Any time an individual files a California personal injury lawsuit, they must be able to provide evidence of each element of their claim. In a traditional negligence case, this means establishing that the defendant violated a duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff. While the outcome of a case can vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction, generally, states follow one of four basic theories regarding fault:
Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California personal injury case involving the question of whether a landlord of a building that rents space to a health club has a duty to ensure that the club has a defibrillator device on hand. Ultimately, the court concluded that while the operator of a health club is legally obligated to provide the defibrillator devices under a state statute, that duty does not extend to the landlord.
The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a man who died of a heart attack while working out at a boxing gym. The defendant was the owner of the building where the gym was located. Following the death of their loved one, the plaintiffs filed a case against the defendant landlord. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant was negligent in failing to ensure that the boxing gym installed defibrillator devices, as is required under Health and Safety Code section 104113.
Specifically, section 104113 requires that all “health studios” maintain defibrillator devices on hand. The statute defines a health studio as “a facility permitting the use of its facilities and equipment or access to its facilities and equipment, to individuals or groups for physical exercise, body building, reducing, figure development, fitness training, or any other similar purpose, on a membership basis.”
In a recent case, the California Supreme Court determined that colleges have a duty to protect students from foreseeable harm. In that case, the court considered a California personal injury claim against the University of California at Los Angeles, after a girl was stabbed by another student during a class.
The student had been experiencing auditory hallucinations, which were first brought to the attention of a professor, the department chair, and the dean of students. He complained that other students were insulting him and told the dean of students that if the university failed to discipline the other students, the matter would likely “escalate into a more serious situation,” and he would act in a way that would “incur undesirable consequences.” He then complained to other professors and a teaching assistant (TA). The TA noted that the student was frequently talking to himself and displayed what she believed were signs of schizophrenia. The student was urged to use the school’s counseling services. The assistant dean of students also contacted the university’s response team, which advises campus members who are concerned about the well-being of a student.
The student later told his resident director that he was advised to hurt other residents and that he had thought about it, but he had decided not to hurt anyone. Campus police came and searched his room but did not find a weapon, and they brought him to the emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation. He was diagnosed with possible schizophrenia and major depressive disorder. The student agreed to begin treatment at the school’s counseling service and to take an antipsychotic medication.
Late last month, a car accident in Huntington Beach killed three and injured several others. According to a local news source covering the tragic accident, the collision occurred at around 1 a.m. on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Evidently, the victims’ vehicle had come to a complete stop at a red light when a car crashed into it from behind. Police told reporters that it did not appear that the at-fault motorist attempted to slow down at all. The victims’ car exploded upon impact, and three of those inside died in the blaze. The fourth passenger was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. The driver of the other vehicle was not seriously injured but was taken to the Huntington Beach jail, where she was charged with several DUI-related offenses.
California DUI Accidents
Despite decades of campaigns attempting to inform the public about the dangers of drinking and driving, there are still on average over 1,000 alcohol-related fatalities per year in California alone. This represents approximately one-third of the total number of traffic fatalities in the state.
Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case discussing the potential liability of Caltrans in a design defect lawsuit brought by motorists injured in an accident that they claim was caused in part by Caltrans’ decision not to include rumble strips along the shoulder of the highway. The case required the court to determine if the Caltrans official responsible for approving the design exercised discretion when determining not to include the rumble strips.
When someone is injured in a car accident, and they believe the accident to have been caused by a dangerous condition of the roadway, they may pursue a claim against the government. The government, however, is afforded immunity from many of these cases. One type of immunity is design immunity.
Design immunity prevents a government from being held liable for the discretionary decisions made by government officials when carrying out their duties. In order for this immunity to attach, the government agency or official must be able to establish that their actions involved the exercise of discretion. If the government’s actions were ministerial, immunity will not attach.
Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a California premises liability lawsuit discussing the state’s trail immunity statute and how it can preclude an accident victim’s recovery. The court ultimately determined that the plaintiff’s case fell within the statute’s grant of immunity and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.
The plaintiff was a young man who was “ghost hunting” in a park after hours. The boys had snuck into the park at around 3:00 a.m. and were making their way down a steep incline to the trail below.
As the plaintiff was descending the hill, he began to slip. The plaintiff then began to roll head-over-heels down the steep embankment. When he reached the trail, he was traveling with such force that he continued across the trail and over the edge of a 10-foot retaining wall. The plaintiff eventually struck a tree and came to a stop. He suffered debilitating injuries as a result and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city that owned and maintained the park.
Recently, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case dealing with the issue of whether an arbitration agreement signed by the plaintiff’s employer was enforceable against the plaintiff. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the plaintiff was not a signatory to the agreement, and the defendant could show no other compelling reason to enforce the agreement, the arbitration agreement was not enforceable against the plaintiff.
The plaintiff was delivering chairs for his employer in a rented truck. The defendant was the company that rented the truck to the plaintiff’s employer. Prior to renting the truck, the plaintiff’s employer signed an agreement to arbitrate any claims that arose through the use of the rented truck. The plaintiff did not sign the agreement.
As the plaintiff was delivering the chairs, a tire on the truck blew out. The truck spun out of control, and the plaintiff was injured. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the rental company, claiming that the company was negligent in maintaining the truck. In response, the rental company claimed that the plaintiff’s case was not properly before the court because it should have been submitted to an arbitration panel pursuant to the agreement between the rental company and the plaintiff’s employer.
California highways were not necessarily designed to handle the amount of traffic they see each day. This is especially the case in and around Los Angeles, which is known for having some of the most congested highways in the country. Given the size of existing roads, government planning agencies often opt to open an additional lane of traffic and eliminate or greatly reduce the size of the road’s shoulder.
Over the years, however, the decreased size of road shoulders has resulted in hundreds of California car accidents involving police, paramedics, tow truck operators, and others whose job requires they spend time on the side of the highway. Most often, a distracted driver comes up on a stopped emergency vehicle without seeing that it is blocking the lane. The driver then collides with the stopped vehicle.
In response to these accidents, lawmakers have passed the California Move-Over Law, embodied in California Vehicle Code section 21809. Essentially, the law requires motorists who are approaching certain roadside vehicles to either move into an adjacent lane, if possible, or slow down to a “reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions.”
The temperate climate of California is perfect for motorcycle enthusiasts. In fact, California offers some of the most popular motorcycle routes, including the views from Big Sur along Highway 1. However, each year as more motorcyclists take the road, there is a corresponding increase in California motorcycle accidents.
This is not to say that the accidents are caused by motorcyclists. Indeed, the majority of motorcycle accidents involving more than one vehicle are later determined to be the fault of the other motorist. The causes of motorcycle accidents vary, but distracted driving, drunk driving, and aggressive driving are among the top causes of fatal motorcycle accidents.
When a motorist’s negligence causes a motorcycle accident, the injured motorcyclist may be able to obtain compensation for any injuries sustained in the crash through a personal injury lawsuit. If successful, a plaintiff may be able to recover compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and any pain and suffering caused by the accident.
As a general matter, California landowners have an obligation to ensure that their property is safe for those whom they invite onto their land. The extent of the duty owed by a landowner to a visitor depends largely on the relationship between the parties and the reason for the guest’s visit.
In California premises liability cases, courts require a plaintiff to establish four basic elements, as outlined in California Civil Jury Instructions section 1000:
- The defendant owned, leased, or was in control of the property;
- The defendant was negligent in the maintenance of the property;
- The plaintiff was harmed; and
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injuries.
Of course, there are many nuances to premises liability law that can alter the apportionment of liability. For example, if a dangerous condition is so obvious that a person could reasonably be expected to notice it, the landowner has no duty to warn the guest of the hazard. That being said, these determinations are made by courts on a case-by-case basis, and anyone considering a premises liability lawsuit should consult with a dedicated California personal injury attorney to discuss their case in more detail.