Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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After Jasim Al-Kuraishi was killed in a car accident, Al-Kuraishi's wife filed a wrongful death action against defendant and others. Defendant, while driving on the highway, changed lanes and passed a stopped vehicle in order to avoid crashing into the stopped vehicle. Al-Kuraishi's vehicle, which was behind defendant's vehicle, then crashed into the stopped vehicle.The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court's conclusion that the sudden emergency doctrine provides defendant with a complete defense and affirmed. The court held that an emergency or peril under the sudden emergency or imminent peril doctrine is a set of facts presented to the person alleged to have been negligent. Furthermore, it is irrelevant for purposes of the sudden emergency doctrine whether defendant's lane change created a dangerous situation for Al-Kuraishi or anyone else; the only relevant emergency is the one defendant faced. In this case, plaintiff's entire challenge to the trial court's order was that defendant created the emergency that resulted in Al-Kuraishi's death. However, the court explained that plaintiff's argument is focused on the wrong set of circumstances for application of the sudden emergency doctrine. View "Abdulkadhim v. Wu" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Defendants Silverado Senior Living Management, Inc., and Subtenant 350 W. Bay Street, LLC dba Silverado Senior Living – Newport Mesa appealed a trial court's denial of its petition to compel arbitration of the complaint filed by plaintiffs Diane Holley, both individually and as successor in interest to Elizabeth S. Holley, and James Holley. Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, who operated a senior living facility, for elder abuse and neglect, negligence, and wrongful death, based on defendants’ alleged substandard treatment of Elizabeth. More than eight months after the complaint was filed, defendants moved to arbitrate based on an arbitration agreement Diane had signed upon Elizabeth’s admission. At the time, Diane and James were temporary conservators of Elizabeth’s person. The court denied the motion, finding that at the time Diane signed the document, there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate she had the authority to bind Elizabeth to the arbitration agreement. Defendants argued the court erred in this ruling as a matter of law, and that pursuant to the Probate Code, the agreement to arbitrate was a “health care decision” to which a conservator had the authority to bind a conservatee. Defendants relied on a case from the Third District Court of Appeal, Hutcheson v. Eskaton FountainWood Lodge, 17 Cal.App.5th 937 (2017). After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that Hutcheson and other cases on which defendants relied are distinguishable on the facts and relevant legal principles. "When the Holleys signed the arbitration agreement, they were temporary conservators of Elizabeth’s person, and therefore, they lacked the power to bind Elizabeth to an agreement giving up substantial rights without her consent or a prior adjudication of her lack of capacity. Further, as merely temporary conservators, the Holleys were constrained, as a general matter, from making long-term decisions without prior court approval." Accordingly, the trial court was correct that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable as to Elizabeth. Furthermore, because there was no substantial evidence that the Holleys intended to sign the arbitration agreement on their own behalf, it could not be enforced against their individual claims. The Courttherefore affirmed the trial court’s order denial to compel arbitration. View "Holley v. Silverado Senior Living Management" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against TIAA, and the companies that managed TIAA's property, after their son died when a hair care product he was handling at work exploded and he was engulfed in the resulting fire. In this case, the employer did not know the product was dangerous and thus did not comply with legal requirements for storing and labeling hazardous materials, or with provisions in the lease of the premises where the fire occurred. The trial court granted defendants' motions for summary judgment.The Court of Appeal affirmed, agreeing with the trial court that there was no evidence defendants had actual or constructive knowledge the employer was storing and handling a hazardous material, and thus defendants owed no duty to the decedent. Therefore, the evidence shows no triable issue of material fact and defendants were entitled to summary judgment on the negligence per se, wrongful death, and survival causes of action. View "Oh v. Teachers Insurance & Annuity Ass'n of America" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Johnson, a school district’s grounds manager and a heavy user of Roundup herbicides made by Monsanto, sued Monsanto after contracting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury found that Monsanto failed to adequately warn of its products’ potential dangers and that its products had a design defect. It awarded Johnson around $39.3 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages. The court denied Monsanto’s motion for a new trial on the condition that Johnson accept a reduced award of punitive damages.The court of appeal affirmed in part. Monsanto was liable on the failure-to-warn claims because substantial evidence was presented that Roundup’s risks were “known or knowable” to Monsanto. The trial court did not err in allowing Johnson to proceed on a consumer expectations theory of design defect. Johnson presented abundant—and certainly substantial— evidence that the ingredients in Roundup, caused his cancer. Johnson’s causes of action were not preempted under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, 7 U.S.C. 136. Monsanto has not established that the trial court erred in admitting or excluding evidence. The court reversed in part. The evidence does not support the entire award for future noneconomic damages. Johnson was entitled to punitive damages, but they should be reduced commensurate with the reduction of future noneconomic damages. View "Johnson v. Monsanto Co." on Justia Law

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Wolf and her husband were walking with their dog in Tilden Regional Park. Dogs are allowed off-leash in this area, under their owners’ control. Weber and Cenek were walking on the same trail with Luigi, a “large” Argentinian Mastiff-Boxer mix. Both dogs were off-leash. Luigi wandered toward Wolf’s party. Weber and Cenek heard Wolf yell that she was afraid. Weber called for Luigi several times. Luigi began to return to Weber but Wolf turned away from Luigi. Something struck her in the back of her knee; she fell, dislocating her ankle and breaking two leg bones. Weber admitted that Luigi was not under perfect control.Wolf sued Weber, alleging negligence and negligence per se. Wolf alleged Weber breached his duty of care “by failing to leash or otherwise control Luigi.” The negligence per se action contended Weber violated the ordinance by failing to keep his dog under control. The court granted Weber summary judgment, finding that Wolf assumed the inherent risk of “being bumped by a dog.”The court of appeal reversed, finding that the primary assumption of risk doctrine did not apply. Given the duties and expectations that the park's ordinance establishes, being knocked over by an unleashed dog with which a person has sought no interaction is not an inherent risk. Controlling one’s dog is part of the “fundamental nature” of hiking on the park's leash-optional trails. View "Wolf v. Weber" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of Kaiser in an action brought by plaintiffs, alleging that Kaiser was vicariously liable for a driver who hit and killed plaintiffs' son. The driver drove to an assisted living facility in his own vehicle and provided pet therapy to a Kaiser patient.The court held that the facts do not support a reasonable inference that Kaiser expressly or implied required the driver to use his own vehicle as a condition of his volunteer work. In this case, the evidence shows that Kaiser permitted pet therapy volunteers to select the means of transportation for themselves and their animals, assigned the therapists to provide therapy at a variety of locations, checked the liability insurance of all Kaiser volunteers who either provided a driver's license or used their own vehicles, had at one time offered to reimburse the driver for his mileage, and had an "arrangement" with the driver that he would use his own vehicle. The court also held that the driver's use of his personal vehicle did not provide an incidental benefit to Kaiser; the driver did not use a special mode of transportation; and the coming and going rule applies to the driver's drive. View "Savaikie v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Plaintiffs filed suit against Mentor, alleging causes of action for negligence and negligence per se based on Mentor's negligent failure to warn and negligent manufacturing of breast implants, strict products liability for failure to warn, and strict products liability for manufacturing defects.The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment and entered an order overruling the demurrer to the third amended complaint. The court held that the tort claims in this case survive preemption because they are premised on conduct that both violates the Medical Device Amendments (MDA) to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act and would give rise to a recovery under state law even in the absence of the MDA. The court also held that plaintiffs pleaded the requisite causal connection between their injuries and Mentor's tortious acts to survive a demurrer. Finally, the trial court erroneously sustained Mentor's demurrer to the loss of consortium claim because it was derivative of the other claims. View "Mize v. Mentor Worldwide LLC" on Justia Law

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Estes worked as an electrician in two Bay Area naval shipyards and was exposed to asbestos-containing products manufactured or supplied to the Navy by approximately 50 companies. Later, he developed asbestos-related mesothelioma. In Estes’ personal injury lawsuit, a jury returned a defense verdict for an electrical component manufacturer, Eaton. The trial court granted Estes a new trial.The court of appeal reversed that order; the explanation of reasons for granting a new trial was not sufficient under Code of Civil Procedure section 657. The court overturned the verdict because “plaintiff presented sufficient evidence that he worked with arc chutes manufactured and supplied by [Eaton’s predecessor]; the arc chutes contained asbestos; asbestos fibers from the arc chutes were released during plaintiff’s work with them; and the levels of fibers released posed a hazard to plaintiff, and may have been a substantial factor in causing injury to him” whereas “[t]he evidence submitted by Eaton was not sufficient to rebut this evidence submitted by plaintiff.” This reasoning is little more than a conclusion that the plaintiff introduced sufficient evidence to prove that the arc chutes released hazardous levels of asbestos during Estes’s encounter with them in the workplace. The explanation is too vague to enable meaningful review. The court also rejected Estes’s substantial evidence challenge to the verdict exonerating Eaton of liability. View "Estes v. Eaton Corp." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was attacked suddenly, and without provocation, by two other men at a Phi Mu sorority party at SCUN, he filed suit against members of Phi Mu alleging a claim for negligence based on their alleged failure to follow certain risk management protocols adopted by CSUN and its fraternal organizations pertaining to off-campus events.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's decision sustaining defendants' demurrers and dismissal. The court held that defendants did not owe plaintiff a legal duty to follow CSUN's fraternal organizational safety protocols to prevent a third party criminal attack. In this case, plaintiff cannot allege sufficient facts to establish the high degree of foreseeability necessary to charge defendants with a legal duty to take highly burdensome measures to prevent the type of sudden and unprovoked third party criminal attack that allegedly occurred here. The court also held that defendants' agreement to CSUN's fraternal organization safety protocols does not support a negligent undertaking claim. View "Hanouchian v. Steele" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Plaintiff Andrew Pankey (Andrew) filed a products liability claim against Petco Animal Supplies, Inc., after his son Aidan contracted a rare bacterial infection from a rat purchased at Petco. Aidan later died as a result of complications related to his infection. Andrew alleged, among other things, that Petco was strictly liable for injuries resulting from the sale of the pet rat, which he argued was a product for purposes of strict products liability. The trial court instructed the jury on negligence under ordinary negligence and negligent failure-to-warn theories, as well as three theories of strict products liability: (1) failure to warn, (2) manufacturing defect, and (3) design defect under a risk-benefit test. The jury returned verdicts in favor of Petco. On appeal, Andrew contended the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on an alternative strict liability design defect theory, the "consumer expectations test." He argued there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could have concluded the pet rat purchased from Petco failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding a live pet animal sold in its unaltered state was not a product subject to the design defect consumer expectations theory of strict products liability. The Court therefore did not reach a conclusion regarding applicability of the consumer expectations test or the prejudicial effect of its exclusion. View "Pankey v. Petco Animal Supplies, Inc." on Justia Law