Recently, a California Court of Appeal affirmed a jury’s finding that the defendants in a premises liability lawsuit had not caused the plaintiffs’ alleged injuries.  In this case, the court found that the jury did not err staircasein holding that the landlords had been negligent, but their conduct had not been a substantial factor in causing the plaintiffs’ injuries. The court looked at the standard that requires a judgment to be supported by substantial evidence and found that in this case, that standard had been met.

On appeal, the court stated they view the record in the light most favorable to the prevailing party.  Here, the facts indicated that Alexandra Lake and her six-year-old daughter lived in a rented apartment in Tiburon, California. The Morphews owned the property and rented out the unit, as well as three others.

In 2010, Ms. Lake’s daughter Jazea fell from the second to last step on an exterior staircase leading from the street level to the entrance to Ms. Lake’s unit. Jazea hit her head on a metal gate at the bottom landing. Neither the stairs nor the handrail were in compliance with the building code. Jazea had abrasions on her forehead, and her cheek was slightly swollen.

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In a personal injury lawsuit following two motor vehicle collisions, an injured plaintiff appealed the jury’s award of damages. A California Court of Appeal, in an unpublished opinion, upheld the jury award for past pain and suffering, with no future economic or noneconomic damages awarded. The court focused on the fact that the plaintiff’s alleged injuries stemming from the car accidents had likely healed, and any ongoing medical complaints were unrelated to the accident.

car accident

On February 3, 2012, Ms. Tent was traveling from Malibu to Oxnard for her work as a code enforcement officer, and her vehicle was rear-ended by one defendant in the injury lawsuit.  Later, returning to Malibu, she was rear-ended again by a different defendant. Both defendants admitted their liability for the accidents.

Ms. Tent sought damages for the neck and back injuries that she claimed resulted from the collisions. She waived her claim for past medical costs, and the issue was whether she was entitled to damages for past lost earnings, future lost earnings, future medical expenses, past noneconomic loss, and future noneconomic loss.

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In this recent opinion, the California Court of Appeals addressed an appeal brought by the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit following a fall from the steps outside his apartment complex.  The court reviewed the rules of law concerning damages and held that substantial evidence supported the jury’s award. staircase

Plaintiff Kazimierz Sokol brought a lawsuit for personal injuries after suffering injuries on stairs outside his apartment.  Defendant Anna K. Rosciszewski, his landlord, stipulated that she had been negligent. After a trial, the jury found Ms. Rosciszewski’s negligence was a substantial cause of Mr. Sokol’s injuries. They awarded Mr. Sokol damages of $36,474.89 for past medical expenses and $5,000 for past pain and suffering. Mr. Sokol was not awarded any damages for future losses.

Mr. Sokol appealed, contending that the damages award was inadequate as a matter of law.  The court reviewed the medical bills as well as the opinions of a vocational rehabilitation counselor and a damages expert. At issue was whether substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict.

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In a recent appeal of an underlying premises liability lawsuit, a California court affirmed a judgment in favor of the owner of a winery after the injured plaintiff alleged she fell and suffered injuries. Noting that there is no bright line rule regarding whether a condition is dangerous or defective, the court stated that an alleged defect is not trivial if it would be sufficiently dangerous to a reasonably careful person.

In this case, plaintiff Lorna Good allegedly fell at a winery and suffered injuries, fracturing her foot and wrist.  The winery was wineryowned by OGB Partners, and Ms. Good had been to the location 10 to 12 times in the previous nine months. On a warm, clear evening, while watching a concert, Ms. Good fell while wearing four-inch stiletto heels.

Ms. Good brought a lawsuit against OGB for premises liability and general negligence.  OGB moved for summary judgment, submitting photographs and contending that the patio had been well-lit on the night of the alleged accident. The trial court heard arguments on the summary judgment motions and ultimately granted the motion in favor of OGB. The court stated that summary judgment is to be granted when the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Defendants moving for summary judgment must show one or more elements of the plaintiff’s cause of action cannot be established, or there is a complete defense.

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In this recent opinion, a California Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment in favor of an injured individual who brought a lawsuit against a man who allegedly attacked him at a restaurant in Venice, California. The injured plaintiff also sued the restaurant, the security guard, and the company for which he worked. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff on the battery and negligence causes of action, and the judge assessed punitive damages against the defendant who was the alleged aggressor. On appeal, the defendant contended that the judgment should be reversed, due to insufficient evidence supporting both the verdict and the punitive damages.


After being attacked inside the Venice restaurant by defendant Donald Hartunian, Dale Johnson contended that he suffered injuries to his knee, including a torn ACL. Since there were several different defendants in this case, after the issue of punitive damages was bifurcated for trial, the matter went to the jury on the theories of:  (1) premises liability and negligence of the bar; (2) negligence of the security company; (3) negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress as to the security guard; and (4) negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress as to the alleged aggressor, defendant Donald Hartunian.

The jury rendered a verdict in favor of the bar, the security company, and the security guard on all the causes of action, but it found against Mr. Hartunian on the battery and negligence causes of action.  They apportioned 85 percent of the fault for Mr. Johnson’s damages to Mr. Hartunian and 15 percent to Mr. Johnson.  Mr. Johnson was awarded $96,000 in damages.

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Recently, a California Court of Appeal reviewed a lower court’s decision in favor of an automobile insurance company regarding coverage for vehicle damage resulting from a collision. The facts of this case are particular in that the vehicle at issue was parked at the time of the accident.  The appellate court reviewed the car owner’s allegations against his insurance company, ultimately finding that a general allegation that the car had not been restored to its pre-accident condition did not suffice to hold the insurer liable for breach of contract and bad faith.


William Baldwin owned a nearly new Toyota Tundra Pickup that was struck, while parked, when two vehicles collided nearby.  Mr. Baldwin had car insurance that covered collision-related damage. His insurer refused to consider the pickup a “total loss” and instead chose to repair it at a cost of $8,196.06.  The future resale value of the pickup decreased by more than $17,100.

Mr. Baldwin brought a negligence claim against the drivers involved in the motor vehicle collision, as well as a claim against his insurance company for breach of contract and bad faith.  According to Mr. Baldwin, under his insurance policy, the company was required to pay for the pre-accident value of the pickup or repair it to its original condition.  During the repair of his vehicle, Mr. Baldwin’s  insurer provided him with a rental car.  In his lawsuit, he sought the difference in value for the period that his vehicle was being repaired.

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Recently, the California Court of Appeal addressed whether an individual who hired a pool contractor to build a pool and spa at his home was negligent and liable for injuries suffered by one of the contractor’s employees.  In this case, the court reviewed whether the evidence supported a determination that the defendant negligently exercised control over safety conditions, and it ultimately upheld the verdict in favor of the injured plaintiff.

poolJeffrey Callaghan hired Dunn’s Designer Pools, a landscape and pool contractor, to build a pool and spa at his house in Coachella Valley. He acted as the owner-builder for his property, which means he obtained the permits for the job and was responsible for the construction of the pool. A Dunn employee, Victor Regalado, was injured while installing a propane-fueled pool heater. Mr. Regalado brought a lawsuit against Mr. Callaghan for negligence and premises liability. A jury found that Mr. Callaghan had been negligent and assigned 40 percent fault to him, ultimately rendering judgment against him for $3 million.

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The California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District recently affirmed summary judgment in favor of an automobile insurance company that denied uninsured motorist coverage to an individual, a third-party beneficiary, who was injured in a car accident. In this case, the insurer claimed that it canceled the liability policy before the accident. The third party alleged that the cancellation was invalid and unreasonable as a matter of law.


The court stated that insurance companies can cancel their automobile insurance policies before they expire when there is a “substantial increase” in the hazard insured against. This increase takes place, for example, when an insured does not provide the insurance company with necessary information, after a reasonable request.  The written request by the insurance company must make clear that if the insured does not provide the information, their policy may be cancelled.

Jeff and Denise Fields had an auto insurance policy issued by Defendant AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah Insurance Exchange.  The annual period began on March 18, 2004.  Under the policy, Jeff Fields, Denise Fields, and their daughter Krystal Fields were insured drivers. The policy also gave AAA the right to cancel the policy for any reason by providing written notice 20 days before.

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Recently, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, issued an unpublished opinion in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of two individuals struck and killed by an intoxicated Target Corporation employee after working hours. The issue was whether the lower court had properly held that the defendant’s employer, Target, was not liable under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior.  The plaintiffs contended that it was foreseeable that workers would drink secretly on the job, and a jury could find the driver’s intoxication was incidental to his employment position at Target. The appellate court upheld the summary judgment motion in favor of Target.cocktail glass

Anthony Fragoso worked at the Target in Long Beach, and during his meal break one afternoon, he bought a small bottle of vodka and began drinking. He continued to drink this vodka secretly during meal periods and kept his drinking hidden from Target. After his shift ended that night, at around 11:30 p.m., he continued drinking from his vodka bottle and then drank one and one-half beers while driving a coworker home.

After Mr. Fragoso left his coworker’s house, he drove in the wrong direction of traffic for miles along State Route 91. Ultimately, he collided with a vehicle and killed the decedents, Alan Reyes and Vanessa Cease. Mr. Fragoso’s blood alcohol content was determined to be .23, the equivalent of 11.5 standard drinks.  Mr. Fragoso pled guilty to two counts of felony vehicular manslaughter.

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In a recent opinion, the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, held that the employer of an at-fault defendant driver could not be held liable for injuries sustained by a plaintiff injured in a motor vehicle collision.  The appellate court reviewed the jury’s finding that the employer was liable on a theory of respondeat superior, ultimately holding that there was no evidence that the defendant employee had been acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.

open road

Leopoldo Jorge, Jr., brought a lawsuit against Almir Da Fonseca and the Culinary Institute of America after he was injured when struck by a car driven by Mr. Da Fonseca.  Mr. Da Fonseca worked as a chef instructor at the Culinary Institute. He had finished his shift and was driving home, in his own car, at the time of the accident.

A jury found the Culinary Institute was liable for Mr. Jorge’s injuries. They applied the theory of respondeat superior. The Culinary Institute then moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing there was no evidence supporting the jury’s finding that Da Fonseca was in the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.  The court denied the motion, and the Culinary Institute appealed, arguing that they could not be liable for injuries caused by Mr. Da Fonseca’s negligence because Mr. Da Fonseca was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.

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