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Many people in California enjoy going to amusement parks and waterslides. When people are injured on a ride or waterslide, they may have grounds to recover damages through personal injury lawsuits. However, it has previously been unclear the type of duty owed by the operator of a waterslide to its customers and whether operating a waterslide should be viewed as offering a service or offering a product. In Sharufa v. Festival Fun Parks, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. H044064, the appeals court considered these questions when it handled an appeal from a summary judgment order in a claim for injuries related to a waterslide accident.[1]

Factual and procedural background

Sean Sharufa went to a theme park called Raging Waters that was operated by Festival Fun Parks. While there, he went down a waterslide on an inner tube. During his descent down the slide, he fell out of the inner tube and onto his stomach. When he hit the splash pool at the bottom of the slide, his feet hit the bottom of the pool with sufficient force to break his pelvis and hip.

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In California, elder abuse and neglect are unfortunately common. One type of elder abuse involves the financial exploitation of the elderly. When a nursing home or its staff misappropriated funds from elderly residents, they have grounds to file lawsuits against the facility and the employee. In Arace v. Medico Investments, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. E071194, the appeals court reviewed the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees and legal costs in a case in which the plaintiff did not receive economic damages or non-economic damages for one cause of action. It also looked at whether an award of economic damages for neglect was proper when the jury did not award non-economic damages for the same cause of action.[1]

Background of the case

Grace R. Miller, who was born in 1927, lived at a residential care facility named Foremost Senior Campus from March 2010 to April 2014. The care facility was owned by Leonard Crites, and Elizabeth Colon was an employee who worked at the facility. Crites purchased Miller’s home in 2010 for $66,000 and promised her that she could live at Foremost Senior Campus for life without charge. Medico bought Foremost Senior Campus in May 2012 in a short sale and kept Colon as the administrator. Medico was not informed that Crites had promised Miller to live for free at Foremost Senior Campus for life.

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Some Californians work for subcontractors who contract with contractors to perform work at construction sites in the state. When an employee of a subcontractor is injured while working at the construction site, the contractor that contracted with the worker’s employer to perform services will only be liable for the injuries when specific situations apply. The California Court of Appeal considered whether the trial court erred in its jury instructions and a denial of the defendant’s motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in the case of Alaniz v. Sun Pacific Shippers, Cal. Ct. App., Case No. B290013[1].

Case background

Jesus Alaniz was an employee of Navarro Trucking. Navarro Trucking subcontracted with a company named Sun Shippers to transport mandarin oranges from the company’s orchard. Alaniz brought some empty fruit bins to Sun Pacific’s orchard sometime in February 2012. When he arrived, he was told to park at an area where a forklift could unload the bins. Alaniz parked his truck and climbed onto the back of the trailer to move bins so that Roberto Reynosa, an employee who was driving the forklift for a different subcontractor named J. Antonio Rosa Lule, could unload them from the trailer’s north side. Alaniz tried to pull a stack of fruit bins closer for Reynosa to reach and fell off the trailer. When he fell, Reynosa accidentally drove over his leg. Reynosa asked Alaniz if he wanted Reynosa to drive him to the doctor, but Alaniz continued to work instead. He sought medical care four hours after his accident and had to have surgery on his leg and shoulder.

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When people are injured in accidents because of the negligence of others, they are entitled to recover damages for their economic and noneconomic losses. However, in cases involving multiple defendants, the jury may allocate different percentages of fault to each defendant. The defendants will then be responsible for paying their percentage of fault for the noneconomic losses. In Schreiber v. Lee, Cal. Ct. App., Case No. A149969, the California Court of Appeal considered a case involving multiple defendants and the apportionment of fault when the plaintiff settled with some of the defendants before trial for more than what the jury awarded to the plaintiff at trial.[1]

Factual and procedural background

Stephen K. Lee built a three-unit apartment building with the units above garages. When he constructed the building, he installed skylights in the floors of the decks of the apartments to allow light into the garages. Marthe Schreiber had lived in one of the units since 1980. Because she was concerned that the skylight in her deck’s floor was unsafe, she had never walked on it. She installed flower boxes around its perimeter to keep visiting children off of the skylight. In 2013, Schreiber was working with her employee to plant flowers in the boxes around the skylight. She tried to hand the worker a six-pack of flowers by reaching across the length of the skylight. When she did so, she lost her balance and fell through the skylight, suffering serious injuries.

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Sexual abuse is a prevalent problem in youth sports. Many people have heard about the pervasive sexual abuse that was perpetrated against Olympic gymnasts by a gymnastics doctor. In Brown v. USA Taekwondo, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B280550, the court considered whether organizations could be held to be responsible for the sexual assaults and abuse that are perpetrated by coaches that are certified through the organizations.

Factual and procedural background

Brianna Bordon, Kendra Gatt, and Yazmin Brown were teenagers who took taekwondo lessons from Marc Gitelman, who was certified by USA Taekwondo to coach athletes who wanted to try to be selected for the Olympics. All three girls were 15 or 16 at the time. Gitelman sexually abused all three girls, and he was subsequently arrested and convicted of several felonies.

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Every state, including California, has statutes of limitations that govern when legal claims must be filed. The medical malpractice statute of limitations is three years from the date of the injury or one year from the date that the plaintiff learns that he or she has been injured or reasonably should have learned about the injury. However, the delayed discovery rule provides an exception to the statute of limitations in cases in which a person’s discovery of his or her injury’s cause is delayed for some period after the incident. In Brewer v. Remington, Cal. Ct. App., Case No. F076467, the court considered whether the delayed discovery rule applied when a woman became paralyzed after a routine surgery and subsequently sought treatment from a neurological surgeon.[1]

Factual and procedural background

Judith Brewer had carpal tunnel and shoulder surgery performed on April 22, 2013, at Doctors Medical in Modesto, California. The doctors who performed the surgical procedures were Drs. Bedi and Pistel. The morning after her surgery, Brewer suffered from paralysis and lost sensation in her arms and legs. She returned to Doctors Medical and had an MRI performed. The MRI revealed that she suffered from central cord syndrome, paraplegia, and incontinence and needed a cervical discectomy and extensive rehabilitation. Dr. Benjamin J. Remington saw Brewer on April 24, 2013. He noted in her chart that the functioning of Brewer’s lower extremities had further declined. Instead of performing an emergency spinal decompression procedure, Remington chose to wait to perform the surgery until May 30, 2013, to allow the swelling to go down.

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In most cases, people who participate in sports are barred from recovering damages because of a legal doctrine called the primary assumption of the risk. Under this doctrine, people are considered to have assumed the risk of participating in inherently dangerous sports. However, as the case of Summer J. v. United States Baseball Federation, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B282414 and B285029, an exception might apply, depending on the role played by the defendant.

Factual and procedural background

On Aug. 17, 2014, Summer J., a 12-year-old girl, was a spectator at the national team trials for U.S. Baseball at Blair Field, which is located on the campus of California State University, Long Beach. She was sitting in the grandstand, which was not protected by netting. When Summer’s attention was distracted away from the game, a player struck a line drive foul ball, hitting her in the face. Summer suffered serious injuries, including damage to her optic nerve. She filed a lawsuit against U.S. Baseball, the City of Long Beach, and the university, alleging premises liability and negligence.

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General contractors in California will generally not be liable for injuries that are suffered by the employees of their subcontractors while they are working at construction sites. However, if the general contractors exercise control over the safety practices in the working area where the accidents happen, they may be liable to pay damages to the injured workers. In Torres v. Design Group Facility Solutions, Inc., Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B294220, the court considered a case in which the employee of a subcontractor was injured while he was working.[1] It looked at whether the court erred in granting a motion for reconsideration and a motion for summary judgment at the same time without giving the plaintiff a chance to respond.

Factual and procedural background

Design Group Facility Solutions was hired as the general contractor for an expansion and renovation project of a seafood factory. The company subcontracted with C&L Refrigeration for the installation of new refrigeration units. C&L Refrigeration hired H.J. Vast to complete the electrical work. Ismael Torres was employed by H.J. Vast.

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In California, companies that hire independent contractors to perform work are only liable to the independent contractors’ employees in limited circumstances. In Alaniz v. Sun Pacific Shippers, LP, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B2920013, the California Court of Appeals reviewed a case in which an employee of an independent contractor was injured while he was working on the premises of a company to determine whether the jury instructions that the court gave were accurate or if they introduced prejudicial error against the defendants.[1]

Factual and procedural background

Jesus Alaniz was an employee of Navarro Trucking, which was contracted with Sun Pacific Shippers to deliver empty orange and apple bins to an orchard owned by Sun Pacific. In Feb. 2012, Alaniz delivered a truckload of bins to the orchard. A man named Roberto Reynosa, who as an employee of a different independent contractor named J. Antonio Rosa Lule, drove a forklift with the responsibility of unloading the bins from Alaniz’s truck.

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California employers are liable for their employees’ negligent actions while they are operating in the scope and course of their jobs and injure or kill others. However, employers are not liable for the negligence of their employees when the workers are commuting to or from their jobs with limited exceptions. In Bingener v. City of Los Angeles, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B291112, the court looked at the exceptions to the coming and going rule to determine whether the employer of a negligent worker who struck a pedestrian while commuting to work fell under an exception to the coming and going rule or whether the rule applied, absolving the employer of liability.[1]

Factual and procedural background

Kim Rushton was a 68-year-old man who worked as a chemist in a water lab for the City of Los Angeles to test water samples for organic molecules. Rushton had been employed in his job for more than 20 years. He received medical treatment for several medical conditions, including occasional seizures, neuropathy in his feet, and tremors that were controlled with medications. In Dec. 2014, Rushton fell at his job and remained off from work until Feb. 2015 because of his fall-related injuries. He was allowed to return to work on Feb. 2, 2015, with restrictions on kneeling, squatting, and bending. He was also restricted from sitting or standing for longer than four hours. The doctor did not place any restrictions on his ability to drive, however. On Feb. 20, 2015, Rushton was given an injection of steroids to ease his back pain.

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