In what may have been the largest ever judgment in a case involving a wrongful death of a minor in California, a jury in Compton recently awarded the parents of a Manhattan Beach teen $26 million after the boy died aboard a sightseeing bus, according to The Beach Reporter. The damages award was the culmination of a case finding liable both the bus company and the parents who rented the bus as part of their daughter’s birthday party.
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.
When you’ve suffered harm as a result of someone else’s negligence, there are many important hurdles that you and your legal counsel must clear to obtain the compensation you deserve. You have to collect all of the factual evidence you need, navigate all of the required procedural steps, and then, at trial, put on your case and thwart all of the defenses the other side will offer. In a case from earlier this year, juryveridctalert.com reported that a San Bernardino County jury imposed $3.5 million in damages against a negligent driver who crashed head-on into a mom’s SUV, injuring her and killing her 16-year-old daughter. The parents succeeded in part because they successfully countered the at-fault driver’s defense that she was not liable due to a “sudden emergency.”
When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, there are several people or entities who owe you a legal duty. Other drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely. If they don’t, and their negligence injures you, you can sue them for the harm you suffered. Additionally, governments have a duty to maintain the roads and intersections they control in a safe condition. In one recent case from Southern California, the Los Angeles Times reported on a case in which the City of Los Angeles’ failure to maintain an intersection in a safe condition, instead allowing unlimited parking to create a “blind” corner, triggered a $23 million verdict in favor of the family of a scientist killed at that intersection.
A recent ruling by the First District Court of Appeal offered a useful insight into what happens when you’re a victim of an unfair strategy by your litigation opponent. The decision upheld a lower court’s order giving the family of a deceased trucker a renewed opportunity to pursue their case arising from the fiery crash that killed their loved one. The state’s Department of Transportation carried out a pretrial and trial strategy that unfairly surprised and prejudiced the trucker’s family, and when that happens, you have certain rights, such as the right to a new trial, which the court awarded to the family in this case.
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.
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.
A California Court of Appeal reviewed a verdict in a wrongful death case in which two pedestrians were killed by a semi-truck driver while crossing at an intersection, ultimately affirming the $15 million jury award to the victims’ family members. In this case, the truck driver was stopped at an intersection, blocking the crosswalk. He then backed up the truck to allow the pedestrians to cross the street in front of him. The pedestrians then waited at the corner to cross the perpendicular street. When the light turned green, the pedestrians began to cross. The truck also pulled up, intending to make a right turn, although his signal was not on. As it was turning, the front of the truck struck the pedestrians from behind, and its back tires rolled over them, killing them. The two minor children of one of the victims brought wrongful death claims against the truck driver and the driver’s employer.
After a trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded each child $3.75 million for past non-economic damages and $3.75 million for future non-economic damages, a total of $7.5 million for each child. The defendants moved for a new trial, arguing that the trial court erred in excluding evidence that the decedent was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the accident, and that the damages awarded were excessive. The appeals court rejected both of the defendant’s arguments.