Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California

by
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

by
Plaintiff sued Bakewell Hawthorne, LLC and JP Morgan Chase Bank, NA, claiming that he fell and was injured on property owned by Bakewell and leased by Chase. Plaintiff made no disclosure of expert witnesses, but in response to Bakewell’s motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff submitted the declarations of two experts. Bakewell objected to the introduction of these declarations. The trial court sustained the objection because Plaintiff had failed to disclose the experts. The court then granted summary judgment for Bakewell. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that when the time of exchanging expert witness information has expired before a party moves for summary judgment, and a party objects to a declaration from an undisclosed expert, the admissibility of the expert’s opinion must be determined before the summary judgment motion is resolved. View "Perry v. Bakewell Hawthorne, LLC" on Justia Law

by
During a three-year period, Defendant outbid Plaintiffs on twenty-three public works contracts to apply a slurry seal coating on various roadways in California. Plaintiffs jointly sued Defendant in five counties for intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. The Riverside complaint - the only tort action at issue in this appeal - alleged that Defendant won six public works contracts on which either plaintiff was the second lowest bidder and that Plaintiffs’ bids would have been accepted but for Defendant’s wrongful conduct during the bidding process. The trial court sustained Defendant’s demurrer to the entire cause of action. The appellate court reversed as to the tortious interference claim, determining that Plaintiffs’ pleading was adequate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the demurrer was properly sustained because, under the highly regulated circumstances regarding these public works contracts, Plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficient. View "Roy Allan Slurry Seal, Inc. v. American Asphalt South, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Eke Wokocha sued Sharp Memorial Hospital alleging that the Hospital’s negligence caused his quadriplegia. The jury found that the Hospital was negligent but that this negligence did not cause Wokocha’s quadriplegia. Wokocha subsequently died, and Wokocha’s widow, Berthe Kabran, was substituted as plaintiff. Kabran moved for a new trial on the basis of evidence obtained from an autopsy that purportedly called into question the jury’s causation determination. Kabran did not timely pay the necessary filing fee in submitting expert affidavits explaining the significance of this new evidence. The Hospital, however, did not object to the timeliness of the affidavits. Consequently, the trial court granted Kabran’s motion for a new trial. The Hospital appealed, arguing that because the affidavits were not timely filed, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to rely on them in hearing the motion for a new trial. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the Hospital did not object to the timeliness of the affidavits in the trial court, it may not raise this issue for the first time on appeal. View "Kabran v. Sharp Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law

by
Domestic or take-home exposure to asbestos occurs when a worker who is directly exposed to a toxin carries it home on his person or clothing and a member of his household is exposed through physical proximity with that worker or the worker’s clothing. Plaintiffs filed these actions for personal injury and wrongful death, alleging that take-home exposure to asbestos was a contributing cause to the deaths of the two decedents and that the employers of the decedents’ family members had a duty to prevent this exposure. The trial and appellate courts in the two cases reached varying conclusions as to the existence of a duty on the part of users of asbestos to prevent nonemployees who have never visited their facilities from being exposed to asbestos used in the defendants’ business. The Supreme Court held (1) employers have a duty to prevent exposure to asbestos carried by the bodies and clothing got on-site workers, and where it is reasonably foreseeable that workers will carry asbestos from the premises to household members, employers have a duty to take reasonable care to prevent this means of transmission; and (2) this duty, which also applies to premises owners who use asbestos on their property, extends only to members of a worker’s household. View "Kesner v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a metal foundry worker, alleged that he developed interstitial pulmonary fibrosis as the result of his exposure to fumes from molten metal and dust from plaster, sand, limestone, and marble. Plaintiff sought recovery from Defendants, the companies that supplied products for use in the foundry’s manufacturing process, alleging that Defendants’ products produced harmful fumes and dust that were a substantial cause of his illness. The trial court sustained Defendants’ demurrer without leave to amend, relying on the Court of Appeal decision in Maxton v. Western States Metals, which held that under the “component parts doctrine,” a supplier of materials was not liable for injuries suffered under circumstances similar to those in the present case. The Court of Appeal reversed after explicitly disagreeing with the analysis and conclusion in Maxton. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the component part doctrine was not applicable in this case, and therefore, the Court of Appeal did not err in concluding that the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ action could not be upheld. Remanded for further proceedings. View "Ramos v. Brenntag Specialties, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After Plaintiff was injured, he sought benefits from Defendant-insurer under an indemnity benefit policy. Plaintiff subsequently filed suit alleging that Defendant breached the insurance contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The jury awarded Plaintiff $31,500 in unpaid policy benefits, $35,000 in damages for emotional distress, and $19 million in punitive damages. The parties stipulated that the amount of attorney fees to which Plaintiff was entitled under Brandt v. Superior Court was $12,500, and the court awarded that amount. Defendant moved for a new trial seeking a reduction in the punitive damages award on the grounds that it was unconstitutionally excessive. The trial court granted the motion and reduced the jury’s award to a 10-to-1 ratio of punitive to compensatory damages. In so doing, the court considered only the $35,000 damages award but did not include the $12,500 in Brandt fees. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, in determining whether a punitive damages award is unconstitutionally excessive, Brandt fees may be included in the calculation of the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages, regardless of whether the fees are awarded by the trier of fact as part of its verdict or are determined after the verdict has been rendered. Remanded. View "Nickerson v. Stonebridge Life Ins. Co." on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff was injured by exposure to asbestos products, he filed suit against a raw asbestos supplier (Special Electric) for failure to warn him about the danger. At issue is the extent of the supplier's duty to warn. Under the sophisticated intermediary doctrine, the supplier can discharge this duty if it conveys adequate warnings to the material's purchaser (in this case, Johns-Manville), or sells to a sufficiently sophisticated purchaser, and reasonably relies on the purchaser to convey adequate warnings to others, including those who encounter the material in a finished product. Special Electric arguably forfeited the sophisticated intermediary defense by failing to present it to the jury. However, assuming the defense was preserved, the record does not establish as a matter of law that Special Electric discharged its duty to warn by reasonably relying on a sophisticated intermediary. The evidence is disputed about whether Special Electric consistently provided warnings to Johns-Manville during the relevant time frame; although the record clearly shows Johns-Manville was aware of the risks of asbestos in general, no evidence established it knew about the particularly acute risks posed by the crocidolite asbestos Special Electric supplied; plaintiffs presented evidence that at least one Special Electric salesperson told customers crocidolite was safer than other types of asbestos fiber, when the opposite was true; and the record does not establish as a matter of law that Special Electric actually and reasonably relied on Johns-Manville to warn end users like plaintiff about the dangers of asbestos. Accordingly, the court concluded that the trial court did not err in granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict because substantial evidence supports the jury's verdict against Special Electric. View "Webb v. Special Electric Co., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants alleging claims of medical malpractice and then later filed a claim for elder abuse. At issue is whether the definition of neglect under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, Welf. & Inst. Code, 15600 et seq., applies when a health care provider - delivering care on an outpatient basis - fails to refer an elder patient to a specialist. The court concluded that the Act does not apply unless the defendant health care provider had a substantial caretaking or custodial relationship, involving ongoing responsibility for one or more basic needs, with the elder patient. It is the nature of the elder or dependent adult‘s relationship with the defendant - not the defendant‘s professional standing - that makes the defendant potentially liable for neglect. In this case, because defendants did not have a caretaking or custodial relationship with the decedent, the court found that plaintiffs cannot adequately allege neglect under the Elder Abuse Act. Plaintiffs rely solely on defendants‘ allegedly substandard provision of medical treatment, on an outpatient basis, to an elder. But without more, such an allegation does not support the conclusion that neglect occurred under the Elder Abuse Act. View "Winn v. Pioneer Med. Grp." on Justia Law

by
Unlike most other personal injury actions, which generally must be filed within two years of the date on which the challenged act or omission occurred, professional negligence actions against health care providers must be brought within one year after the plaintiff discovers, or should have discovered, the injury, pursuant to Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 340.5. Plaintiff was a hospital patient who was injured when one of the rails on her hospital bed collapsed. Plaintiff sued the hospital, claiming negligence in failing to inspect and maintain the equipment. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that Plaintiff’s claim was untimely because it sounded in professional, rather than ordinary negligence, and therefore, the action was governed by the special limitations period in section 340.5. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the hospital’s alleged failure to take reasonable precautions to make a dangerous condition safe sounded in ordinary negligence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court correctly determined that section 340.5 was the applicable statute of limitations, and the Court of Appeal erred in holding to the contrary. View "Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hosp." on Justia Law