Recently, the California Court of Appeal reversed a trial court judgment in favor of the defendants that had granted their motion for summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ negligence allegations. After a victim suffered injuries at work and eventually died, the relatives brought a negligence claim against his employer and another employee. On appeal, the court assessed whether the trial court had erred in finding there had not been a triable issue of material fact regarding the employer’s negligence. Specifically, the issue was whether the court had wrongly excluded dying declarations that the deceased made concerning details of his accident.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged the employer negligently stacked and loaded potato pallets, since they operate a potato packing operation. This negligence caused a pallet to topple on and crush the deceased. When opposing the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs contended that the potato boxes had not been properly wrapped together.
The plaintiffs submitted declarations, which provided the deceased’s version of facts as he told them to relatives while he was in the hospital. The defendants objected to the statements in the personal declarations as hearsay. The trial court analyzed whether the evidence supported the finding that the deceased had been relating facts concerning the cause of his death, rather than a hearsay account of another event, unrelated to his death. The court sustained the objections to the personal declarations and held there was no proof of negligence on the part of the defendants.