Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Nothing to Make Light Of – Court Determines that Risk of Injury from Mislabeled, Heavy Box Assumed by Delivery Driver (CA)

January 13, 2016

Moore v. William Jessup University (California)

A UPS deliver driver was injured when he lifted a box that was shipped by the defendant university.  When it prepared the table for the box, the defendant inaccurately stated the weight of the box.  The driver filed a negligence action against the defendant, and the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment contending that the driver’s claim was barred by the primary assumption of risk doctrine.  The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, finding that the defendant did not owe the driver a duty of care with regard to the box, and the driver appealed the decision.

The California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court decision.  The driver argued that the defendant increased the risk of injury by mislabeling the box.  However, the Court held that “the risk of injury from lifting heavy boxes that may be labeled with inaccurate weight information was inherent in [defendant’s] job as a UPS delivery driver.”  UPS did not require customers to weigh their packages before labeling them, and customers were sometimes inaccurate in the identification of their weight.  In California, “Courts have held that, as a matter of public policy, it is unfair to impose a duty on a defendant to prevent an injury to a plaintiff arising from the very condition or hazard the defendant retained the plaintiff to confront.”

Root of the Problem – Claims of Woman Injured on Segway Tour Barred by Exculpatory Agreement (CA)

November 9, 2015

Lamb v. San Francisco Electric Tour Company (California)
(not published)

The plaintiff and her husband went to Golden Gate Park with their son and took a guided tour of the park on individual Segway transporter vehicles.  The tour was operated by the defendant.  Plaintiff was injured on the tour and filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging vehicle negligence, general negligence, and common carrier negligence.  The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment based on the express waiver provisions of an agreement signed by the plaintiff, the express assumption of the risk provisions of that same agreement, and the primary assumption of the risk doctrine.  The trial court granted the motion, finding that the exculpatory agreement signed by the plaintiff was enforceable and contemplated the circumstances of the accident.  Plaintiff appealed.

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Too Important – Court Denies Motion to Compel Deposition of “Apex” Executive of Defendant (CA)

October 27, 2015

Kormylo v. Forever Resorts, LLC (California)
(trial court disposition)

Plaintiff was injured while swimming at a Nevada Resort owned and operated by the defendant.  The cause of plaintiff’s injuries were disputed, but plaintiff alleged that he was struck by a chase boat operated by an employee of the defendant.  The boat in question was registered to the President and founder of the defendant, but he was not named as a defendant in the case.

Plaintiff sought to take the President’s deposition, arguing that his testimony was required to defeat the defendant’s twelfth affirmative defense under a Nevada maritime Limitation of Liability Act.  Plaintiff contended that the owner of a vessel who fails to adequately train its crew is not entitled to limit liability under the Act, and that the President’s deposition was needed to establish this lack of training and supervision of defendant’s employees.  Defendant refused to permit the deposition, and plaintiff filed a motion to compel.

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Maintenance Mystery – Gross Negligence is an Issue of Fact for Jury in Fitness Club Equipment Case (CA)

August 7, 2015

Chavez v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. (California)

Plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury when the back panel of a “FreeMotion cable crossover machine struck her in the head at the defendant’s workout facility.  Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging claims for ordinary and gross negligence and strict product liability.  The defendant moved for summary judgment arguing (1) the written release of liability in its membership application was a complete defense to the negligence claims, (2) it could not be liable under a products liability claim because it was a service provide and it was not in the chain of commerce, and (3) the plaintiff could not reasonably demonstrate an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of care or a failure to exercise scant care which was required to state a claim for gross negligence because the defendant’s technician routinely inspected the equipment and performed preventative maintenance on it.

Plaintiff opposed the motion, and, in the alternative, sought a continuance of the motion based on the fact that the defendant claimed that it was unable to produce the maintenance technician for deposition because he was not longer employed by defendant and he could not be found.  The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion to continue, noting that the maintenance technician had been identified many months before the defendant filed its motion for summary judgment, but plaintiff elected not to subpoena him until after it received the motion.  The trial court then granted the defendant’s motion finding (1) the primary purpose of the membership agreement was the provision of fitness services such that defendant could not be held strictly responsible under the products liability claim, (2) the ordinary negligence and premises liability claims were barred by the release of liability in the membership agreement, and (3) the defendant had met its burden to show it was not grossly negligent by establishing “it had a system of preventative and responsive maintenance of its equipment.”  Plaintiff appealed the trial court decision, but only as to the ruling on its motion to continue and as to the gross negligence claim. (more…)

Tragedy at the Beach – State Not Liable for Youth Killed by Collapsed Sand (CA)

July 27, 2015

Buchanan v. California Department of Parks and Recreation (California)
(unpublished opinion)

A seventeen year old boy and his brother participated in a church youth group outing to Sunset State Beach in California.  During the outing, the boy and another member of the church group “created an unnatural condition that was not common to nature and would not naturally occur in that location, in that they were engaged in digging large holes in the sand in a picnic area being used by the church group, which was located within the park boundaries, separated from the beach by sand dunes, but within sight of a nearby elevated life guard station.”  The sand collapsed, burying and killing the boy.  A lawsuit was filed by the boy’s family, with the amended complaint alleging two causes of action.  First, the plaintiffs alleged that the California Department of Parks and Recreation (“DPR”) employees observed (or should have observed) the digging activities and they had a duty to warn the boy and the group of the known risks.  Second, the boy’s brother alleged a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress as a bystander that witnessed the incident.

The DPR filed a demurrer to the amended complaint, asserting that the complaint failed to show that it owed a duty to the plaintiff and that statutory government immunity applied.  The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend based on the Hazardous Recreational Activity immunity found in Government Code Section 831.7, and it entered a judgment of dismissal in favor of the defendant.  Plaintiffs appealed. (more…)

¡Peligro! – Woman Falls from Treadmill; Waiver Fraud and Gross Negligence Alleged (CA)

July 17, 2015

Jimenez v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. (California)

The plaintiff fell backwards off a moving treadmill at the defendant’s workout facility and suffered severe head injuries when she hit her head on the exposed steel foot of a leg exercise machine that had been placed behind the treadmill.  Plaintiff filed an action against the workout facility, alleging premises liability, general negligence, and loss of consortium.  Plaintiff contended that the defendant was grossly negligent in setting up the treadmill in a manner that violated the manufacturer’s safety instructions.  The defendant moved for summary judgment based on the liability release that plaintiff signed when she joined the facility.  The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed. (more…)

Crying Foul – Federal Litigation in California Seeks to Change Baseball’s “Limited Duty Rule” (CA)

July 15, 2015

Crying Foul – Federal Litigation in California Seeks to Change Baseball’s “Limited Duty Rule” (ESPN.com Article)

The sport of baseball has long felt the benefit of the “limited duty rule.”  The rule protects baseball teams and stadium operators from liability to spectators for injuries caused by balls and bats that fly into the seats.  The rule generally requires the team or stadium operator to provide a sufficient number of protected seats for those spectators who want them, and to provide protection for all spectators located in the most dangerous parts of the stadium, notably the areas that pose the highest risk of injury from fouls balls, such as the seating directly behind home plate.

There have been numerous challenges to the rule over the years, and now we have a new one in California.  As described in the ESPN.com article here, an Oakland Athletics season-ticket holder has filed a federal court action seeking class-action status on behalf of all fans buying season tickets in unprotected areas of the ballpark.  The goal appears to be the installation of safety netting from foul pole to foul pole.

Blanked Out – Injured Motocross Rider’s Claims Barred By Assumption of Risk (CA)

July 6, 2015

Storer v. E Street MX, Inc. (California)
(not a published opinion)

The plaintiff was injured while riding his motorcycle on a motocross track operated by the defendants.  After completing two or three laps on the track, the plaintiff “blanked out” and did not recall the incident.  He claimed something hit him, but he did not know what it was.  He filed an action against the defendants for negligence and premises liability.  The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment based upon both primary assumption of risk and the waiver and release document that the plaintiff signed prior to his participation in the motocross activities, and plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint shortly thereafter.

Plaintiff sough to add a new cause of for products liability and also sought to add additional negligence claims relating to defective design, construction, and maintenance of the racetrack, along with a failure to warn him of those defects.   The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion, ruling that the proposed amendment was “prejudicially late” and that it sought to add a “patently frivolous” cause of action for products liability.  Plaintiff had also requested delaying the defendants motion, but the court denied the request.  Thereafter, the trial court granted the defendants’ motion, and the plaintiff appealed. (more…)

Wild Ride – Paraplegic Injured on Roller Coaster Loses Jury Verdict (CA)

July 2, 2015

Rogers v. Magic Mountain, LLC (California)

Plaintiff was involved in an accident in 1996, which caused him to suffer from paraplegia and related medical complications.  In 2010, he rode the X2 “4th Dimension” roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain, an amusement park in Valencia, California.  While on the ride, plaintiff suffered a fracture to his right femur.  Plaintiff did not feel the injury as a result of his paraplegia.  A few days later, his right leg was amputated after blood clotting blocked the flow of blood to his leg.  Plaintiff sued the amusement park and the ride manufacturer, alleging premises liability, general negligence and products liability.

The amusement park filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied by the trial court.  The case continued, and a ten day jury trial ensued.  After trial, the jury issued a special verdict, finding that the amusement park was negligent, but that its negligence was not a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff.  As to the ride manufacturer, the jury found that (1) the ride did not have potential risks that were known at the time of their design, manufacture and sale that would support a failure to warn claim, and (2) the design of the ride was a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff, but that the risks of the ride did not outweigh the benefits of the design.  Therefore, the jury found that neither defendant had legal responsibility for the harm caused to the plaintiff.

Plaintiff appealed the decision contending that the special verdict was defective and the evidence was insufficient to support the special verdict.  However, the Court of Appeal disagreed and affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendants.  The Court noted that the plaintiff had not objected to the special verdict or any of its stipulated changes.  Regardless, the Court did not find any inconsistency, ambiguity, or unresolved issue in the special verdict.  Plaintiff complained that the jury had improperly allocated 100% fault to the plaintiff without first finding that the plaintiff was negligent.  However, the Court explained that the specific allocation of fault to the plaintiff was merely an “irregularity,” and not an “inconsistency.”  The jury had already determined that neither defendant’s was responsible (the park’s negligence did not cause the harm and the risk of the manufacturer’s design did not outweigh its benefits).  As a result, the Court noted that “it [did] not matter whether plaintiff was negligent or not — he [could not] recover from defendants.”  According to the Court, “the issues of negligence and causation were properly presented to the jury in the special verdict form.”  The Court was also convinced that “there was ample evidence from which the jury could properly conclude that [manufacturer] was unaware of potential risks at the time the X2 vehicles were designed.”

Yard Sale – Skier Not Liable for Collision with Ski Instructor (CA)

May 7, 2015

Rees v. Crawford (Calfornia)

The plaintiff ski instructor filed a negligence lawsuit against a skier who collided with her.  The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff had voluntarily assumed the risk of being injured from a collision with another skier.  Defendant further asserted that her conduct was not reckless because it was “neither completely outside the range of ordinary activity involved in the sport, nor done with a deliberate disregard of the high degree of probability that an injury would result.”  The trial court agreed and granted the defendant’s motion.  Plaintiff appealed.

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