Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Prickett v. Bonnier Corp.
This case arose from a movie-making accident. After her father was injured diving in French Polynesia, Mira Chloe Prickett sued Bonnier Corporation and World Publications, LLC (collectively Bonnier) for compensatory and punitive damages under general maritime law. The trial court granted a judgment on the pleadings against her on the grounds that neither compensatory damages for loss of her father’s society nor punitive damages were available under general maritime law. Appellant Prickett did not cite on appeal any admiralty authority that would allow a child to recover loss of society damages for a nonfatal injury to a non-seaman on the high seas, and – without legislative impetus or compelling logic for such a result – the Court of Appeal declined to do so. The trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Prickett v. Bonnier Corp." on Justia Law
Doe v. Yim
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of respondent's motion to disqualify appellant's attorney, who is also appellant's mother and respondent's ex-wife, from representing appellant in all phases of tort litigation based primarily on the advocate-witness rule. In this case, appellant alleged that respondent sexually abused her from the time she was nine to 13 years old.The court held that the trial court reasonably concluded that the attorney is nearly certain to be a key witness at trial and thus the trial court acted within its discretion by effectuating the advocate-witness rule's purpose of avoiding factfinder confusion. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in applying the rule to disqualify the attorney not only at trial, but also in depositions and pretrial evidentiary hearings at which the attorney is likely to testify. The trial court also acted within its discretion in disqualifying the attorney from representing appellant in all other phases of the litigation on the ground of the attorney's potential misuse of confidential information obtained through her 17-year marriage with respondent. View "Doe v. Yim" on Justia Law
Shipp v. Western Engineering, Inc.
Defendants were performing road construction work, implementing a “reversing lane closure” traffic control, reducing traffic to one lane. A flagger to control northbound traffic was positioned at the south end of the reversing lane closure on Latrobe Road, north of where it intersected with Ryan Ranch Road. Because the flagger was positioned north of the intersection, when the flagger stopped northbound traffic, that traffic could back up, extending south into the intersection. Plaintiff Kevin Shipp was driving south on Latrobe Road when he came to a stop behind two other vehicles. The vehicle two cars ahead of plaintiff was attempting to turn left onto Ryan Ranch Road, but it could not because northbound traffic, stopped by the flagger at the south end of the reversing lane closure, was stopped in the intersection. Seconds after plaintiff stopped, a vehicle driven by George Smithson rear-ended plaintiff’s vehicle. This case presented the question of whether a highway contractor controlling traffic on a public highway owed a duty of care to a motorist who was rear-ended when forced to stop behind a vehicle that was unable to turn left at an intersection that was blocked by stopped traffic controlled by the contractor. The Court of Appeal concluded the contractor here did indeed owe a duty of care. View "Shipp v. Western Engineering, Inc." on Justia Law
Lopez v. City of Los Angeles
After plaintiff, a pedestrian, tripped and fell in a pothole located on city-owned property, he filed suit against the City and Wally's Wine & Spirits for negligence and premise liability. The Court of Appeal held that the commercial business leasing the property that the driveway services did not exercise control over the location of the pothole (so as to create a duty of care to passersby) when the business has done no more than put the driveway and gutter to their "ordinary and accustomed" uses. Therefore, the trial court was correct in granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict to overturn a jury verdict that found the business partially liable for the pedestrian's injury. View "Lopez v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law
Bader v. Avon Products, Inc.
Schmitz's estate sued Avon, alleging that Schmitz used Avon’s perfumed talc powder products for around 20 years and that these products contained asbestos and caused Schmitz’s mesothelioma. The court granted Avon’s motion to quash service of summons, concluding that it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over Avon because Bader failed to establish that her claims were related to or arose from Avon’s forum contacts--Bader failed to establish that Avon sold, and Schmitz used, in California talc powder products that contained asbestos as opposed to talc powder products without asbestos. The court also found that Bader failed to show that Avon injected the particular products at issue into California in a manner that related to Schmitz’s acquisition and usage of those products.The court of appeal reversed. Bader satisfied her burden on the relatedness prong and Avon does not contest purposeful availment or argue that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over it would be unreasonable. Precedent does not require the estate to establish at the jurisdictional stage the alleged defect in the Avon products that she used. Bader contended and Avon never disputed that Avon’s sale of talc powder products through its sales representatives directly to Schmitz in California are contacts that Avon created with California that satisfy purposeful availment; the claims arise out of or relate to Avon’s California contacts. View "Bader v. Avon Products, Inc." on Justia Law
Williams v. County of Sonoma
Williams and a friend began a 30-mile bicycle ride. As they biked down a hill on a road maintained by Sonoma County, they encountered a pothole measuring four feet long, three feet four inches wide, and four inches deep. Williams was traveling at least 25 miles per hour and, by the time she saw the pothole, was unable to avoid it. She was thrown to the pavement, incurring serious injuries. The pothole had been reported to the County more than six weeks earlier. Williams sued the County for the dangerous condition of public property (Gov. Code 835). A jury found for Williams, allocating 70 percent of the fault to the County and 30 percent to Williams. Williams was awarded about $1.3 million in damages.The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting the County’s argument that Williams’s claim was barred by the primary assumption of risk doctrine, which precludes liability for injuries arising from those risks deemed inherent in a sport. Because the County already owed a duty to other foreseeable users of the road to repair the pothole, the policy reasons underlying the primary assumption of risk doctrine support the conclusion that the County owes a duty not to increase the inherent risks of long-distance, recreational cycling. View "Williams v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law
Santos v. Crenshaw Manufacturing, Inc.
Appellant Marivel Santos was employed by respondent Crenshaw Manufacturing, Inc. (Crenshaw) in January 2017 as a machine operator on the production floor. Santos alleged that sometime in the second week of January 2017, she was instructed by her supervisor, Jose Flores, to operate a material-forming machine utilizing a die without any protective guards or cages. Ordinarily, Santos would have had to use both hands to operate the machine. This time, however, Flores instructed her to operate it “from the side using a bypass button.” Using the machine in this manner allowed Santos to operate the machine with her right hand, leaving her left hand free to reach into the machine to “press down the part” being cut. On January 12, 2017, Santos was operating the machine in this fashion when her left hand was crushed underneath the die, mutilating and severely injuring it. She filed a workers’ compensation claim against Crenshaw, and the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) investigated. In the 1980s, the California Legislature passed Labor Code section 4558's “power press exception” to the principle of workers’ compensation exclusivity, giving a right of action to employees injured by their employer’s knowing removal of or failure to install a point of operation guard on a power press when required by the manufacturer. In this case, the issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether the power press exception applied when the manufacturer, 45 years prior to passage of the law, conveyed a more general requirement for guards which went completely unheeded by the present user. Under these unique circumstances, the Court concluded there were triable issues of material fact as to whether the employer violated the statute and reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in the employer’s favor. View "Santos v. Crenshaw Manufacturing, Inc." on Justia Law
Koussaya v. City of Stockton
Stephanie Koussaya was taken hostage, along with two other women, by three armed bank robbers, Alex Martinez, Jaime Ramos, and Gilbert Renteria, Jr., used as a human shield in order to facilitate the robbers’ escape from the bank. The hostages were forced into a Ford Explorer belonging to one of the hostages, Kelly Huber. A high-speed chase with law enforcement followed. Huber was pushed out of the moving vehicle after Ramos shot her in the leg. For Koussaya and the other hostage, Misty Holt-Singh, the pursuit lasted for more than an hour, reaching speeds of over 100 miles per hour, and included exchanges of gunfire between Martinez, who was firing an AK-47 assault rifle out of the back of the Explorer, and two Stockton Police Department (SPD) officers. Koussaya ultimately decided her best chance at surviving the ordeal was to open one of the rear side doors and throw herself from the moving vehicle: she believed that if she did not jump from the vehicle she would be killed by the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team when the chase inevitably came to an end. Minutes after Koussaya’s escape, the chase did come to an end, at which point police officers fired several hundred rounds into the Explorer, killing two of the robbers and the remaining hostage. Having sustained serious injuries during her escape from the Explorer, Koussaya sued the City of Stockton and its police department (collectively, the City), as well as two officers, asserting causes of action for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), and general negligence. The City and officer defendants filed separate motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motions and entered judgment in favor of defendants. Koussaya appealed. The Court of Appeal, after review, affirmed the trial court. Though the Court found the trial court abused its discretion in ruling on an evidentiary matter and also misapplied the Government Claims Act to improperly limit the scope of Koussaya’s claims, taking into account the improperly excluded evidence and properly viewing the factual basis of her claims against the officer defendants and the City, the Court determined each defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Koussaya v. City of Stockton" on Justia Law
Nealy v. County of Orange
Wagon Wheel Canyon Loop Trail (the Trail) is located in Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park (the Park), a public park owned and operated by Orange County, California. Before the incident at issue in this case, a wooden lodgepole fence ran perpendicularly across the mid-point of the eastern half of the Trail loop, serving as an entrance and exit for the Trail, and created a physical barrier cyclists had to maneuver around when riding either north or south on the Trail. Plaintiff Sean Nealy “had ridden his bicycle on and along [the Trail] several times in the past, [and] knew of the existence of the [perpendicular] wooden lodgepole fence." At some point unknown to plaintiff, the lodgepole fence was replaced with new fencing, which consisted of wooden fenceposts or “pylons” between which were strung horizontally, gray colored wire cables. Like the original lodgepole fence, the new perpendicular fence “divided” the southern and northern portions of the Trail loop, “separating each direction of travel.” However, the new fence actually ended before it reached the boundary of the Trail, and there was an opening between the fence’s western-most post and the parallel fencing at the western edge of the Trail. Plaintiff, an experienced cyclist, was riding his bicycle on the Trail. He noticed the lodgepole fence had been removed, but did not see the wire cables strung between the new fenceposts. He mistakenly believed he could ride between the fenceposts, but instead, rode directly into the wire cables, where he was thrown over the handlebars and onto the ground, resulting in serious injuries. He sued the County, alleging (1) Negligence (Premises Liability)”; and “(2) Dangerous Condition of Public Property.” County demurred, asserting plaintiff’s claims were barred both by Government Code section 831.4’s “trail immunity” and section 831.7’s “hazardous activity immunity.” The trial court sustained the demurrer based on trail immunity, finding the new fencing was a “condition” of the Trail for which County was statutorily immune. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Nealy v. County of Orange" on Justia Law
Brue v. Al Shabaab
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying plaintiffs' request for entry of a default judgment and dismissing their wrongful death action against the terrorist organization Al Shabaab. This action stemmed from Al Shabaab's murder of 148 students in their dormitories at Garissa University in Kenya, including 21-year-old Angela Nyokabi Githakwa.The court held that the trial court did not violate the Githakwa Parties' due process rights by determining that it lacked jurisdiction over Al Shabaab. In this case, the trial court provided the Githakwa parties adequate notice and an opportunity to address personal jurisdiction. Furthermore, the trial court correctly concluded that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Al Shabaab where Al Shabaab is not subject to the trial court's general jurisdiction and the trial court lacked specific jurisdiction over Al Shabaab for the Garissa University attack. View "Brue v. Al Shabaab" on Justia Law