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Butte-County-Camp-Fire-Lawsuits-Victim-Recovery-300x225Numerous California law firms have already filed a series of coordinated lawsuits, on behalf of some of the victims of California’s largest-ever wildfire, the Butte County Camp Fire.

The allegations are that Pacific, Gas & Electric (“PG&E”) had a long history of poor maintenance, and numerous other known issues and prior complaints.  And they have allegedly caused many other fires in the past. This shameful history demonstrates that PG&E knew that a serious fire could happen, but company executives put their own profits above the safety of thousands of people.  In this particular case, there is allegedly good evidence that a failed electrical component, owned by PG&E, started the Camp Fire.

Families may not realize what potential compensation they could possibly recover in these lawsuits.  This article explains the basic legal claims, and what damages can be recovered.

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When personal injury cases in California go to jury trials, both the plaintiffs and the defendants are allowed to question potential jurors. The courts may also allow them to make opening statements so that they can present information about the facts and circumstances of their cases. However, as the case of Alcazar v. Los Angeles Unified School District, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B281313 shows, the court is allowed to restrict the scope of the questioning and has discretion about allowing opening statements. People who have suffered injuries might benefit from consulting with experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyers to obtain fair evaluations of their potential claims.

Factual background of the case

Edgar Alcazar was a 13-year-old middle school student with special needs. On May 7, 2013, Alcazar was swinging from a branch of a tree on the school’s campus that was growing inside of a concrete planter. Alcazar had been warned not to swing on the branches in the past and had been told that doing so was dangerous. Despite these warnings, he swang on the branch again, falling to the ground and striking his head on a pedestrian walkway during his lunchtime recess. The principal was called over a radio about the incident. When he got to the scene, he found Alcazar lying on his back next to a broken branch from the tree. The branch was about six feet long and 2 inches thick at its widest point.

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Corporate-Greed-Lawsuit-AvoidanceWhen corporations have potential liability in personal injury and wrongful death cases, they often aggressively litigate legal claims that are filed against them by the victims and their families. Businesses may try to limit their liability in several ways. The business owners may try to avoid personal liability by structuring their companies as LLCs or corporations.

Some businesses set up shell companies so that the businesses themselves have few assets and only minimal liability policies. Others, such as Ripley Entertainment in Missouri and MGM Resorts in Las Vegas, take aggressive approaches to the victims by filing lawsuits against them based on antiquated laws or novel interpretations of recent laws. Large corporations also use lobbyists to convince state and federal legislators to limit liability through tort reform. When a business entity is a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit, it is important for the victims to get help from personal injury attorneys who are experienced in handling complex tort litigation matters.

An attempt to avoid liability: Ripley Entertainment and the duck boat disaster

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California-Law-Wrongful-DeathIn California, certain types of facilities such as health centers and schools are required to have automated external defibrillators available to use in case members and users of the facilities have heart attacks. However, there are limits to this requirement as demonstrated by Jabo v. YMCA of San Diego Co., Cal. Ct. App., Case No. D072613.[1] In that case, the court found that health facilities may not be required to supply AEDs to private leagues that rent fields to use for their games.

Factual and procedural background of the case

Adeal Jabo was a 43-year-old man who was a member of the over-40 Chaldean Soccer League in San Diego, California. The league had contracted with the YMCA of San Diego County to rent the use of a soccer field on the YMCA’s premises for its season on a private basis at a cost of $2,550. Per the agreement, the YMCA agreed to provide soccer balls and an electronic scoreboard to the league to use during its games. It also assigned a YMCA employee to serve as the scorekeeper but did not agree to do anything more.

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When workers cause accidents in Los Angeles while they are acting in the course and scope of their jobs, their employers may be liable to pay damages to the injured victims. There are limits to what is considered to be acting in the course and scope of employment, however. In Ayon v. Esquire Deposition Solutions, Cal. Ct. Appeals, Case No. G054578, G055396, the court considered the limits of respondeat superior in cases involving after-hours phone calls between two employees.

Factual background of the case

Brittini Zuppardo had worked at Esquire Deposition Solutions since 2005 as its calendaring manager. Her job was to enter deposition information onto a calendar and to schedule with attorneys. She would call court reporters from a list until she could find one that was available on the date of the scheduled deposition. Zuppardo’s normal working hours were from 8;30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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In strict products liability cases, manufacturers are held to be strictly liable for their products when their defective designs injure people. While strict products liability is concerned with the nature of the products themselves and not the negligence of the manufacturers, evidence of the practices of others in the industry may be admissible for certain limited purposes as was found by the California Supreme Court in Kim v. Toyota Motor Corp., Cal. Supreme Court No. S232754 (2018).

Factual and procedural background of the case

On April 10, 2010, William Jae kim was driving a 2005 Toyota Tundra in the rain on the Angeles Forest Higwhay in the mountains. As he descended through a righthand curve at a speed of 45 to 50 mph, Kim saw another motorist who was driving in the opposite direction cross the center line into his lane. In an effort to avoid a collision, Kim steered right, left and then right again. These steering maneuvers forced Kim to lose control of his truck, and it ran off of the road and down a cliff before it came to a rest. Kim suffered severe spinal cord injuries which left him suffering from quadriplegia.

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Upland-CA-Accident-AttorneysIn California, personal injury claims may be filed against the government when governmental employees negligently cause accidents while they are working within the scope and course of their jobs. Governmental claims are more difficult than claims against private defendants. It is important for people to act quickly when their accidents were caused by governmental employees because of the much shorter statute of limitations. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help clients to navigate through the process so that they might be likelier to prevail on their claims.

In Mildred Najera v. City of Upland, San Bernardino Case No. CIVDS1505973, a woman who was injured by a municipal employee was able to recover damages. The woman suffered an exacerbation of pre-existing injuries in the accident.

Factual background of the case

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Many California businesses ask their patrons to sign waivers of liability when the patrons use their facilities. These waivers are especially common in recreational businesses such as gyms. While these waivers may absolve companies of liability when people are injured, they do not offer absolute protection to the businesses. In cases in which juries find that the actions of the businesses amounted to negligence per se or gross negligence, the companies may still be liable to pay damages despite the waivers. In Ziegler v. The Bay Clubs Company, LLC, et al., Los Angeles Superior Court case no. BC638802, a plaintiff prevailed in her negligence claim against a gym despite having signed a waiver of liability.

Factual background of the case

Patricia Ziegler, a 71-year-old retired woman, visited the Bay Clubs Company’s gym in El Segundo on Jan. 31, 2016. While she was walking through the gym, she attempted to take a shortcut between two treadmills. People at the gym often took a shortcut between the treadmills instead of walking the long way around on the aisles. The gym had a metal wireway on the floor between the treadmills that was approximately six inches by six inches. The wireway had an unsecured lid. While Ziegler was walking through the area, her foot caught underneath the lid, causing her to fall. She fractured and dislocated her elbow and filed a lawsuit against the company for her injuries, alleging negligence per se and gross negligence. The plaintiff allegedly had signed a waiver of liability when she joined the gym.

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Mop bucket and caution sign

California companies have a duty of care to keep their premises in reasonably safe conditions for their visitors. (NOTE: For a full summary of California law on accident and injury claims on commercial property, click here). There are limits to this duty of care, however. In Peralta v. The Vons Company, Cal. Court of Appeals, case no. B282130, the extent of the duty of care owed to visitors was explored.

Background of the case

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When lawsuits are filed by plaintiffs against hospitals in California, the hospitals may file motions for summary judgment if there are no triable material issues of fact. In order to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, a hospital may call an expert witness to opine that the hospital met the reasonable standard of care. If the expert’s testimony indicates that the reasonable standard of care was met, the burden of proof then shifts to the plaintiff to show that there are still material issues of triable fact. If the plaintiff is unable to present evidence that there are remaining issues of triable fact, the court may dismiss the lawsuit. However, as Doe v. Good Samaritan Hospital Inc., Cal. App. 5th, Case No. F073934 shows, the burden will not shift to the plaintiff in cases in which an expert’s testimony is purely conclusory without any underlying facts to support the opinion.

Factual background

The plaintiff was a 12-year-old boy who had a history of Asperger’s syndrome and bipolar disorder. He was voluntarily admitted to the Good Samaritan Hospital, a psychiatric facility, after suffering from homicidal and suicidal ideations because of his treatment at school. At the hospital, he was placed in a room with a 10-year-old boy who had been involuntarily committed called K.W. The 10-year-old boy had been placed in the facility on a psychiatric hold because of homicidal ideations and an assault on his stepfather that required medical treatment. He was also thought to be a danger to his two younger brothers.

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