Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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In 2012, appellant Stephen Taulbee suffered catastrophic injuries after driving his Jeep into the back of a truck parked in a triangular-shaped zone demarcated by the freeway and the exit ramp (gore point). Taulbee and his wife (collectively “appellants”) sued respondent Carlos Aldana, the truck driver, and his employer, respondent EJ Distribution Corporation (collectively “respondents”). The trial court instructed the jury that it could find Aldana negligent per se for parking in the gore point, and that Taulbee could be found negligent per se for driving into the gore point. The court declined to instruct the jury that Aldana also could be found negligent per se for driving into the gore point to park his vehicle, although appellants requested the instruction. After the jury found Aldana was not negligent for parking in the gore point, the court entered judgment for respondents. Appellants argued the trial court erred in refusing to give their requested jury instruction, and that substantial evidence supported their theory Aldana was liable for the traffic collision by driving into the gore point. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court properly declined to give the requested instruction because Aldana’s negligent driving into the gore point was not a proximate cause of the traffic accident. In any event, the Court concluded any instructional error in failing to give the instruction was harmless given the jury’s finding that Aldana was not negligent for parking in the gore point. View "Taulbee v. EJ Distribution Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the school district, alleging negligent supervision arising out of her claim that she was sexually abused by her high school teacher. Plaintiff also alleged that the school district knew or should have known of the danger posed by the teacher, and the school district's failure to respond appropriately to that knowledge resulted in harm to her. After the jury found in favor of the school district, plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court abused its discretion by finding that the only evidence relevant to this case was other instances of physical touching and excluding other relevant evidence, such as a sexual comment by the teacher to a student that was egregious enough to trigger an investigation by the school. The court also held that the error was prejudicial to plaintiff as it distorted much of the evidence presented and severely hampered plaintiff's ability to present her case. View "D.Z. v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured while giving a tour of a noted architectural residence, he filed suit against James Goldstein and Ring the Alarm, LLC, the entity that hired him and hosted the party. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in determining that the firefighter's rule applied to Goldstein, because the circumstances presented in this case did not fit under the primary assumption of risk doctrine where plaintiff had not been expressly hired to manage the hazardous condition that injured him and there was no public policy in favor of applying such a bar. Therefore, the trial court erred by instructing the jury on this issue and including the defense as the first two questions on the special verdict. Accordingly, the court reversed the jury's findings in favor of Goldstein and remanded for a new trial. View "Harry v. Ring the Alarm, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Webcor, the general contractor for the rehabilitation of the California Memorial Football Stadium in Berkeley, hired ACCO to perform ventilation and plumbing services. Strouse, an ACCO employee, suffered a workplace injury when his leg fell into a 12-inch deep expansion joint after the plywood safety cover gave way. He sued Webcor for negligence. Webcor filed a cross-complaint against ACCO for indemnity. A jury found Webcor 100 percent liable for Strouse’s injuries. The court of appeal affirmed, upholding the trial court’s use of a jury instruction (CACI 1009B), which omits any language that a hirer “affirmatively contribute” to the plaintiff’s injury, and uses “substantial factor” causation in lieu of “affirmative contribution.” Counsels’ arguments properly directed the jury to determine whether Webcor affirmatively contributed to the injury and there was no indication of jury confusion. The court rejected an argument that the trial court erroneously instructed on negligence per se based on regulations promulgated under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act. The undisputed evidence established that Webcor affirmatively contributed to Strouse’s injuries, and the jury apportioned no fault to ACCO or Strouse, so the failure to instruct the jury regarding the precise language of “affirmative contribution,” even if erroneous, was harmless. View "Strouse v. Webcor Construction, L.P." on Justia Law

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In 2015, Krein, a Tuolomne Water District employee, fell from a bridge and “sustained paraplegic injuries.” Du-All had contracted to periodically inspect the wastewater treatment plant, including the Bridge. Plaintiffs sued multiple defendants. All parties apparently fully complied, without compulsion, in discovery. On May 7, 2018, Du-All served its expert witness disclosure, identifying the two experts it expected to call at trial and plaintiffs served their expert witness disclosure. Following receipt of plaintiffs’ expert disclosure and the life care plan, Du-All retained supplemental experts to rebut the anticipated testimony. On May 25, Du-All served its supplemental expert disclosure (Code of Civil Procedure 2034.280), listing five experts. On June 4, plaintiffs moved to strike Du-All’s supplemental disclosure, arguing that Du-All should have disclosed all the experts in its original disclosure because these types of experts are commonly used in personal injury cases. Expert discovery had not begun. The parties stipulated to continue the trial date to October 29. The trial court ruled that four experts could not testify because they are not disclosed. The court of appeal vacated. Du-All disclosed the experts it expected to call at trial; when plaintiffs disclosed five other experts and a life care plan, Du-All designated experts to rebut plaintiffs’ position. "This is the precise reason why the Legislature codified the right to designate rebuttal experts." The trial court denied that right by placing limitations not found in the Code of Civil Procedure. View "Du-All Safety, LLC v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Burch contracted mesothelioma following many years of installing asbestos-cement (A/C) pipe throughout California. Burch sued CertainTeed, an A/C pipe manufacturer, and won a verdict on claims for negligence, failure to warn, strict product liability, intentional concealment, and intentional misrepresentation. The court entered a judgment holding CertainTeed 100 percent liable for Burch’s economic damages and 62 percent liable for the noneconomic damages according to the jury’s fault apportionment. The court later granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on the intentional misrepresentation claim and denied JNOV on the intentional concealment claim. The court of appeal affirmed the JNOV order and upheld the trial court’s refusal to give a special jury instruction on the duty of Burch’s employers to provide a safe workplace and refusal to compel Burch to execute an acknowledgment of partial satisfaction of the judgment. The court reversed the original judgment and remanded with directions to enter a new judgment for Burch, holding CertainTeed jointly and severally liable for all of Burch’s economic and noneconomic damages. The trial court erred in allocating noneconomic damages according to CertainTeed’s proportion of fault because Civil Code section 1431.21 (Proposition 51) does not eliminate an intentional tortfeasor’s joint and several liability for noneconomic damages. View "Burch v. CertainTeed Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against defendant after defendant rear-ended a car driven by plaintiff and injured him. Defendant stipulated to the liability for the accident and the remaining issues were tried to a jury. The jury then returned a damages award of just over $610,000, far below plaintiff's requested damages of $23.5 million for himself and $4 million for his wife. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the trial court's finding of no misconduct by Juror No. 11 was supported by the record. In this case, the court rejected plaintiff's argument that the juror committed prejudicial misconduct during voir dire by intentionally concealing that he had been named as a defendant in two prior lawsuits. The court also held that there was no prejudicial violation of the collateral source rule and rejected plaintiff's contention that the trial court allowed defendant to violate the rule multiple times during trial through references to plaintiff's past treatment at Kaiser Permanente and Kaiser medical insurance, as well as references to Medicare and Social Security disability benefits in relation to future medical expenses. View "Stokes v. Muschinske" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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After plaintiff was seriously injured when he fell from a ladder at work, he filed suit against several defendants, alleging they were all responsible for the unsafe conditions which led to his fall. Plaintiff was employed by an independent contractor which provided maintenance engineering staff for Raytheon. The prime contractor for Raytheon's water cooling tower renovation was Systems XT, and plaintiff was employed by ABM, an independent contractor which provided control room staff to Raytheon. The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Raytheon and Systems XT. The court held that there were no triable issues of material fact under the Hooker exception to Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 689, where Raytheon did not represent that the partial extension ladder was a safe replacement for the platform ladder, nor did Raytheon promise to provide ABM's employees with light fixtures at the water cooling tower. In the alternative, there were no triable issues of material fact under the Kinsman exception to Privette where there was undisputed evidence that the hazard could reasonably have been discovered by inspecting the ladder, and once discovered, avoided. The court also held that Systems XT owed no duty to provide plaintiff with lighting. In this case, Systems XT did not leave plaintiff in the dark with no way to perform his task, because he had a flashlight that he simply chose not to use when he inspected the water level. View "Johnson v. Raytheon Co." on Justia Law

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In August 2011, Long was shot by a third-party assailant in the Candlestick Park parking lot after a professional football game. Long sued the San Francisco Forty-Niners, Ltd. in state court, alleging breach of contract, negligence, and liability under the rescue doctrine. In 2013, Long learned that Ltd. had converted into a Delaware LLC and filed an identical complaint against the LLC and Ltd.'s general partner, in federal court. Long voluntarily dismissed the state court action in July 2013, less than a month before trial. Subsequently, the federal court dismissed the federal case for lack of diversity jurisdiction. Long filed another state suit, against LLC, in November 2013, with the same allegations. The court dismissed the suit as time-barred, having been filed more than two years after the shooting; the court rejected an argument that the statute of limitations was equitably tolled while the federal case was pending. The court of appeal affirmed. Although LLC was on notice of Long’s claims from the beginning of the first state court action, the doctrine of equitable tolling was not intended to burden a defendant or the courts with having to repeatedly re-start litigation that was almost fully adjudicated, simply because the plaintiff had a last-minute change of mind about the forum. The factual allegations do not establish reasonable and good-faith conduct. View "Long v. Forty Niners Football Co." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff suffered serious injuries when he fell off an inflatable slide while attending a carnival held at a school campus owned by the district, he filed suit alleging that he fell because the inflatable slide was not tethered to the ground. The Court of Appeal held that the Education Code allocates liability for negligence between school districts and entities allowed to use school district grounds, including in this case the booster group that planned and held the carnival fundraiser. The court explained that the school district was liable for an injury resulting from the negligence of the school district in the ownership and maintenance of the school facilities or grounds. However, an entity using the school facilities or grounds is liable for an injury resulting from the negligence of that entity during the use of the school facilities or grounds. In this case, the court held that plaintiff's injuries resulted from the alleged negligence of the booster group and others "during the use of" the school grounds, not from the school district's ownership and maintenance of the grounds. Furthermore, Education Code section 38134, subdivision (i)(2), clarifies that the Education Code does not alter the provision in Government Code section 835 limiting a public entity’s liability to "an injury caused by a dangerous condition of public property." The court held that, as a matter of law, the inflatable slide was not a dangerous condition of public property within the meaning of Government Code section 835. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the school district and dismissed the school district's cross-appeal as moot. View "Grossman v. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District" on Justia Law