In April of 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California premises liability case discussing the application of the state’s “firefighter’s rule.” Ultimately, the court concluded that the case did not implicate the firefighter’s rule.

The firefighter’s rule is an exception to the general rule that landowners have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for visitors. Originally, the firefighter’s rule applied to firefighters and emergency personnel who put themselves at risk while engaging in the necessary functions of the job. Essentially, the firefighter’s rule prohibits a firefighter from pursuing a claim against a landowner because the firefighter is said to have assumed the risk of injury by agreeing to work in that capacity.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a site manager at a home in Beverly Hills. The home was architecturally unique in that there was a cantilevered concrete platform that extended from a steep hill, designed to look as though it was floating. The owner of the property, the defendant, rented the home for special events.

In a recent state appellate opinion, a California appellate court dismissed a plaintiff’s claim that arose after the plaintiff was injured at a carnival which was held on school grounds. The issue before the court was whether the school district could be held liable based on the placement and operation of an inflatable slide, which the plaintiff claimed was a hazardous condition.

According to the court’s opinion, a school booster group held the carnival at the school as a fundraising event. The group organized the event, and chose the company that provided the inflatable slide, and supervised its set-up and use. During the carnival, the plaintiff’s three-year-old son climbed up the slide, but was scared to go down, so the plaintiff ascended the slide in order to retrieve his son. As the plaintiff was on the slide, it suddenly deflated and tipped over. The plaintiff sued the school district for his injuries, alleging that the district was at fault because the slide was not tethered to the ground and because it was placed in a dangerous location.

Under Section 38134 of California’s Education Code, a public school is designated as a “civic center,” which means that it must allow nonprofit organizations to use school grounds for youth and school activities. Section 38134 specifically divides liability between school districts and the entities that use school grounds. The statute provides that a school district is liable for injuries that result from the school district’s negligence “in the ownership and maintenance of the school facilities or grounds.” In contrast, an entity that uses school facilities or grounds is liable for injuries that result from the entity’s negligence “during the use of the school facilities or grounds.” In addition, an entity using school grounds is responsible for obtaining insurance to protect against the risk of liability.

In a recent opinion, a federal appeals court was tasked with deciding whether a plaintiff whose Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) claim was not properly filed as a minor could file his claim beyond the statute of limitations. The case is a precedential decision for cases in the court’s jurisdiction, including California car accident cases.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s father died in a car crash on an Arizona highway in 2005. The plaintiff’s mother filed a claim with the federal agency over two years later, and then filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. She claimed deficiencies in the highway barrier involved in the father’s crash. The plaintiff was nine years old when his father died and sixteen when the suit was filed.

Filing a Claim Under the Federal Tort Claims Act

The Federal Tort Claims Act allows people to sue the United States government and its agencies for certain torts committed by federal employees while acting within the scope of their official duties. In an FTCA claim, a claimant must show that: (1) injury or property damages caused by a federal employee; (2) the employee was acting within the scope of his official duties; (3) the employee acted negligently or wrongfully; and (4) the act proximately caused the damages.

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A California appellate court recently considered a case in which a plaintiff claimed that the city was at fault for failing to repaint a city crosswalk. The plaintiff sued the city of Salinas, California after she was hit by a car while walking across the street. The plaintiff was in the crosswalk at the time she was hit, which had not been repainted in sixteen years and was almost completely faded. The plaintiff claimed that the condition of the crosswalk amounted to a dangerous condition.

Under a city ordinance, the city was required to maintain crosswalks at intersections with the appropriate markings. Based on the ordinance, the plaintiff asked that the jury be read instructions on the concept of negligence per se.

Negligence Per Se

Negligence per se refers to a finding of negligence based on a violation of the law. If negligence per se applies, the defendant is presumed to have breached the duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff. For example, there might be a finding of negligence per se in a California drunk driving accident.

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Earlier last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case discussing whether an employer could be held vicariously liable for the allegedly negligent acts of an employee. The court ultimately concluded that vicarious liability was appropriate, and allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed to trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured after being involved in a car accident. Evidently, the plaintiff was riding as a passenger in the pick-up truck that was being driven by his father. The truck was provided to the plaintiff’s father as a company car.

The plaintiff’s father was a maintenance worker for the defendant corporation, which operated several farms in the area. The plaintiff’s father reportedly worked six days a week, but was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to attend to any maintenance issues that arose at any of the defendant’s properties. The plaintiff’s father kept a toolbox in the pick-up truck, and was told by the defendant that he was expected to respond to any maintenance issue immediately. Thus, the employer allowed the plaintiff to use the pick-up truck for personal use.

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In a recent case before a California appeals court, the court considered whether a public college hosting a volleyball tournament could be held liable in a California premises liability claim for an injury suffered by a visiting athlete.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff attended Los Angeles Pierce College, a public community college, and traveled to another public college, Grossmont College, for a volleyball tournament, as a member of the college’s volleyball team. The plaintiff was allegedly injured during a volleyball game when she dove into the sand and her knee hit a rock in the sand.

The plaintiff filed a complaint against Grossmont College, alleging negligence, gross negligence, and dangerous condition of public property. The plaintiff claimed she was injured because of a dangerous condition at the college’s beach volleyball facility. The college argued that it was protected by immunity because the plaintiff’s case fell under California’s field trips and excursions immunity.

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In a recent case before a California appeals court, the plaintiff claimed that a California ski resort was liable for the serious injuries she sustained in a tragic snowboarding accident at the resort. According to the court’s opinion, the woman collided with a snowcat that was pulling a snow-grooming tiller, and she got caught in the tiller. She suffered severe injuries, including several skull fractures and her left leg was later amputated as a result of the collision.

The plaintiff and her husband sued the ski resort, alleging gross negligence and loss of consortium. The trial court granted the ski resort’s motion for summary judgment finding that the woman assumed the risk of her injury, and the plaintiffs appealed.

The Doctrine of Assumption of the Risk

The court explained that the doctrine of assumption of the risk is often referred to as a defense, but it actually negates the duty element, which is an essential element of a negligence claim. In cases involving the express assumption of risk, the individual expressly agrees to assume the risk involved, for example by signing a written release. A release that expressly releases the defendant can waive the defendant’s liability for negligence. However, a waiver cannot cover a defendant’s gross negligence. Gross negligence is considered an aggravated type of negligence. It typically amounts to an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of care others in the defendant’s shoes would take in a given situation.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California personal injury case involving a plaintiff who allegedly sustained a serious injury after taking a yoga class from the defendant instructor. Ultimately, the court concluded that corrections the yoga instructor made to the plaintiff’s poses during the class “were within the standard of care for yoga instructor teaching a restorative yoga class.” Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

The Facts

The plaintiff arranged to take a yoga class from the defendant yoga instructor. During the class, the defendant instructor made several corrections to the plaintiff’s poses, including pushing down on her lower back and twisting her neck. The plaintiff later filed a personal injury lawsuit against the instructor and the studio where the class was taught.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and presented two witnesses who testified that it is common and expected for a yoga instructor to adjust students’ poses throughout the class. The plaintiff – who did not call any expert witnesses – objected to the defendants’ experts as “inherently unbelievable.”

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California insurance companies may try to avoid defending personal injury claims against an insured by arguing that the conduct does not fall under the insured’s policy. This can greatly reduce a plaintiff’s chance of recovering for their injuries, because many defendants do not have adequate resources to fairly compensate plaintiffs for their injuries.

The California Supreme Court recently decided a case in which an insurance company argued that it was not required to defend a negligent hiring claim against an insured arising from an alleged sexual assault.

The Facts of the Case

A woman alleged that a construction company negligently hired, retained, and supervised an employee that she claimed had sexually abused her. She alleged that one of the construction company’s employees sexually abused her when she was a 13-year-old student while the employee was working on a construction project at her school. The construction company’s insurer argued that it was not required to defend the construction company in that suit. The insurer’s commercial general liability policy provided coverage for bodily injury that was caused by an “occurrence,” which the policy defined as an “accident.” The insurer reasoned that because in this case the employee intentionally injured the woman, the incident was not an accident, and thus was not covered under the policy.

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In a recent California personal injury case, the plaintiff brought a premises liability claim against a restaurant after she was bitten by a spider while eating lunch there. The plaintiff had been eating lunch with a friend on a patio when a spider bit her on her back. She was hospitalized for about six days and suffered from numbness and weakness in her extremities after spider venom reached her spinal fluid. She suffered permanent damage and could not fully use her left hand and leg.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging general negligence and premises liability. She claimed that the restaurant knew or should have known that spiders were prevalent in the patio area and that they posed a risk to customers. She alleged that the restaurant was negligent in failing to warn of the danger of the spiders and in failing to reasonably prevent spiders from coming into contact with customers. The plaintiff claimed that prior to her injury, there were thirteen reports of spider sightings at the restaurant, and three were identified as black widows.

The restaurant contended that it did not have an absolute duty to ensure the safety of its customers, and that it did not owe the plaintiff a duty to protect her from an alleged black widow spider bite. It claimed that it followed pest control protocols that exceeded industry standards, that it did not know there were any black widow spiders on the dining patio, and that the costs of a duty to protect customers outweighed the benefits.

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