California Appeals Court Affirms Decision in Favor of Defendants Because Plaintiff Had Not Met Burden of Showing Triable Issue of Material Fact for Gross Negligence Claim

In a recent decision, the California Court of Appeal upheld a judgment in favor of the defendants after the plaintiff alleged that their negligence had caused his injuries, but he failed to meet his burden of proof.  After suffering injuries while participating in a class on motorcycle basic rider training offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, the plaintiff brought a lawsuit for negligence against another participant, as well as the Foundation.  The appellate court reviewed the evidence supporting the lower court’s decision to grant the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in this California motorcycle accident case.

The facts indicate that the plaintiff had signed a form, titled “Waiver and Indemnification,” for the course.  His complaint against the defendants alleged negligence, gross negligence, and negligent training and supervision.  The defendants moved for summary judgment and asserted the waiver the plaintiff signed barred his causes of action.

The plaintiff contended that his gross negligence cause of action remained, and he also contended the waiver was not enforceable because of fraud.  The trial court agreed that the plaintiff had not shown evidence of gross negligence and had not demonstrated the waiver should be void. The plaintiff appealed.

In reviewing the summary judgment motion, the appellate court stated that the defendants claimed the waiver and release had barred the plaintiff’s causes of action. The appellate court made clear that they had met their initial burden of production, which shifted to the plaintiff the burden to show a triable issue of material fact.

In support of his claim that gross negligence survived the waiver, the plaintiff set forth his first amended complaint.  The appellate court stated the legal rule that parties may not rely on their own pleadings to support or oppose summary judgment motions.  As a result, the plaintiff had not shown a triable issue of material fact regarding gross negligence.

Regarding the plaintiff’s allegation that the waiver was against public policy, the court stated that California law holds contracts that exempt an individual from responsibility for fraud or willful injury to others are against the policy of the state. However, these exemptions from liability for negligence do not apply if the matter does not involve the public interest.  Various factors determine whether a contract affects the public interest, such as whether the contract concerns a business suitable for public regulation.

Here, the court held that a motorcycle riding training class is not subject to public regulation, nor is it an activity of great importance to the general public.  The court stated it could hardly be considered “essential.”  Since the contract was not clearly in violation of public policy, the court held the contract was valid.

At Sharifi Firm, we focus on representing injured individuals in legal claims for compensation.  Our skilled car accident attorneys help people throughout Southern California assert their right to monetary damages from all at-fault parties.  Contact our office by calling (866) 422-7222 or online to schedule a free consultation with a skilled attorney.

More Blog Posts:

California Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Favor of Defendant Due to Failure to Meet Burden of Proof Regarding Negligence Claim, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, January 27, 2016

Hotel Not Entitled to Summary Judgment on Plaintiff’s Negligence and Premises Liability Claims as California Appellate Court Holds Issues of Material Fact Remain, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, August 10, 2017

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