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.

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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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The California Court of Appeal recently affirmed a judgment in favor of the defendants in a lawsuit following a fatal accident.  The appellate court found that the plaintiffs had not met their burden of showing an element of their negligence claim, the breach of a duty of care, and it affirmed the lower court’s judgment in favor of the defendants.

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Roque Valdez worked on weekends as a landscaper and tree trimmer and was unlicensed. Over about 20 years, he trimmed many trees, including large trees. After a tree branch fell from a tall tree on the defendants’ property, Mr. Valdez’s associate, Luis Contreras, offered a business card to the defendants and told them that Mr. Valdez and he had been trimming trees for 10 years. Before beginning their work, Mr. Valdez and Mr. Contreras were aware that the tree limbs were positioned near power lines. They discussed the danger, with the electrical lines being open, obvious, and visible. Mr. Contreras died from electrocution when he was cutting a tree limb that came into contact with a power line. The coroner’s laboratory analysis of blood samples showed his blood alcohol level was between 0.20 and 0.26 percent.  The level of intoxication opined by a forensic toxicologist retained by the defendants was 0.21, about three times the California legal limit for driving.

The plaintiffs included evidence from a board certified master arborist, who offered his opinion that a licensed arborist should have been hired, due to the tree’s size and species. He contended that by not hiring a certified arborist, the defendants violated the standards for tree care by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

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Recently, a California appellate court addressed whether a jury reasonably rejected a plaintiff’s testimony and concluded there were no injuries in a motor vehicle collision. The parties had stipulated to the defendant’s negligence as the cause of the collision.  The issues at trial centered on the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s harm and the claim of loss of consortium.

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Susan Christ brought a lawsuit against Dwayne Schwartz for injuries she allegedly suffered following Mr. Schwartz’s collision with her vehicle.  Jon Christ, Susan’s husband, also brought a claim against Mr. Schwartz for loss of consortium based on Susan’s injuries. The jury awarded no damages to the Christs. On appeal, the Christs argued the trial court should not have allowed evidence of photographs of the vehicles after the collision, or evidence of Jon Christ’s extramarital affair.

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Recently, the California Court of Appeal addressed whether a plaintiff in a lawsuit involving claims for willful misconduct and elder abuse had pled sufficient facts to support these causes of action.  In this unpublished opinion, the court stated that while the plaintiff pled sufficient facts to support a cause of action for negligence, he had not alleged the specific mental state of the defendant necessary for his other claims.

legal nursing neglect

Plaintiff Leonard Thomas was an elderly man admitted to a skilled nursing facility under the control of defendant Country Villa Service Corporation (“CV Corporation”).  After staying at the facility for seven weeks, Mr. Thomas developed pressure sores and other medical issues, including a urinary tract infection and loss of weight.  Mr. Thomas brought a lawsuit against CV Corporation, alleging negligence, willful misconduct, elder abuse, and fraud.

Procedurally, the trial court sustained CV Corporation’s demurrer to all but the negligence claim, and then it granted summary judgment on the negligence claim that survived the demurrer. The court dismissed in favor of CV Corporation. Then, Mr. Thomas died, and his successor in interest, Bertha Thomas, appealed.  The issue on appeal was whether other causes of action against CV Corporation should have withstood the demurrer.  Those causes of action were based on the same set of facts as the negligence claim, but they included allegations that CV Corporation’s conduct was willful, fraudulent, reckless, malicious, and oppressive.

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In an unpublished opinion, the California Court of Appeal recently held that the County of Los Angeles was immune from liability following a motorcycle collision in Big Tujunga Canyon Road in Angeles National Forest.  After suffering serious injuries, the injured plaintiff brought claims of a dangerous condition of public property as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The County invoked both design and sign immunity, arguing that they could not be found legally responsible in the lawsuit.  On appeal, the court reviewed the evidence in support of these immunities and affirmed the holding in favor of the County after reviewing.

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The facts of this lawsuit demonstrated that Karim Kamal had been riding his motorcycle eastbound on Big Tujunga Canyon Road, in Angeles National Forest, and was struck by Samuel Morales, on his own motorcycle, as Mr. Morales crossed the dividing line and entered Mr. Kamal’s traffic lane in an effort to pass another vehicle. The collision resulted in permanent, serious injuries to Mr. Kamal, and the cause of the collision was deemed to be Mr. Morales’ speed, in violation of the Vehicle Code.

Mr. Kamal filed a complaint against Mr. Morales, the County of Los Angeles, and the State of California for a dangerous condition of public property, negligence in maintaining a roadway without signs, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The County moved for summary judgment based on both design and sign immunity and the fact that Big Tujunga Canyon Road did not constitute a dangerous condition of public property under Government Code Section 835. Mr. Kamal opposed the motion, and it was ultimately granted in favor of the County.

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In a personal injury lawsuit following a devastating drowning accident of two toddlers, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant landowner.  The issues before the court in this appeal included standing, or the ability of the plaintiff to pursue legal claims against the landowner and renter of the property, as well as whether the plaintiff had demonstrated that the landlord owed a duty of care.swimming pool

Jason Bradford brought a lawsuit against Terrence Mann, individually and as a trustee of the Terrence W. Mann Trust, for negligence and wrongful death after the death of his two children in a swimming pool on Mr. Mann’s rental property.  The trial court had granted summary judgment in favor of Mr. Mann, finding that Mr. Bradford could not establish causation for his negligence claim and could not prove neglect by Mr. Mann for the wrongful death claim, nor did he have standing to pursue his wrongful death claim.

Mr. Bradford contended Mr. Mann owed him a duty of care regarding his toddler children, and triable issues remained as to whether Mr. Mann’s conduct as a landlord breached that duty.

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In an appeal before the California Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, the appellate court reviewed a grant of summary judgment in favor of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and a construction company for negligence related to a car accident.  The court reviewed the admissible evidence submitted by the plaintiff in an effort to defeat the summary judgment motion, and it concluded that there was not a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether a dangerous condition caused the plaintiff’s accident.

hazard warning

Thomas Glage had been driving home from dinner at the Gilroy Elks Lodge when he made a left turn from the driveway of the Lodge onto Highway 152 and was struck by a vehicle.  He claimed that due to a construction project, his view of westbound traffic had been obscured, thereby creating a dangerous condition.  He filed a lawsuit against Caltrans and the construction company for personal injuries and property damage, alleging negligence and damages from a dangerous condition on public property.

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