Recently, the issue of sufficient pleadings to state a cause of action came before a California Court of Appeal. In an unpublished opinion, the court held that a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit alleging a dangerous condition of public property must show the specific facts that are necessary to the cause of action.  Here, the court reviewed whether the trial court committed an error in supporting the City of Los Angeles’ demurrer without leave to amend.crosswalk

Alvaro Aura was crossing the street in a crosswalk at 11:00 p.m. when he was hit by a car and suffered significant injuries. Mr. Aura submitted a claim for $1,000,000 in damages to the City of Los Angeles, filed under Government Code section 905.  His claim was denied, and he then sued the City a few months later, alleging that his injuries were caused by a dangerous condition of public property in violation of section 835.

Specifically, Mr. Aura’s complaint alleged that the single overhanging lamp was hidden by overgrown trees, the crosswalk was dark such that individuals could not be seen by motorists, and pedestrians could not see motorists in the crosswalk.  Mr. Aura contended that the City knew or should have known of the dangerous condition, and it should have taken measures to repair or protect against it. The City demurred to the complaint, contending that it did not have a duty to light the street or maintain lighting.  The trial court supported the demurrer without leave to amend. Mr. Aura appealed.

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In a recent opinion, a California appellate court held that the ordinary statute of limitations for negligence applied to negligence claims following a “garden variety” car accident, despite the fact that a paramedic supervisor had been driving toward an accident victim at the time of the collision.  The court reviewed the lower court’s ruling that the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) time-barred the plaintiff’s lawsuit. At issue on appeal was whether the paramedic had been rendering professional services at the time of the accident.

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Mike Stillwagon worked as a paramedic supervisor and was driving his employer’s pickup truck en route to an injured fall victim as an additional resource. An ambulance had already been dispatched. At an intersection, Mr. Stillwagon collided with a vehicle driven by Gerardo Aldana.

A year and a half later, Mr. Aldana sued Mr. Stillwagon for damages suffered in the collision, alleging negligence.  The trial court granted Mr. Stillwater summary judgment on the ground that Mr. Aldana’s claim was time-barred by MICRA’s one-year statute of limitations.

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Recently, a California Court of Appeal addressed whether a lower court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, a supermarket and a contractor involved in sidewalk construction, in a premises liability lawsuit. At issue in this case was whether the condition marketof the sidewalk outside the market was a dangerous condition.  This first step in the analysis also required consideration of whether the condition was open and obvious, since property owners are not generally liable for those conditions that a reasonable person would avoid.

Plaintiff Jessica Overwise brought a premises liability lawsuit against Vons Companies, Inc. and John M. Frank Construction, Inc.  Ms. Overwise was injured outside a Vons supermarket in Pacific Palisades when she stepped on the edge of the curb near a warning strip and twisted her ankle, falling forward and suffering a broken wrist and bruising over her entire body. She filed a lawsuit against Vons, alleging premises liability and negligence, and then she amended the complaint to add the contractor responsible for constructing the sidewalk, Frank Construction.

Both Frank Construction and Vons moved for summary judgment. Frank Construction contended that Ms. Overwise alleged a design defect rather than a construction defect. Vons argued that the warning strip where Ms. Overwise fell was not a dangerous condition as a matter of law, and if it was, it was open and obvious, or a trivial defect.

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In a recent opinion, a California Court of Appeal held in favor of a trial court order granting a motion for a new trial.  The lower court determined that the plaintiffs were denied a fair trial by an “irregularihighway medianty in the proceedings,” as defined by the California Code of Civil Procedure.  The plaintiffs’ material rights were affected in this underlying car accident lawsuit because they could not properly prepare for trial or present evidence because they believed the defendants had waived a central issue – whether a concrete barrier posed a “trivial risk” within the dangerous condition element of a Government Code section 835 claim.

Victor Mercado suffered fatal injuries in a motor vehicle collision on Interstate 880. Mr. Mercado’s wife and heirs sued the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), alleging they maintained a dangerous condition of public property. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Caltrans, but the trial court granted a new trial for the plaintiffs, due to prejudice from an irregularity in the proceedings. Caltrans appealed on the ground that the trial court abused its discretion by granting a new trial.

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Recently, a California Court of Appeals addressed issues concerning the testimony of a defendant’s expert in a car accident lawsuit, and whether the special verdict form incorrectly submitted the issue of causation to the jury.  Additionally, the plaintiff in this lawsuit alleged that the jury’s finding that there was no causation was not supported by substantial evidence.

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Defendant Edgar Reyes Curameng’s sport-utility vehicle (SUV) rear-ended plaintiff Dora Elizabeth Valdez’s car on the freeway during rush-hour traffic. After exchanging information, Ms. Valdez drove to a work-related appointment, but later that night, she experienced neck pain. One week later, she began physical therapy, and a little over a year later, she underwent rotator cuff surgery.

Ms. Valdez then sued Mr. Curameng for negligence.  Mr. Curameng relied on a biomechanics expert who would not testify as to medical issues but would be allowed to offer testimony concerning the speed and impact of defendant Mr. Curameng’s vehicle, and whether the forces were consistent with the plaintiff’s alleged injuries.

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A car accident in Long Beach evolved into a lawsuit over whether a car insurer had satisfied the covenant of good faith and fair dealing on behalf of the defendant. The appellate court stated the rules regarding the implied covenant and the requirement that insurance companies must settle within policy limits when there is a substantial likelihood that there will be a compensation award in excess of those amounts.

traffic light

Timory McDaniel was driving while intoxicated, in a car insured by Mercury Casualty Company, when she ran a red light and struck Laura Barickman and Shannon Mcinteer. Ms. Barickman and Ms. Mcinteer were pedestrians in a crosswalk with the walk signal in their favor. Ms. Barickman and Ms. Mcinteer agreed to settle their claims against Ms. McDaniel, but Mercury rejected the additional language inserted into the release.  Ms. Barickman and Ms. Mcinteer had agreed to accept the Mercury policy limits offered, in the amount of $15,000 per person.

Ms. Barickman and Ms. Mcinteer sued Ms. McDaniel and settled with a stipulated judgment of $3 million. Ms. McDaniel assigned her rights against Mercury to both Ms. Barickman and Ms. Mcinteer. They then filed this action against Mercury Casualty Company for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

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In the second appeal in a slip and fall lawsuit, the California Court of Appeal addressed whether the plaintiffs had unreasonably delayed in adding the sub-lessors of the property in which the alleged incident took place to the lawsuit. The issue was when the plaintiffs knew of facts that gave rise to a cause of action against the defendants, and whether the newly named defendants demonstrated prejudice by the late amendment.

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Oscar Albillo and his wife, Blanca Albilla, brought a lawsuit against Ports O’Call Village after Oscar tripped and fell at the entrance to the Ports O’Call Restaurant Corporation (POC).  The Albillos’ complaint alleged negligence and loss of consortium. The case went to trial in 2014, and the court granted POC’s motion for a nonsuit on the ground that the accident took place on property sub-leased by POC to Sam and Sung Cho. The court found the Albillos did not prove POC, the landlord, had actual notice of the dangerous condition.

Before the trial court granted POC’s motion for nonsuit, the Albillos moved to amend their complaint to substitute the Chos as Doe defendants.  The Chos moved to strike the amendment, and the court granted the motion.  On appeal, the issue was whether the Albillos knew enough facts to give rise to a cause of action against the Chos, and whether the Chos presented sufficient evidence of prejudice by the belated amendment.

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Recently, the California Court of Appeal issued an opinion in a case regarding medical damages in a personal injury lawsuit arising from a car accident.  The appellate court reviewed legal precedent involving proof of damages for both insured and uninsured plaintiffs. The issue on appeal in this case was whether the lower court had properly ruled on the admissibility of evidence relevant to determining the reasonable value of medical services.

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The facts of this case showed that Catherine Margaret Cowan, a diabetic, lost consciousness due to low blood sugar while driving her car.  She collided head-on with Tara Frisk, who suffered injuries and underwent medical treatment.  This treatment included a disc replacement surgery, financed through Creative Legal Funding, the lienholder.  Ms. Frisk pursued medical damages against Ms. Cowan in order to compensate her for past and future medical expenses she incurred due to the collision. A jury found Ms. Cowan liable, awarding Ms. Frisk $3,695,879.59 in compensatory and punitive damages. These included $109,162.59 for past medical expenses and $1,084,457 for future medical expenses.

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Recently, the California Court of Appeals addressed the issue of sham pleading, specifically whether the plaintiffs in a personal injury lawsuit had run afoul of the requirement that all pleading be truthful. The court examined which facts were available to the plaintiffs at the time they filed their complaint.  Since the facts were inconsistently alleged, the appellate court examined whether that was due to the fact that the plaintiffs were unclear on the basis of liability. rear end crash

Following a car accident in Fresno, plaintiffs Shelly and Vincent Baron brought a lawsuit against Gerald Galvin, the driver of a vehicle that rear-ended them, and the City of Mendota. They included detailed allegations about the accident in their general negligence cause of action.  The defendants filed a demurrer to the complaint.

The appellate court stated that after an appeal from a lower court’s judgment dismissing an action based on sustaining a demurrer, the court looks at whether the complaint states facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action.  When a defect can be cured by an amendment, the court stated, the trial court abuses its discretion in sustaining a demurrer without leave to amend.

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In a premises liability case, the California Court of Appeal recently reviewed whether a contractor that performed tile work for a property management company could be held liable for injuries suffered by an individual who slipped on the wet tiles.  After slipping and falling, the plaintiff in this case brought a lawsuit against the property manager, which then filed a cross-complaint against the contractor.  The trial court denied the contractor’s motion for summary judgment, but after review, the appellate court vacated the order and directed the lower court to issue a new order granting the motion for summary judgment based on the “accepted work” doctrine.tiles

Connie Rogers was the plaintiff in a slip and fall case involving PMB, a Limited Liability Company and property manager, and Topline Supply, Inc.  Topline had contracted with PMB to provide renovation services, including installing tiles on a handicapped access ramp. Topline was not named as a defendant, but PMB filed a cross-complaint for indemnity and added Topline. Then, Topline made a summary judgment motion based on the “accepted work” doctrine.

The trial court denied the summary judgment motion on the ground that the “accepted work” doctrine did not absolve a contractor from liability if they had been hired by a third party.

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