages in Cal. Health & Safety Code 1430(b) applies per action, not per regulatory violation.Section 1430(b) gives a current or former nursing care patient or resident the right to bring a private cause of action against a skilled nursing facility for violating certain regulations. The remedies include injunctive relief, attorney fees, and up to $500 in statutory damages. Plaintiff in the instant case filed a complaint against a nursing facility alleging violations of the Patients Bill of Rights, elder abuse and neglect, and negligence. The jury awarded Plaintiff $100,000 in damages and $95,500 in statutory damages - $250 for each of 382 violations. At issue on appeal was whether the $500 cap is the limit in each action or instead applies to each violation committed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 1430(b) authorizes a $500 per lawsuit cap. View "Jarman v. HCR ManorCare, Inc." on Justia Law