Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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An employee of the city struck and killed a pedestrian while the employee, driving his own car, was driving to work. On the day of the accident, the employee was driving to his workplace at the Hyperion Treatment Plant, a job that did not require him to be in the field or use his personal automobile for his employment. The city moved for summary judgment, arguing that the coming and going rule insulated it from liability. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the city, holding that plaintiffs failed to adduce sufficient facts upon which they could establish a triable issue of fact on their claim that the employee's accident was a foreseeable event arising from or relating to his employment for the city at its water plant laboratory. In this case, nothing about the enterprise for which the city employed the employee made his hitting a pedestrian while commuting a foreseeable risk of this enterprise. Therefore, the going and coming rule was created for this type of situation and was applicable in this case, precluding plaintiffs' claim of vicarious liability against the city. View "Bingener v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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In September 2014, a driver was rear-ended by an SUV driven by a Union Pacific employee. The motorist lost control of her car, spinning off the freeway and onto the dirt shoulder, where it struck a roadside light pole. The light pole, which was manufactured by Ameron Pole Products, was designed to “break away” on impact, causing the pole to pass over the impacting vehicle, thereby reducing the force of the collision and concomitant risk of injury. On this occasion, however, the light pole did not break away, but instead remained standing. The driver sustained multiple injuries, including skull fractures, injuries to her brain and face, a fracture of the right scapula, and bilateral chest trauma. The driver sued Union Pacific Railroad Comapny and Ameron. Union Pacific cross-complained against Ameron for equitable indemnity and apportionment. Ameron moved for summary judgment, arguing the driver would be unable to prove causation as a matter of law. Union Pacific opposed the motion, arguing Ameron failed to carry its initial burden or showing judgment as a matter of law. Alternatively, Union Pacific argued the evidence submitted raised triable issues of fact as to whether Ameron’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the driver’s injuries. The trial court entered judgment in Ameron’s favor. The Court of Appeal reversed, concurring with Union Pacific’s alternate grounds. Summary judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Ameron Pole Products LLC" on Justia Law

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Beau Gordon, a professional roofer, fell 35 feet through a "camouflaged hole" in a warehouse roof he was inspecting. For the resulting head injury, a jury awarded Gordon approximately $875,000 against the building's owner, ARC Manufacturing, Inc. (ARC) and Joseph Meyers. The primary issue on appeal was whether the trial court correctly refused to instruct on primary assumption of risk where, as here, defendants did not hire or engage Gordon. The Court of Appeal concluded that primary assumption of risk did not apply, rejected appellants' other contentions, and affirmed the judgment. View "Gordon v. ARC Manufacturing, Inc." on Justia Law

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Riley was riding a motorcycle through a green light in Oakland, when he was struck by a car fleeing from Sheriff’s deputies in marked cars. The suspects in the car that struck Riley were suspected of theft and the car had been reported as stolen. Riley traveled on the hood of the car for some distance, until the car crashed. Riley suffered serious bodily injury. Riley filed suit. Defaults were entered against the suspects. The court dismissed the individual officers from the action and later granted the Sheriff summary judgment, concluding the Sheriff is entitled to immunity under Vehicle Code section 17004.7, which provides a public agency immunity from liability for collisions involving vehicles being pursued by peace officers if the agency “adopts and promulgates a written policy on, and provides regular and periodic training on an annual basis for, vehicular pursuits.” The court of appeal affirmed. The Oakland Policy does effectively “control and channel the pursuing officer’s discretion” in determining the speed of pursuit. The Sheriff showed that deputies were trained in accordance with the Policy and that the training included adequate consideration of speed limits as required by Penal Code section 13519.8(b). View "Riley v. Alameda County Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law

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Sally Loeb sued the County of San Diego (County) for personal injuries she allegedly sustained when she tripped on an uneven concrete pathway in a County park. The County filed successive motions for summary judgment based on a "trail immunity" defense, which provided absolute immunity to public entities for injuries sustained on public trails that provide access to, or are used for, recreational activities. The trial court denied these motions, finding disputed facts existed regarding whether the pathway was used for recreational purposes. But when Loeb conceded during argument over the proposed special verdict forms that the pathway was used, at least in part, for recreational purposes, the trial court granted a nonsuit in the County's favor. Loeb contended the trial court erred procedurally and substantively. Finding no reversible error in the grant of a nonsuit, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Loeb v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Monterey County's Laguna Seca Raceway obtained a license from the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) to hold FIM-sanctioned motorcycle racing events. No one at the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), which manages operations, possessed any experience or training on-track safety. Without consulting experts, SCAMP directed the placement of sandbags—provided by the County—around the Raceway for erosion control, in violation of FIM Standards. Kim attended a Raceway event. It was foreseeable that participants would lose control of their motorcycles and enter the safety zone, but they were not warned about unmarked sandbags placed around the racecourse. Kim “ran wide” into the safety zone, collided with sandbags, was ejected from his motorcycle, and suffered serious injuries. The court of appeal reversed summary judgment in favor of the County and SCRAMP on claims of dangerous conditions of public property and gross negligence. Kim adequately alleged that the presence of sandbags on or near a track is not an inherent risk of amateur motorcycle track racing. A reasonable factfinder could determine that the use of sandbags was a severe departure from the “first-class manner” that SCRAMP was contractually obligated to operate the Raceway; that because local conditions made erosion inevitable and in light of $5.25 million revenue contractually-designated for “capital improvements,” it was grossly negligent for SCRAMP to divert this money to operations; and that defendants were grossly negligent for relying entirely on the assessments of a SCRAMP executive with virtually no track safety training. View "Kim v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant John-David Gonzales (Gonzales) appealed trial court orders that led to the disbursement of settlement funds to respondents Michael Silvers, a law corporation (Silvers), Panish, Shea & Boyle (PSB), Michael W. Jacobs, Case Advance (CA), Nexus Physical Therapy, and Everence Association, Inc. (Silvers, PSB, Jacobs, CA, Nexus, and Everence were collectively referred to as lienholders). Defendants Gonzales and lienholders were named as parties in an interpleader action filed by plaintiff, respondent, and stakeholder Gregory Hood (Hood). Hood filed this action to resolve the competing claims of defendants to funds from the settlement of Gonzales v. Sears Holding Corporation et al., San Diego Superior Court case No. 27-2014-00040057-CU-PL-CTL (“the personal injury action”), which litigation was filed by Silvers in November 2014 after Gonzales was hurt in a bicycle accident. Gonzales in July 2015 agreed in writing to have PSB associate in as counsel. Silvers/PSB settled a portion of the personal injury action for $100,000. After Silvers/PSB withdrew as counsel of record in the personal injury action, Gonzales retained Jacobs, who obtained an additional settlement of $299,999.99 pursuant to an offer to compromise. Gonzales, however, refused to sign the settlement agreement and endorse the settlement check, terminated Jacobs as counsel, and retained Hood for the " 'determination and distribution' of the settlement funds." Despite his promise to do so, Gonzales again refused to endorse the settlement check. Within days after retaining Hood, Gonzales terminated him as legal counsel. In response, Hood informed Gonzales that, if he did not promptly retain new counsel to allow for the transfer of the settlement check and other settlement funds in Hood's possession, Hood would file an interpleader action, based on Hood's concern there were multiple claimants to the settlement funds and the settlement check would "expire" and not be honored by a bank. In anticipation of a hearing, the lienholders stipulated to a proposed distribution of the settlement funds among defendants. At the hearing, Gonzales (through his fifth attorney of record) agreed with the amounts owed to Silvers, PSB, and CA under that stipulation. Gonzales, however, disputed the amount sought by Jacobs, Nexus, and Everence. He also disagreed with the court's September 14 elisor order awarding costs and fees to Hood. For the most part, the Court of Appeal found all of Gonzales arguments “unavailing,” and affirmed. View "Hood v. Gonzales" on Justia Law

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After he developed mesothelioma, Berg sued Colgate-Palmolive, whose predecessor, Mennen, manufactured shaving talc he had used in 1959 to 1961 or 1962. During that period he used a total of four to six containers of the talc. Colgate’s expert opined that Mennen Shave Talc was “free of asbestos” and, even if some of the raw talc sourced to make the product was contaminated with asbestos, there was no legitimate scientific basis on which to conclude that any particular container of shave talc was contaminated. Berg’s expert opined that, “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, . . . repeated use of Mennen Shave Talc products such as those tested and reported here in a manner consistent with the intended use would cause respirable asbestos fibers to become airborne and inhalable,” creating “airborne asbestos concentrations . . . hundreds if not thousands of times greater than background or ambient levels.” The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment for Colgate. Berg failed to create a triable issue of material fact of whether the Mennen product Berg used contained asbestos. Berg’s expert identified no evidence and set forth no demonstrably scientifically accepted or logical rationale by which he could determine what percentage of the cans of Mennen talc sold in the relevant period contained talc from lots contaminated with asbestos. View "Berg v. Colgate-Palmolive Co." on Justia Law

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In separate incidents, claimants Miguel Velazquez and Servando Velazquez suffered injuries within the scope of their employment, and each required Spanish language interpreting services in connection with their medical care. Meadowbrook Insurance Company was the workers’ compensation carrier for the claimants’ employers and accepted both claims and administered benefits. DFS Interpreting (“DFS”), which provided interpreter services to each claimant, timely submitted invoices to Meadowbrook for the services provided. Meadowbrook refused to pay the invoices DFS submitted. DFS objected to the insurance company’s explanations of review, but did not request a second review pursuant to Labor Code section 4603.2 (e) or California Code of Regulations, title 8, section 9792.5.5. Meadowbrook petitioned for writ of review of the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board’s (WCAB) decision on reconsideration that liens held by DFS Interpreting (DFS) against Meadowbrook regarding unpaid invoices for interpreter services DFS provided to Meadowbrook’s insureds were not foreclosed by DFS’s failure to follow procedural rules. The Court of Appeal issued the writ, and held that DFS’s failure to comply with required procedures resulted in DFS’s bills being deemed satisfied. This result meant Meadowbrook was not liable for further payment. The Court annulled the WCAB’s decision to the contrary and remanded for further proceedings. View "Meadowbrook Ins. Co. v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd." on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action against an anesthesiologist, the jury found that defendant breached the duty of care she owed plaintiff, but that the breach did not cause plaintiff's paralysis. On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in denying the Batson/Wheeler motion the trial court made sua sponte after defendant's attorney exercised peremptory challenges to six Hispanic prospective jurors out of his seven total challenges. The Court of Appeal agreed with plaintiff that the trial court erred in not requiring defense counsel to offer nondiscriminatory reasons for his first four challenges that formed the basis of the trial court's prima facie finding of racial bias. Therefore, the court reversed for the limited purpose of conducting the second and third steps of the Batson/Wheeler inquiry as to all six challenged Hispanic jurors. The court held that the prohibition against the exercise of peremptory challenges to exclude prospective jurors on the basis of race or other group bias applies to civil as well as criminal cases. The court remanded with instructions. The court affirmed as to plaintiff's claim of error regarding the trial court's exclusion of evidence of defendant's dishonesty; motion to exclude expert testimony; and assertion that defense counsel's closing argument was improper. View "Unzueta v. Akopyan" on Justia Law