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fire-photo-2-300x193The tragic Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, California resulted in the deaths of 36 people. The warehouse had been illegally converted into living and working spaces for artists, and the victims of the fire died during a music concert that was being held in the building. The fire demonstrates the problems that can happen when buildings are used for purposes for which they were not intended. Unfortunately, the high real estate prices and rents in cities such as San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles has contributed to people using these spaces to work and live even though the buildings are not intended for doing so. Experienced personal injury attorneys may hold the landowners liable by filing lawsuits against them, helping to deter the negligent conduct even when code enforcement may be difficult.

Use of illegally converted buildings

The illegal conversion of buildings into spaces for entertainment, work and living quarters has been a growing problem in Southern California and in the Bay Area. This is because the real estate prices and rents are high enough that some people, including artists, have trouble finding affordable places to live. Some building owners have reacted by allowing people to rent and use the spaces as living quarters despite the fact that the buildings are not zoned for residential purposes. The state legislature is now trying to determine how to handle the growing problem through stepped-up enforcement of codes and zoning laws. Unfortunately, the resources are not available to cities and municipalities to adequately investigate all potential zoning and code violations. The civil justice system may provide an alternative means to deter landlords and leaseholders from committing code and zoning violations by holding them liable for negligence under the state’s tort law.

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millennial-driversAre Milliennials the worst drivers?  Do they pose the biggest safety risk of any demographic behind the wheel? As the use of smartphones and other technology has become pervasive over the 15 years, distracted driving and its dangers have increasingly come into focus. Multiple studies have demonstrated the dangers of distracted driving. Recently, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study with drivers of different age groups and found that millennials who were ages 19 to 24 engaged in the riskiest driving behaviors, and some of those behaviors were directly related to technology use while driving. When people engage in dangerous driving behaviors such as texting and driving, they place both themselves and others at risk of severe injuries in accidents. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer might help the victims of distracted drivers with recovering damages to compensate them for their losses.

Study results

The researchers surveyed 2,511 licensed drivers who were ages 16 and older, asking them a number of questions about various risky driving behaviors as well as the views that the drivers had about different acts of dangerous driving. Eighty-eight percent of the drivers who were ages 19 to 24 admitted to engaging in one or more risky driving practices within the 30 days prior to the survey. The behaviors included using cellphones while driving, running red lights, speeding and impaired driving. Drivers ages 19 to 24 were 1.6 times more likely to read text messages while driving as compared to drivers in other age groups with 66.1 percent admitting to doing so. The younger millennials also were twice as likely to send text messages while driving with 59.3 percent admitting to doing so at least once in the prior month.

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texting, driving, accidentsA class action lawsuit was recently filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against smartphone giant Apple. The lawsuit is seeking to hold Apple liable for a number of different automobile collisions that happened when drivers were distracted by texting or using features like apps on their iPhones while driving.

Lawsuit claims

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are asking that the court issue an injunction against Apple to prevent it from selling any new iPhone 6 phones in the state without the company first installing a safety lock feature. The feature would prevent people from texting while they drive, and Apple has apparently had the technology for the safety feature since 2008. The company was granted a patent for it in 2014 but has not installed it. The lawsuit is also asking that Apple is ordered to update phones that people have already purchased to add the feature to them.

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cell phone, driving, laws, CaliforniaBeginning on Jan. 1, 2017, drivers in California will be prohibited from holding their cell phones while they drive. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1785 in September, and its effective date is on Jan. 1, 2017. The law prohibits holding a cell phone while driving for any purpose, including checking maps, texting, talking or for any other reason.

What the law allows

The new law is codified at California Vehicle Code Sect. 23123.5. It provides that people may only use their cell phones while they are driving if the phones are mounted on their dashes and are set up for voice activation or hands-free use. Systems that are embedded in the vehicle and installed by the manufacturer are exempted. Emergency personnel who are using their cell phones while they are driving emergency vehicles are also exempt from the law. The first offense of the statute is a fine of $20. Successive violations bring increasing fines.

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People who are injured while they are working are allowed to file claims for workers’ compensation benefits through their employers. When a worker is injured while working at a site that his or her employer does not own or control, the worker may also have a claim that he or she may file against the property owner in certain cases. A recent California case in San Luis Obispo County demonstrates how property owners may be liable when a worker is injured while working on their properties.

Factual background of the case

A 54-year-old fire alarm technician was working as a part of a two-man crew to inspect the fire alarms at the Bella Vista Transitional Care Center. While he was conducting the inspection, the care center provided him with an extension ladder to use. He fell off of the ladder 12 feet to the ground, breaking both of his feet and suffering orthopedic injuries. He also suffered a compression fracture in the lumbar area of his spine that could not be corrected with surgery. He filed a premises liability lawsuit against the care center in June 2014, and the case reached a verdict following a trial in May 2016.

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In the largest jury verdict in California involving the death of a minor, a couple of parties who were involved in the Starline tour bus crash that resulted in the death of a 16-year-old Mira Costa High School student were found liable to pay $26 million in damages to the boy’s family. The verdict was handed down in Compton Superior Court after the conclusion of a long trial.

Background of the case

Mason Zisette was invited to attend a friend’s 16th birthday party on a Starline tour bus on July 10, 2014. Before heading to the party, he texted some friends and reportedly stated that he was planning to drink alcohol before he arrived. His friends testified that he drank three beers in 30 minutes before getting on the bus. In addition to the bus driver, there was a tour guide who was present along with the parents of the girl who was having the party. The mother of the girl who was having the party purchased six bottles of Smirnoff vodka, handed them to her daughter and told her to share them with her friends. There were 35 teenagers on the bus for the party. The teens went to the upper deck while the four adults remained on the lower level.

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car accident, Los AngelesA recent personal injury case that was heard in Los Angeles Superior Court demonstrates a legal concept that is called the eggshell plaintiff rule as well as the difficulties with proving injuries in minor impact soft tissue cases. People who have received soft tissue injuries such as whiplash injuries or others in accidents that were caused by the negligence of other people might need to get help from an experienced personal injury attorney.

Factual background of the case

A 65-year-old unemployed student was driving his Chrysler 300 on Feb. 16, 2012, in the number one lane of the Southbound Harbor Freeway. His vehicle was hit from behind by the defendant, who was working at the time of the accident. His vehicle had minor damage. When the police arrived, the man said that he was not injured and refused an ambulance. After the accident, the man went and took a final exam in one of his classes. Four days later, he went to see a chiropractor and continued treatment for 30 sessions before being discharged from treatment on May 26, 2012. Before being discharged from chiropractic care, the man had MRIs performed on his neck and lower back.

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Biker Crash, Injury, Lawyer, Los Angeles

Steven M. Sweat, APC has been helping injured bikers in Los Angeles and California for over 20 years.

In a recent case in Los Angeles County (L.A. Superior Court Case No. BC553756), a jury returned a verdict of $3.7 million in a case involving a motorist and a motorcyclist who was lane-splitting at the time of the accident. The case demonstrates the legal concept of comparative negligence in California. With the passage of the new lane-splitting bill, the new rules could potentially impact how comparative negligence is determined by juries in the state.

Factual background of the case

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Target Stores, Accidents, Injuries, Attorneys, CaliforniaA recent California case involving a woman who was injured when she tripped over an unattended ladder in Target demonstrates both the business’s knowledge requirement as well as its duty to remove hazards, keeping the premises reasonably safe. In the case, an 83-year-old woman tripped over the ladder, fracturing her hip.

Factual background

An 83-year-old woman was shopping at a Target in Escondido, California, on Dec. 8, 2014. As she was walking down one aisle, she tripped over a 23-inch-tall stepladder that had a 4-foot handle. A worker had left the stepladder unattended. The fall caused her hip to fracture. She filed a lawsuit against Target based on a theory of premises liability on Feb. 11, 2015.

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Jim Carrey, Lawsuit, Death, GirlfriendOn September 19, news broke that Jim Carrey is being sued in California for wrongful death by his girlfriend’s estranged husband. Carrey’s girlfriend, Cathriona White, committed suicide in September 2015 by overdosing on several different types of prescription medications. She had married Mark Burton in Las Vegas in 2013 but had dated Carrey for a couple of years afterward without divorcing Burton. Burton is thus her next-of-kin and has made multiple salacious allegations against Carrey in his lawsuit. While a media storm may have ignited, there are multiple reasons why Burton’s case will be very difficult to prove.

Legal standard for bringing a wrongful death claim in California

A wrongful death claim may be made when a person’s death directly resulted from the wrongful actions or negligence of another person. The wrongful death claim may be an intentional tort, which could be filed in the case of murder, or a negligence tort, which could follow a fatal collision.

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