Articles Posted in Personal Injury

by
The Salinas intersection's crosswalk, on city property, was painted in 1997 and never repainted. An ordinance provided that the city “shall . . . maintain crosswalks at intersections . . . by appropriate . . . marks . . . .” By 2013, the crosswalk had faded. Guernsey was in that crosswalk when a truck (driven by Capulin) struck and severely injured her. Guernsey sued the city and Capulin, alleging that city property was in a dangerous condition. (Gov. Code 835.) Over Guernsey’s objections, the court gave a special jury instruction, refused to give jury instructions requested by Guernsey on negligence per se and mandatory duty based on the ordinance, and provided a special verdict form containing two fact-specific questions on dangerous condition. The jury returned a multi-million dollar verdict against Capulin, but found for the city on the fact-specific questions. The court awarded the city its expert witness fees, finding that its $250,000 pretrial offer was reasonable. The court of appeal reversed. The court prejudicially erred in giving the city’s requested instruction, which read: “Plaintiffs have not alleged that the design of the Driveway created a dangerous condition. Instead, Plaintiffs have alleged that it was the City’s failure to maintain the crosswalk lines and the bushes that created a dangerous condition. To find that the Driveway presented a dangerous condition, you cannot rely on characteristics of the Driveway itself (e.g., the placement of the stop sign, the left turn pocket, and the presence of the pink cement). Although you can consider those elements of the Driveway when weighing whether or not the faded crosswalk lines and bushes created a dangerous condition, you cannot rely on those design elements of the intersection to find that a dangerous condition existed.” View "Guernsey v. City of Salinas" on Justia Law

by
The Modisettes were traveling in their car on Interstate 35W in Denton County, Texas. Wilhelm was also driving on I-35, while using the FaceTime application on his Apple iPhone. Wilhelm crashed into the Modisettes’ car, which had stopped due to police activity. The accident caused severe injuries to each of the Modisettes; Moriah, age five, subsequently died. Police found Wilhelm’s iPhone at the scene with FaceTime still activated. The Modisettes sued, alleging that Apple’s failure to design the iPhone to lock out the ability of drivers to use the FaceTime application while driving resulted in their injuries. The complaint incorporated data that show the compulsive/addictive nature of smartphone use and concerning the number of accidents that involve smartphone use. They alleged that Apple had failed to warn users and that Apple applied for a patent for its lockout technology in 2008, to disable the ability of a handheld computing device to perform certain functions, such as texting, while one is driving. The patent issued in 2014. Apple released Wilhelm’s iPhone 6 model in September 2014; FaceTime was a “factory-installed, non-optional application.” The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the action. Apple did not owe the Modisettes a duty of care. The Modisettes cannot establish that Apple’s design of the iPhone constituted a proximate cause of their injuries. View "Modisette v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law

by
Lindh, a law enforcement officer, took blows to the head during training. He subsequently had severe headaches lasting between several hours and two days. A month later, Lindh suddenly lost most of the vision in his left eye. Two treating physicians did not believe the vision loss was related to the blows. Dr. Kaye, a neuro-ophthalmologist, the Qualified Medical Examiner (QME), agreed with the other physicians, that Lindh’s “blood circulation to his left eye was defective,” absent the injury,” Lindh likely would have retained a lot of his vision. He agreed that even had Lindh not suffered the blows, he could have lost his vision due to this underlying condition; it was “unlikely” Lindh would have suffered a vision loss if he had not had the underlying “vascular spasticity,” a rare condition. His professional opinion was that: 85% of the permanent disability was due to his old condition and 15% was due to the work injury. The ALJ rejected that analysis and found Lindh had 40 percent permanent disability without apportionment between his underlying condition and the work-related injury. The Board affirmed, concluding that the preexisting conditions were mere risk factors for an injury entirely caused by industrial factors; the QME had “confused causation of injury with causation of disability.” The court of appeal ordered an apportioned award. Dr. Kaye’s opinion was consistent with the other physicians' opinions, that it was unlikely the trauma caused the loss of vision. Whether an asymptomatic preexisting condition that contributed to the disability would, alone, have inevitably resulted in disability, is immaterial. View "City of Petaluma v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-respondent J.W., through her guardian ad litem, sued defendant-appellant Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (Watchtower) and others for: (1) negligence; (2) negligent supervision/failure to warn; (3) negligent hiring/retention; (4) negligent failure to warn, train, or educate J.W.; (5) sexual battery; and (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress. J.W. was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. In July 2006, J.W. and Gilbert Simental belonged to the Mountain View Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Prior to July 2006, at a different congregation, Simental served as a ministerial servant and as an elder. Upon joining the Mountain View congregation, Simental served as an elder. In July 2006, J.W. and three other girls were invited to a slumber party at Simental’s home. Simental had a daughter near the age of J.W. and the other invited girls. While in his backyard pool, Simental sexually molested J.W. and another girl (Doe 1) in separate incidents. Doe 1’s sister, Doe 2, had previously been molested on two occasions by Simental. Doe 1 and Doe 2 told their mother about Simental molesting them. The mother contacted an elder of the congregation, a judicial committee was convened, and Simental admitted he molested Doe 2 on two occasions, and that he molested Doe 1 twice on July 15. In two criminal cases, Simental was ultimately found guilty of molesting Doe 1, Doe 2, and J.W. In her civil suit against Watchtower, J.W. moved to compel further discovery responses. The trial court’s order compelled Watchtower to produce all documents Watchtower received in response to a letter sent by Watchtower to Jehovah’s Witness congregations on March 14, 1997, concerning known molesters in the church (1997 Documents). By November 2014, Watchtower had not produced the 1997 Documents, and J.W. moved for terminating sanctions. At a hearing on the sanctions motion, the trial court offered Watchtower four days to produce the 1997 Documents. Watchtower declined the offer and refused to produce the 1997 Documents. The trial court granted the motion for terminating sanctions and struck Watchtower’s answer. The trial court clerk entered Watchtower’s default. After considering evidence, the trial court entered judgment in favor of J.W. and awarded her $4,016,152.39. Raising multiple issues of alleged error, Watchtower appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed judgment. View "J.W. v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After Katherine Rosen, a student at the University of California, was severely injured by another student who had been receiving treatment for mental illness, Rosen filed a negligence action against university personnel for failing to take reasonable measures to protect her from the foreseeable violent conduct. On remand from the California Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal denied defendants' petition for writ of mandate, except with respect to defendant Nicole Green. The court held that the standard of care governing a university's duty to protect its students from foreseeable acts of violence is the ordinary reasonable person standard; triable issues of fact exist as to whether defendants breached their duty of care to Rosen; and although Civil Code section 43.92 precludes liability against defendant Nicole Green, the remaining defendants are not statutorily immune from suit. View "The Regents of the University of California v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

by
Amanda Meleski was injured when Albert Hotlen ran a red light and collided with her vehicle. Unfortunately, Hotlen was deceased at the time of the lawsuit, and he had no estate from which she could recover. However, Hotlen had purchased a $100,000 insurance policy from Allstate Insurance Company (Allstate) covering the accident. Meleski brought her action pursuant to Probate Code sections 550 through 555, which allowed her to serve her complaint on Allstate and recover damages from the Allstate policy, but limited her recovery of damages to the policy limits. Meleski attempted to settle the matter before going to trial by making an offer pursuant to section 998 for $99,999. The offer was not accepted, and at trial a jury awarded her $180,613.86. Because the offer was rejected and Meleski was awarded judgment in excess of her offer to compromise, she expected to recover her costs of suit, the postoffer costs of the services of expert witnesses, and other litigation costs. Meleski argued on appeal that she should have been able to recover costs in excess of the policy limits from Allstate, since it was Allstate that had refused to accept a reasonable settlement offer prior to trial. The trial court disagreed, and Meleski filed this appeal, arguing Allstate was a party within the meaning of section 998 for purposes of recovering costs, and that such costs were recoverable from the insurer despite the limitation on the recovery of “damages” found in Probate Code sections 550 through 555. The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed judgment: "Even though the decedent’s estate is the named defendant in actions under Probate Code sections 550 through 555, this is a legal fiction. The insurance company accepts service of process, hires and pays for counsel to defend the action, makes all decisions regarding settlement of the litigation, is responsible for paying the judgment in favor of the plaintiff if such judgment is rendered, and makes the decision whether or not to appeal an adverse judgment. There is no actual person or entity other than the insurance company to do any of this. This is a reality we will not ignore. Moreover, we find it manifestly unfair that section 998 could be employed by Allstate to recover costs from the plaintiff (which costs it would have no obligation to pay to the estate), but Allstate would have no corresponding responsibility to pay costs merely because it is not a named party." View "Meleski v. Estate of Hotlen" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, cross-defendant and respondent David Morgan sued Daniel Pena and defendant, cross-complainant and appellant Claudia Davidson for battery. Davidson filed a cross-complaint against Morgan, alleging (1) assault, (2) battery, (3) conversion, and (4) invasion of privacy. Morgan and Davidson were next-door neighbors; Lynda Delgado was Morgan’s next-door neighbor on the other side of Morgan’s house. Delgado had seen Davidson’s dogs attempting to go under Morgan’s fence to enter Morgan’s property. Delgado had also seen Davidson’s dogs viciously bark at Morgan’s alpacas. One of Davidson’s dogs was a white, unneutered male pitbull, named Cotton. The other dog was a German Short Haired Pointer, named Coco. Coco and Cotton ran through a gate onto Morgan’s property. Delgado “heard really loud barking and just really scary sounding growling and barking” at the alpacas. Delgado then heard the alpacas’ stress cry. Morgan was able to capture Cotton while the dog was on his property; Davidson’s teenaged son pleaded with Morgan for Cotton back, but Morgan refused, vowing to hold the dog until animal control came to impound the dog. Morgan repeatedly told the Son, Pena, and Davidson to leave his property because they were trespassing. Pena opened the gate, and punched Morgan in the face. Morgan fell to the ground, on his knees. Morgan did not strike anyone. Pena and Davidson continued striking Morgan, approximately five to 10 times each. When Morgan was bent forward on the ground, Davidson kicked Morgan’s ribs, while Pena kicked Morgan’s head and upper torso. Morgan screamed. Davidson and Pena yelled profanities. The son remained on the other side of the gate, watching the beating. Davidson, Pena, and the son left with Cotton. Morgan laid on the ground moaning in pain. Within an hour, sheriff’s deputies arrived at Morgan’s house. A trial court found in favor of Morgan and awarded him $209,000. Davidson argued on appeal: (1) substantial evidence did not support a $100,000 punitive damages award; (2) the trial court erred by not permitting her to use a deposition transcript when attempting to impeach Morgan during cross-examination; and (3) the trial court erred by not applying the continuing violation doctrine to extend the statute of limitations for the invasion of privacy cause of action. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "Morgan v. Davidson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

by
In 2014, Wife was married to Andres Marin (the victim). Wife and the victim shared four children: Andres, Jazmyn, Christal, and Julyan. On March 1, 2014, at approximately 6:30 a.m., the victim left the Family’s residence in Corona to ride his mountain bike up Santiago Peak in the Cleveland National Forest. The bike ride would be approximately 55 miles. The victim was scheduled to arrive back home at 2:00 p.m. When he did not, his Wife called police. Wife was able to speak to her husband on the trail: he had been injured, and she was concerned about falling temperatures the later it took him to come home. Riverside County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Zachary Hall was the “Incident Commander” for the case. Lieutenant Hall was not trained in search and rescue techniques, and dismissed Wife’s concerns for her husband’s safety, particularly overnight when the temperatures dropped. The victim ultimately was found by volunteers trained to respond to wilderness emergencies; he died of hypothermia. The victim’s family sued the County of Riverside (the County) for: (1) wrongful death; (2) negligence; (3) negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (4) a deprivation of constitutional rights (42 U.S.C. 1983). The trial court sustained the County’s demurrer to the complaint without leave to amend. The Family contended on appeal the trial court erred. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed as to the causes of action for wrongful death, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. In all other respects, the judgment was affirmed. View "Arista v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

by
Hart suffers from mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos. In 1976-1977, Hart worked on a McKinleyville sewer project, for Christeve, cutting asbestos-cement pipe, manufactured by Johns-Manville. Hart had no access to information regarding the pipe supplier. Glamuzina a foreman on the project, testified that he observed Hart cut and bevel asbestos-cement pipe without any respiratory protection; knew Johns-Manville manufactured the pipe based on a stamp on the pipe; and believed Keenan supplied the pipe, based on seeing invoices that contained “their K.” Christeve’s then-bookkeeper testified that she did not know whether Keenan supplied asbestos-cement pipe to McKinleyville. Keenan’s corporate representative testified he had “no information” that Keenan sold anything that was used in the McKinleyville project.. A jury found that Hart was exposed to asbestos-cement pipe supplied by Keenan; awarded economic damages, non-economic damages, and damages for loss of consortium; and allocated fault among 10 entities, finding Keenan 17% at fault. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that Glamuzina’s testimony about the invoices was inadmissible hearsay and there was no other evidence Keenan supplied the pipes. The wording on these invoices constitued out-of-court statements offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted: that Keenan supplied the pipes. Glamuzina lacked personal knowledge of who the supplier was. View "Hart v. Keenan Properties, Inc." on Justia Law

by
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