Articles Posted in Personal Injury

A tragic fire at an Oakland warehouse on December 3, 2016 has killed more than 30 people that were attending a concert.  The Oakland Fire Department continues to recover bodies and it is feared that the number of deaths could increase to as many as 40 to 50.

The property where the fire occurred was a warehouse, known as Oakland Ghost Ship, that neighbors claim had been converted to a place where artists lived and worked.  However, the City had not permitted the building for residential use or for use as a concert venue.  The concert, Golden Dorma 100% silk 2016 West Coast Tour, was advertised online, including a concert Facebook page.  A local resident stated that the warehouse is known by locals as the site for rave-style concerts.  Shockingly, it has been reported that sprinklers or fire alarms had not been installed in the building.  A spokesperson for the building owner claims that the owner did not know that people were living at the building or that it was being used for concerts and parties.

Some local residents have described the building as a tinderbox where tragedy was waiting to happen. Former residents of the building reported that they saw artists using butane torches, water being heated with propane, and sparking electrical wires.  The building was divided into a number of different sections that had been decorated with curtains and other fabrics.  The interior and exterior of the building was littered with debris that has been described as kindling.  The interior stairs consisted of wooden pallets that made it difficult to escape the inferno.  Most people died on the second floor where the concert took place.  It is inexcusable that the City of Oakland and the property owner allowed such a deathtrap to exist.

The California Court of Appeal recently affirmed a jury award in a personal injury claim against a negligent truck driver and his employer. In this recent case, the plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendant, who was operating a vehicle in the course of his employment. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendants for the back injuries he sustained in the collision. Although the defendants admitted that they were responsible for the collision, they disputed the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and the amount of his damages. Following a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff over $2 million in damages. The defendants appealed, contending that the trial court erred in excluding expert testimony from their witness and that there was insufficient evidence to support the $200,000 award for future medical costs.car accident

In the case, the plaintiff stopped on the road to allow another vehicle to make a turn. The defendant failed to use his brakes and rear-ended him at a speed of approximately 10 to 30 miles per hour, causing the plaintiff’s car to lurch forward 5-10 feet. The plaintiff experienced major back pain and went to the emergency room later that night. For the next several years, the plaintiff sought treatment for his neck and back pain. At trial, the plaintiff presented expert testimony from his doctors that his preexisting degenerative disc disease was exacerbated by the motor vehicle accident, and that the condition was permanent. The defendants rebutted with expert witnesses who testified that the accident did not cause the plaintiff’s injuries, which were the result of ongoing degenerative change in his back. The defendants also sought to present testimony from a biochemical engineer to attest to the medical causation of the injury. However, the trial court ruled that the expert could not testify as to the medical effects caused by the impact of the car accident, since the evidence would be more prejudicial than probative.

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In a victory for the plaintiffs, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District reversed an order by a lower court that had sustained a demurrer by the defendants in a wrongful death action. In the case, the plaintiffs brought suit against several defendants after their father was fatally injured in a construction accident. Their suit included a negligence claim against the property owners that hired the independent contractor employing their father to repair a damaged concrete wall on the premises. The plaintiffs alleged that by providing a forklift and entering into an agreement, the defendants owed a duty of care to the victim to provide a safe means by which he could complete the work. However, the trial court sustained the defendants’ demurrers, finding that it was the obligation of the victim’s employer, rather than the defendants, to provide a safe work environment.forklift-1502186-640x480

In California, the Workers’ Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy against an employer for the injury or death of an employee. Generally, when an employee of an independent contractor hired to do dangerous work suffers a work-related injury, the employee is limited to recovery under the workers’ compensation system. However, the employee of an independent contractor is not barred from all recovery against the person who hired the contractor. The hirer may be liable to an employee of a contractor insofar as a hirer’s exercise of retained control affirmatively contributed to the employee’s injuries, or insofar as the provision of unsafe equipment affirmatively contributes to the employee’s injury. For example, if the hirer promises to undertake a particular safety measure, the hirer’s negligent failure to do so will generally result in liability if such negligence leads to an employee injury.

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In a recent decision, the California Court of Appeals reversed a summary judgment order entered by the trial court against the plaintiff, thereby allowing the plaintiff to proceed with his personal injury action against a cable company. In the case, the plaintiff brought suit against the defendant after he sustained injuries tripping over a cable that had emerged from the ground in his yard. The defendant moved for summary judgment before trial, which the lower court granted on the basis that the defendant did not install the cable at issue, and therefore the defendant had no duty of care to maintain it because it did not have actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition.cable-1499390-638x425

In order to establish liability on a negligence theory in California, a plaintiff must prove duty, breach, causation, and damages. A plaintiff meets the causation element by showing that the defendant’s breach of its duty to exercise ordinary care was a substantial factor in bringing about the plaintiff’s harm. In most cases, causation is a question of fact for the jury.

On appeal, the court held that whether or not the defendant had notice of the allegedly defective condition of the cable was indeed a question of fact reserved for the jury. The court explained that when a plaintiff bases his theory of negligence on the failure to correct a dangerous condition, the plaintiff has the burden to show that the defendant had notice of the defect in sufficient time to correct it. However, the plaintiff need not show actual knowledge if the evidence suggests that the dangerous condition was present for a sufficient period of time to impute constructive knowledge to the owner. The court found that despite the fact that the cable company employees were at the plaintiff’s home three times within 90 days of the accident, and neither they nor the plaintiff saw the exposed cable, the evidence did not conclusively establish that the defendant’s conduct complied with the standard of reasonable care.

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A California Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether a nonrelative resident exclusion provision in an insurance policy should be upheld or struck as contrary to public policy. In the case, the driver and his college roommate, a passenger in the vehicle, were involved in a motor vehicle collision. The roommate brought a personal injury claim against the driver and the other motorist as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident. The driver’s insurance company filed a complaint for declaratory relief, alleging that the roommate was defined as an “insured” under the policy and did not have a duty to indemnify the driver for the amount awarded to the roommate. The superior court found in favor of the insurer, and the parties appealed.fast-car-1561464-639x423

After reviewing the entirety of the record, the Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the insurance policy provision excluding the roommate from coverage was an overbroad expansion of a statutorily permitted exclusion for relative residents, and it was also contrary to public policy.

California law allows insurers to exclude claims for bodily injuries brought by an insured, with one of its goals to prevent fraud against insurance companies. In the case, the driver’s insurance policy defined insured to include residents who inhabit the same dwelling as the named insured. The policy thus excluded the driver’s roommate from coverage. In analyzing the law with respect to the insurance policy at issue, the Court of Appeal interpreted the relevant California statutory provisions together, holding that while they do provide authority for an insurer to exclude an insured, that person must have an insurable interest to be excluded.

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A California Appeals Court has held that the victims of a pedestrian accident may proceed with their personal injury case against the city. In the case, the plaintiffs had pressed the pedestrian warning beacon at a crosswalk before crossing the street. As they proceeded to travel across the road, they were struck by a driver who did not see the warning beacon or the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs filed suit against the city, claiming that the pedestrian crosswalk was a dangerous condition on public property. The city moved for summary judgment, contending that it was covered by government design immunity. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the city, and the plaintiffs appealed.GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

California law provides that a public entity may be liable for an injury proximately caused by the dangerous condition of its property if the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury sustained, and the public entity had actual or constructive notice of the condition a sufficient time before the injury to have taken preventative measures. A public entity is not liable, however, if the injury is caused by a plan or design to which the public entity reasonably gave its discretionary approval. In order to establish design immunity, the city must show:  (1) a causal relationship between the plan or design and the accident, (2) discretionary approval of the plan or design before the construction or improvement, and (3) substantial evidence supporting the reasonableness of the plan or design.

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The California Court of Appeals reversed a summary judgment order in which the trial court ruled against the plaintiff in a motorcycle accident case. In one recent case, the plaintiff brought a personal injury action against the County to recover for injuries he suffered when his motorcycle went into a drainage ditch alongside a County road. The plaintiff had swerved to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of him, which had suddenly braked, and he was thrown over his motorcycle as he went into the drainage ditch. The plaintiff’s suit alleged that the County’s design and construction of the drainage ditch was negligent, thereby constituting a dangerous, defective, and hazardous road condition.motorcycle-1450689-640x480

Generally, under the California Tort Claims Act, a public entity is not liable for any injury unless otherwise allowed by statute. There is, however, an exception if the injury was caused by a dangerous condition on public property. In order to succeed on his claim, the plaintiff must establish that the property was in a dangerous condition when the injury occurred, that the injury was caused by the dangerous condition, and that the dangerous condition created a foreseeable risk of injury of the kind incurred by the plaintiff. The plaintiff must also prove that a public entity employee created the dangerous condition within the scope of his employment negligently or wrongfully, or that the public entity was put on notice of the dangerous condition prior to the injury and timely enough that it could have taken steps to protect against the dangerous condition. The term “dangerous condition” is defined as a condition of property that creates a substantial risk of injury when used with due care in a manner in which it is reasonably foreseeable that it will be used.

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The California Court of Appeal reviewed a case involving a pedestrian killed by a motor vehicle, ultimately reversing the lower court’s grant of summary judgment and allowing the plaintiffs to proceed with their suit. In this case, the relatives of a pedestrian killed in a motor vehicle collision brought an action against the driver for negligence, as well as against the passenger for willfully interfering with the driver of a vehicle. The passenger filed a motion for summary judgment, which the lower court granted.car-crash-1451085-639x427(1)

In the case, the occupants of the vehicle were driving to a drugstore when the front passenger told the driver to take a shortcut through a residential street, which had a posted speed limit of 25 mph. The passenger knew the street had dips that could cause a car traveling at a high rate of speed to become airborne, and she told the driver that he should drive fast over them to “catch air.” The driver sped up to such a degree that he lost control of the car and collided into the victim’s parked car as the victim was attempting to put a child in a car seat. The victim was killed by the impact. Evidence indicated that the defendants’ vehicle was traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour at the time of impact.

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Here is just another example of Lawyers from our firm giving back to our local community. Chantel Fitting, SMCTLA President is shown in this picture donating $12,000.00 to the Samaritan House organization. Samaritan House is a non-profit organization serving low-income families and individuals in San Mateo County since 1974.

For more information about this event please click on the link below.

https://www.caoc.org/temp/ts_12F7DE27-BDB9-50CE-FF9007B7B9D80A9B12F7DE37-BDB9-50CE-F3DFC7EEE0FB3B4B/1304f-pg48-news.pdf