Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Kinda v. Carpenter
After defendant bought the commercial building housing plaintiffs‘ rug cleaning business, disputes developed. The tenants complained that landlords behavior interfered with their business operations and amounted to a campaign of harassment and retaliation. The tenant obtained a preliminary injunction, enjoining landlord‘s construction activities exceeding a stated decibel level during business hours. Three consumer reviews criticizing tenant’s business subsequently appeared on the Internet site Yelp.com posted from different online aliases. Tenant suspected landlord was responsible and amended the complaint to allege defamation. Landlord successfully moved in limine to exclude the evidence related to the Yelp reviews on hearsay and authenticity grounds. The trial court later granted landlord a directed verdict on the defamation cause of action. A jury found that, although landlord had breached the lease agreement, no damages resulted. The trial court deemed landlord the prevailing party and granted his request for attorney‘s fees. The court of appeal reversed, holding that the exclusion of the Yelp evidence and the resulting disposition of the defamation cause of action was error and it is not clear that the outcome on the contract-based causes of action would have remained unaffected by the presentation of evidence on the alleged defamation. View "Kinda v. Carpenter" on Justia Law
Rice v. Downs
William E. Rice and others filed suit against Attorney Gary P. Downs for legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of a written agreement Downs drafted to govern a limited liability corporation he formed with Rice and others. Both parties appealed after arbitration. The court concluded that Rice’s malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and rescission claims do not arise out of the operating agreements. Accordingly, the court reversed with respect to the court’s order compelling arbitration of Rice’s legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and rescission causes of action and otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "Rice v. Downs" on Justia Law
Bertsch v. Mammoth Community Water District
Brett Bertsch tragically died while skateboarding with his brother in the resort town of Mammoth Lakes. The two were traveling downhill at a “pretty fast” speed, and without helmets, when the front wheels of Brett’s skateboard hit a small gap between the paved road and a cement collar surrounding a manhole cover, stopping the wheels and ejecting Brett from the board. The impact of Brett’s skull with the pavement resulted in a traumatic brain injury and ultimately death. Brett’s father and brother, plaintiffs Richard and Mitchell Bertsch, brought a wrongful death action against various defendants, including Mammoth Community Water District and Sierra Star Community Association. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, concluding the doctrine of primary assumption of risk barred plaintiffs’ lawsuit as a matter of law. Plaintiffs appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the summary judgment motions were properly granted and affirmed. View "Bertsch v. Mammoth Community Water District" on Justia Law
Jimenez v. Roseville City School Dist.
Plaintiff Uriel Jimenez was injured at a middle school within defendant Roseville City School District. The 14-year old Jimenez was in a classroom where fellow middle school students were purportedly practicing break dancing, but in which some were also performing “flips.” Students had been ordered not to perform flips; and the teacher who allowed the students to use his classroom for dancing violated school policy by leaving them unsupervised. Jimenez was seriously injured when other students waited for the teacher to leave them unsupervised, and then induced Jimenez to attempt a flip. The trial court granted the District summary judgment, concluding Jimenez assumed the risk of injury by participating in break dancing. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Jimenez, the Court of Appeal found two viable theories of liability, and as such, reversed and remanded with directions to the trial court to deny the District’s summary judgment motion. View "Jimenez v. Roseville City School Dist." on Justia Law
Hetzel v. Hennessy Indus., Inc.
Hennessy manufactured and supplied brake shoe arcing machines, (grinders) used to grind asbestos brakes. Hetzel allegedly used its grinder while working as a mechanic from 1958 to 1962 and alleged Hennessy knew or should have known its grinders would be used in conjunction with asbestos-containing brake linings. All brake shoe linings used with automobiles during the relevant period contained asbestos. He claimed Hennessy had a duty to warn of the risks. Hennessy’s grinders did not contain asbestos and are designed to reshape the friction material of a brake shoe, regardless of the shoe’s composition, by mechanical abrasion. When the grinder comes into contact with an asbestos-containing brake shoe, it releases asbestos into the air. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Hennessy, reasoning that brake shoes without asbestos existed at the time of plaintiff’s exposure and Hennessy’s grinders worked on all brake linings, regardless of whether they contained asbestos. Hetzel, who suffered lung damage, died in 2012. The court of appeal reversed. The combined use of Hennessy’s machines with the asbestos brakes inevitably created a hazardous condition by releasing asbestos fibers into the air. Hennessy was in a position to provide safeguards from this exposure. View "Hetzel v. Hennessy Indus., Inc." on Justia Law
Lopez v. Sony Electronics, Inc.
Plaintiff, by and through her mother and guardian ad litem, filed suit against Sony, alleging that her prenatal exposure to toxic substances caused her to suffer birth defects and permanent injuries. Plaintiff was born in April 1999, with numerous birth defects. She alleges that, during her mother’s employment with Sony, she was exposed for prolonged periods of time to chemicals which caused her birth defects. The court concluded that Code of Civil Procedure section 340.4, which is applicable to tort actions for birth and prebirth injuries, governs plaintiff’s claims and that her action is time-barred. In so holding, the court departed from its colleagues in the Sixth District who concluded that section 340.8 supplants the limitations period of section 340.4 for claims based on prenatal injuries caused by exposure to hazardous materials or toxic substances (Nguyen v. Western Digital Corporation). Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment entered in favor of Sony. View "Lopez v. Sony Electronics, Inc." on Justia Law
Daza v. LA Community College Dist.
An adult student filed suit against the District and Igor Daza, a guidance counselor employed by the District, alleging Daza sexually assaulted her when she went to his office for counseling services (the main lawsuit). The District refused to defend Daza, so he paid for his own defense and filed a cross-complaint denying the allegations of sexual assault and seeking indemnity and reimbursement for his defense. After the District settled the main lawsuit, it then demurred to Daza’s cross-complaint, arguing that the student’s allegations of sexual assault in the main lawsuit fell outside the scope of Daza’s employment as a matter of law. The California Tort Claims Act, Gov. Code, 810 et seq., requires public employers to defend and indemnify their employees for third party claims arising out of acts within the scope of employment. The court agreed with the trial court that the sexual assault alleged in the main lawsuit fell outside the scope of Daza’s employment as a matter of law. But under a proper interpretation of section 996.4 of the Act, the determination of whether an employee acted within the scope of employment is factual and cannot be limited to the third party’s allegations in the underlying lawsuit when the employee denies those allegations, and the employee’s version of events would demonstrate acts within the scope of employment. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View "Daza v. LA Community College Dist." on Justia Law
Sanford v. Rasnick
On June 13, 2011, Sanford was injured when a car driven by 17-year-old Jacy ran a stop sign and struck his motorcycle. The car was owned by Jacy’s father, William. On February 20, 2013, Sanford filed suit against the Rasnicks, alleging vehicular negligence against Jacy and general negligence against both Rasnicks. The Rasnicks made a joint Code of Civil Procedure section 998 offer for $130,000. The offer lapsed, the case went to trial, and a jury returned a verdict for less than $130,000. The trial court held the 998 offer valid, and ordered that the Rasnicks could recover some expert witness fees and other costs. The court entered a separate order taxing certain of Sanford’s costs. The court of appeal reversed and remanded, holding that the 998 offer was not valid because it improperly contained a request for an undescribed “Settlement Agreement” and the court erred in connection with its rulings on the cost items. View "Sanford v. Rasnick" on Justia Law
Travelers Cas. & Surety Co. v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd.
Dreher had been a maintenance supervisor at an Alliance apartment complex for 74 days when he slipped and fell on concrete walkway in the complex in the rain. Dreher sustained a fractured pelvis and injuries to his neck, shoulder, leg, and knee. He suffered gait derangement, a sleep disorder, and headaches. Dreher required surgery to repair pelvic fractures, another surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and another surgery to address issues with his foot and ankle. Dreher sought compensation for a psychiatric injury. An evaluation concluded that Dreher suffered a psychiatric disability as a result of the accident, including depression, difficulty sleeping, and panic attacks. The ALJ found that Dreher sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment but denied his claim as barred by section 3208.3(d) because Dreher was employed by Alliance for less than six months and his psychiatric injury did not result from a sudden and extraordinary employment condition. On reconsideration, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board found that the injury was not barred. The court of appeal annulled the decision. Dreher’s testimony that he was surprised by the slick surface because the other walkways had a rough surface, and that the walkway was later resurfaced, did not demonstrate that his injury was caused by an uncommon, unusual, or totally unexpected event. View "Travelers Cas. & Surety Co. v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd." on Justia Law
Lopez v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society
Jose Lopez sued the national Jehovah's Witnesses organization, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (Watchtower), alleging his Bible instructor sexually abused him in 1986 when he was a child. Lopez asserted several legal theories, including failure to warn, negligent supervision, and negligent hiring/retention. After contentious discovery disputes, the court issued two discovery orders against Watchtower: (1) compelling the deposition of an individual (Gerrit Losch) whom the court found was a "managing agent" of Watchtower; and (2) ordering the production of documents in Watchtower's files pertaining to other perpetrators of child sexual abuse. When Watchtower failed to comply with these orders, the court granted Lopez's motion for monetary and terminating sanctions, struck Watchtower's answer, and entered Watchtower's default. Watchtower appealed, challenging the validity of the discovery orders and an abuse of discretion in failing to impose lesser sanctions. After review, the Court of Appeal rejecte Watchtower's challenges to the production order, but concluded the court erred in ordering Watchtower to produce Losch for deposition and the subsequent sanctions. The Court remanded for the trial court to consider the appropriate sanctions for Watchtower's violation of the document production order. "The initial measure should be a remedy that is less onerous than a terminating sanction." View "Lopez v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society" on Justia Law