California Court of Appeal Reverses Judgment in Favor of Cable Company When Triable Issue Remains Regarding Duty to Remedy Exposed Cable

The court of appeal recently reviewed a judgment in favor of a cable company in a personal injury lawsuit involving allegations of negligence.  In this case, the court set forth the four elements of a negligence claim, including duty, breach, causation, and damages. Their analysis focused on whether the cable company owed a duty to the plaintiff, and whether the company had notice of the allegedly defective condition that gave rise to the plaintiff’s injuries.  The court reversed the summary judgment adjudication in favor of the cable company, finding that triable issues of fact remained.

John Reis sued Time Warner NY Cable, LLC after suffering injuries when he tripped over a Time Warner cable that emerged from the ground in his yard in Chino Hills. Time Warner moved for summary judgment on the grounds that it could not be held liable because it did not install the cable, nor did it breach any duty to Mr. Reis respecting the cable.

The facts show that while working in his yard, Mr. Reis’s foot caught a portion of the cable that came unburied. He fell and hit his head on a concrete curb.  After being rushed to the hospital, it was learned that he sustained a concussion and allegedly suffered long term injuries, including headaches, emotional disability, and back pain as a result of the fall.

Mr. Reis brought a lawsuit against Time Warner for negligence, on the grounds that they owed him a duty to exercise ordinary and reasonable care. Time Warner contended that it was entitled to summary judgment because it did not install the cable and could not have negligently created the allegedly hazardous condition; and that it did not have notice of the dangerous condition. The trial court found that Time Warner did not install the cable, and could not be liable for improperly installing the cable.

On appeal, the court evaluated the evidence to determine if the summary judgment adjudication was proper.   The court stated that the four elements of a negligence theory are duty, breach, causation, and damages. To prove causation, the plaintiff must show the defendant’s breach was a substantial factor in bringing the plaintiff’s harm, and that there exists no rule of law relieving defendant of liability.

Here, the court stated that whether Time Warner had notice of the allegedly defective condition of the cable was an open question of fact, for the jury. Time Warner contended that because its technicians had been to Mr. Reis’s home three times in 90 days of the accident, its duty was not breached, and it did not have constructive or actual notice of the alleged defect. But the court stated that issues of fact for the jury remained, centered on when the cable became exposed, whether it was due to improper maintenance by Time Warner, and whether their inspections were reasonable.

The appellate court also rejected Time Warner’s argument that the evidence showed the defect was trivial. While this doctrine eliminates unwarranted litigation from the court system, the court stated that based on the record, they could not say the alleged defect was trivial as a matter of law.

In conclusion, the court reversed the judgment in favor of Time Warner.

At Sharifi Firm, our premises liability attorneys provide guidance and representation to accident victims throughout Southern California. We are available for a free, no-obligation consultation. Contact our office at 1-866-422-7222.

More Blog Posts:

California Court Finds Plaintiff Pursuing Premises Liability Claim Did Not Prove Property Owner Knew of Dangerous Condition of Stairwell, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, February 11, 2016

California Court of Appeals Upholds Evidentiary Ruling in Grocery Store Slip & Fall Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, June 17, 2015

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