Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of a new trial in an action where the jury found in favor of the school district on claims related to a student's fall from a tree located on the campus of his middle school. The court held that the trial court did not clearly err by prohibiting additional mini-opening statements and case specific facts under Code of Civil Procedure section 222.5. The court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's for cause challenges to two jurors. View "Alcazar v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Plaintiff Jose Sandoval was severely burned by an "arc flash" from a live circuit breaker while working with contractor TransPower Testing, Inc. and its principal Frank Sharghi, at a cogeneration plant owned by defendant Qualcomm Incorporated (Qualcomm). The jury returned a special verdict finding that Qualcomm retained control over the safety conditions at the jobsite; that it negligently exercised such control; and that its negligence was a substantial factor in causing Sandoval's harm. The jury found Sandoval's employer, ROS Electrical Supply (ROS), not liable, and apportioned fault between the defendants. Following the verdict, Qualcomm moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and for a new trial. The trial court denied the JNOV motion but granted the motion for new trial on the theory the jury had improperly apportioned liability. Qualcomm appealed order denying its JNOV motion, arguing Sandoval failed to proffer any evidence to show that Qualcomm, as the hirer of an independent contractor, "affirmatively contributed" to Sandoval's injury under the "retained control" exception to the general rule that a hirer is not liable for the injuries of an independent contractor's employees or its subcontractors; the order only partially granting its new trial motion; and the original judgment. Sandoval appealed the order granting Qualcomm a new trial on the apportionment of fault issue. The Court of Appeal concluded substantial evidence supported the jury's finding that Qualcomm negligently exercised retained control over the safety conditions at the jobsite. Therefore, the Court concluded the trial court properly denied Qualcomm's JNOV. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court properly exercised its discretion when it granted Qualcomm a limited new trial only on the issue of apportionment of fault as between Qualcomm and TransPower. View "Sandoval v. Qualcomm Incorporated" on Justia Law

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The presumption of parentage is rebuttable and a non-biological parent can be a presumed parent. After Brian Pickett died, his partner, two biological children, and his partner's child, A.G., filed a wrongful death action against defendants. The trial court held that A.G. lacked standing to sue, and entered judgment against him. The Court of Appeal reversed the grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that the record did not rebut the presumption that Brian Pickett was A.G.'s natural parent. In this case, from the time A.G. was one, Pickett was the only father he knew and unrebutted testimony established that Pickett held A.G. out as his child. View "A.G. v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Defendant-respondent YMCA of San Diego County had a number of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) on its premises, for the emergency use of its members, employees and users of the premises. Plaintiffs-appellants were the Jabo family, whose 43-year-old husband and father, Adeal Jabo (Jabo) died of sudden cardiac arrest after playing soccer at an enclosed East County field owned by Respondent and regularly rented to a private organization of which Jabo was a member, the Over 40 Chaldean Soccer League of San Diego (the League). At issue before the Court of Appeal was whether additional statutory or common law duties were owed by Respondent to ensure that its trained staff members utilize and apply AEDs under circumstances in which an adult is having an on-site medical emergency that appears to be sudden cardiac arrest, while the adult was a permissive user of the facility whose group rented an outdoor portion of Respondent's soccer field. Appellants' filed a wrongful death complaint against Respondent, they seek damages on theories of ordinary and gross negligence arising from alleged violations of statutory and common law duties, based on Jabo's status as a League member using the facility's field. Appellants alleged that although one of Respondent's part-time employees was assigned to serve as scorekeeper for the League's games that evening, he was away from the field at the moment that Jabo collapsed and did not bring one of the five AED devices it had acquired to the field. Respondent did not dispute that for its own scheduled events, its policy was to have one of its staff members check out and bring an AED to the field. The trial court ultimately granted a defense summary judgment on the complaint, finding that Appellants could not establish an essential element of duty. The court dismissed Respondent's cross-complaint, finding that the release was unenforceable. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court correctly declined to impose an additional common law duty of care and affirmed summary judgment. View "Jabo v. YMCA of San Diego Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Teresa Martine hurt her knee while skiing at Heavenly Valley Ski Resort and was being helped down the mountain by a ski patrolman when the rescue sled in which she was riding went out of control and hit a tree. Martine sued resort owner Heavenly Valley Limited Partnership (Heavenly) for negligence and for damages arising from her injuries. Heavenly moved for summary judgment arguing that there was no evidence that its employee had been negligent in taking Martine down the mountain thus causing the sled to hit the tree and that, in any event, Martine’s action was barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk. The trial court granted Heavenly’s motion and entered judgment accordingly. Martine argued on appeal: (1) there was evidence to support her claim that employee was negligent; (2) her action was not barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk; (3) the trial court erred in not allowing her to amend her complaint to allege negligence and damages arising from a second injury she incurred the same day while being taken off the mountain; and (4) the trial court erred in not granting her motion for a new trial. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Martine v. Heavenly Valley L.P." on Justia Law

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In August 2013, the trial court entered a judgment against respondents Janet and Richard Buhler following a traffic accident in which appellant Mark Jones was seriously injured. By stipulation, the judgment awarded Mark $1,350,000 and his wife Melanie Jones $150,000 for loss of consortium. The Buhlers had an automobile insurance policy with IDS that provided coverage of $250,000 for bodily injury for each person and $500,000 for each occurrence. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's consideration implicated the consortium claim: when a wife sues for loss of consortium after her husband is seriously injured in an automobile accident that is the defendant’s fault, was her claim subject to the same per person limit of the defendant’s insurance policy as her husband’s claim for bodily injury? The Court determined the language of the policy at issue here made clear that the damages for bodily injury include loss of consortium. Further, the policy language provided that so long as only one person suffered bodily injury, the per person limit applied. Although the plaintiffs here argued the language “to one person” modified “the maximum we will pay” rather than “bodily injury,” the Court disagreed. The Court affirmed the judgment in favor of defendant IDS Property Casualty Insurance Company (IDS). View "Jones v. IDS Property Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jessica Ayon appealed an adverse summary judgment in a personal injury case. Late one evening in May 2013, Brittini Zuppardo was driving home from her boyfriend’s house while talking on the phone with Michelle Halkett. Zuppardo was defendant Esquire Deposition Solution’s (Esquire) scheduling manager; Halkett was a court reporter for Esquire. Zuppardo’s vehicle struck plaintiff, who suffered significant injuries. The issue here at trial was whether Esquire could be held liable under a theory of respondeat superior. In their depositions, both Zuppardo and Halkett testified they were good friends and were talking about family matters on the evening of the accident. It was not within Zuppardo’s job description to call court reporters after hours for work purposes, though on rare occasions she had done so. Plaintiff contended a jury could have inferred from evidence admitted at trial that the two did not, in fact, have a close friendship, and that the call concerned work matters, not personal matters. Code of Civil Procedure section 437c(e) provided that “summary judgment shall not be denied on grounds of credibility,” with certain exceptions. The Court of Appeal determined no execution could be applied in this case; ultimately, plaintiff had no evidence that Zuppardo was operating within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident. Plaintiff attacked Zuppardo’s and Halkett’s credibility. "But that is not enough, and thus the court correctly granted summary judgment." View "Ayon v. Esquire Deposition Solutions" on Justia Law

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Appellants, adult children of Decedent, who died in 2010 of mesothelioma allegedly caused by exposure to asbestos in brakes he purchased from Pep Boys, an automotive parts retailer, brought claims for wrongful death, strict liability, and negligence. The trial court rejected appellants’ wrongful death claims as untimely and a claim for punitive damages. The court awarded $213,052 as economic damages but found that amount was entirely offset by settlements with other parties. The court of appeal reversed in part, agreeing that the trial court erred in failing to award damages for the costs of providing home health services to Decedent and his wife and erred in awarding Pep Boys expert fees under section 998. The court rejected claims that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing Pep Boys to amend its answer to correct a previously-asserted statute of limitations defense; erred in granting Pep Boys’ motion for judgment under section 631.8; and erred in applying offsets to the award of economic damages based on prior settlements without allocating between estate claims and wrongful death claims. Damages recoverable in a survival action brought by a decedent’s personal representative or successor in interest are limited to damages that the decedent incurred before death and do not include “ ‘lost years’ damages” that would have been incurred had the decedent survived. View "Williams v. The Pep Boys Manny Moe & Jack of California" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in this negligence action brought by plaintiff alleging that her yoga instructor, while adjusting her posture in class, injured her. In this case, defendants filed expert declarations stating that defendants had not breached the standard of care and that the instructor had not caused plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff offered no experts of her own, but opposed the motion with her own deposition testimony and medical records. The court held that plaintiff failed to show a triable issue of material fact that defendants breached the applicable standard of care, and plaintiff failed to show a triable issue of material fact that defendants caused her injuries. View "Webster v. Claremont Yoga" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Richard Fournier and Wendy Crossland (collectively, the Fourniers) filed an action (the Fournier case) against Monster Energy Company (Monster) and a related defendant. The Fourniers were represented by the R. Rex Parris Law Firm (Parris) and Bruce Schechter (collectively the Attorneys). In 2015, the Fourniers and Monster entered into an agreement to settle the Fournier case. The parties agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. Brenda Craig was a reporter for Lawyersandsettlements.com. Lawyersandsettlements.com “provide[s] a source of information about [readers’] legal rights” and also “help[s] lawyers reach out to the clients they seek.” Shortly after the Fournier case settled, Craig interviewed Schechter about cases his office was handling that involved energy drinks. In general, Schechter discussed other cases against Monster, as well as what he viewed as the negative health effects of Monster’s products. Lawyersandsettlements.com published an online article that included statements Schechter told Craig. Lawyersandsettlements.com sent the leads that it generated to attorneys who had signed up to be “advertisers.” It had “forwarded hundreds of thousands of requests for legal representation directly to lawyers.” One employee of Lawyersandsettlements.com was also a non-lawyer employee of Parris. Monster filed this action against the Attorneys, asserting causes of action for: (1) breach of contract, (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (3) unjust enrichment, and (4) promissory estoppel. The Attorneys filed a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (SLAPP motion), arguing, among other things, that Monster could not show a probability of prevailing on its breach of contract claim because they were not parties to the settlement agreement. In opposition, Monster argued, among other things: (1) Schechter’s statements were commercial speech and therefore unprotected, and (2) the Attorneys were “[c]learly” bound by the settlement agreement. The trial court denied the motion with respect to the breach of contact cause of action but granted it with respect to the other causes of action. When a settlement agreement provides that plaintiffs and their counsel agree to keep the terms of the agreement confidential, and plaintiffs' counsel signs the agreement under the words "approved as to form and content," the Court of Appeal held plaintiffs' counsel could not be liable to defendant for breach of the confidentiality provision. View "Monster Energy Co. v. Schechter" on Justia Law