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batting-cage-accidentProperty owners and operators in California owe duties of care to protect people who are legally present on their properties from dangerous conditions. Property owners must either know about the existence of the hazardous condition or should know about it for liability to attach. They must take steps to correct hazards about which they know or should have known and to warn visitors to their property about their existence. In Lefebvre v. NC Valley Baseball, LLC, Stanislaus County Superior Court No. 2019247, the court considered the concepts of notice and of assumption of the risk in a case involving a man who was injured at a batting cage by a baseball.

Factual background of the case

Craig Lefebvre was a 23-year-old coach for a team from NC Valley Baseball, LLC. On Jan. 21, 2016, Lefebvre was getting ready to leave the batting cage location in Modesto when he was stopped by a parent to talk. As Lefebvre stopped on the walkway between two of the batting areas, a foul ball flew through the protective netting and struck him in the groin.

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Property owners owe a duty of care to people who are lawfully present on their premises to prevent injuries from existing hazards by correcting them if they know or should know about the dangers. This duty does not extend to public streets that abut the properties, however. In a recent case, the California Supreme Court examined whether or not a property owner who owned a parking lot across the street from the primary property owed a duty of care to help people to cross the street in order to prevent injuries.

Issue: Whether a property owner owes a duty of care to invitees to prevent injury when they cross over a public street from a privately owned parking lot to the owner’s premises

Grace Family Church is located in Sacramento County in an unincorporated area along a five-lane street named Marconi Street. There was an intersection that was located between 50 to 100 feet east of the church that did not have a marked crosswalk. There were not any other crosswalks across the street in the vicinity. The church used a private swim school’s parking lot as an overflow lot by agreement with the swim school.

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school-bus-accident-injuryA tragic case in San Bernardino County that involved a six-year-old girl who was struck by a car while crossing the street to catch her school bus demonstrates several things. Isabella Escamilla Sanchez, a minor, by and through her guardian ad litem, Carina Sanchez v. County of San Bernardino, a public entity; City of Highland, a public entity; et al., San Bernardino Superior Court, case no. 1309504, shows that accepted practices are not necessarily safe. The case also demonstrates how notice can affect the outcome of litigation and the vicarious liability that employers have when their employees’ negligence result in injuries to others.

Factual background

On Oct. 3, 2012, Isabella Escamilla Sanchez, a six-year-old, attempted to catch her school bus by crossing the street at midblock. She was struck by an oncoming Subaru Impreza and suffered numerous injuries, including a traumatic brain injury that left her with lifelong disabilities requiring round-the-clock nursing care. Her family filed a lawsuit against the Durham School Services because the drivers failed to report mid-street crossings by children in violation of their own policies.

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In California, employees of host businesses may be able to file lawsuits against negligent third parties such as subcontractors or vendors who cause them injury while they are working. Third-party injury lawsuits may be filed even when the property owner is not at fault if the third parties create dangerous conditions at the location. In Cynthia Forgays v. Jorge Vivo, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC549455, a server at a restaurant, was able to recover full damages from a negligent videographer who set up his equipment in a negligent manner at the restaurant where she worked.

Factual background of the case

Cynthia Forgays, a 59-year-old server, had worked at Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills for more than 12 years. While she worked there, her normal income was more than $50,000 per year. On Oct. 24, 2013, the restaurant was hosting a charity dinner and auction, and Forgays was working at the event as a server. There were monitors and televisions placed throughout the restaurant for the event by outside vendors. An audio consultant named Jorge Vivo set up video tripods that supported speakers for the event.

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bouncer-assault-lawsuits-CaliforniaIn California, bar owners may be liable to pay damages if their security personnel assault their patrons in some situations. Even in cases in which the patrons were partly to blame, the patrons may still be able to recover damages that are reduced by the percentage of fault that they had for what happened. In Shawn Dearing v. Cabo Cantina, et al., the potential for liability of bar owners was demonstrated.

Factual background of the case

Shawn Dearing was a 28-year-old man who was waiting outside of the Cabo Cantina for his friends to leave at 2 a.m. Dearing was leaning up against a rail that separated the bar’s property from the sidewalk. A security guard who was employed by the Cabo Cantina told Dearing to stop leaning on the rail, and an argument ensued. The security guard then walked off of the bar’s property and onto the sidewalk with Dearing following him. The security guard’s supervisor came outside but did not de-escalate the situation. Dearing slapped away the security guard’s hand, prompting the security guard to hit him in the temporal region of his skull. The force of the blow caused skull fractures, and he sustained an additional fracture in the occipital region that was caused by his head striking the sidewalk. He filed a lawsuit against Cabo Cantina, its management company, and the security guard company, which supplied the security guards for the bar.

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Tesla-Auto-Pilot-DeathIs Tesla autopilot killing people?  That’s what the National Transportation Safety Board wants to know.   A fatal accident involving a Tesla Model S vehicle that happened in Florida should serve as a cautionary tale to drivers in California who are considering purchasing self-driving cars. The accident, which happened in May 2016, was recently blamed on a flaw in the vehicle’s operational design system by the National Transportation Safety Board. People who are injured in accidents that are caused by defects in the design or the equipment may be able to recover damages by filing personal injury lawsuits based on claims of products liability against the vehicle manufacturers.

Factual background of the accident

On May 7, 2016, Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old man from Ohio, was driving his Tesla Model S in Williston, Florida. Brown put the vehicle in its autopilot mode, which can control the vehicle while it is driving on highways. While it was in autopilot mode, the vehicle failed to detect a large commercial truck that was crossing the roadway. The vehicle attempted to drive underneath the truck, shearing off its top and killing Brown. Before his death, Brown had been a noted Tesla enthusiast and had posted a viral video online of his car avoiding another accident while it was in autopilot mode. Tesla reacted to the accident by stating it was the first known death that had happened when one of its vehicles was being driven in autopilot mode.

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California-Personal-Injury-Case-LawWhen people in California decide to participate in inherently risky activities, they assume the risk that they will be injured unless the operators of the activities engaged in conduct that was grossly negligent. In Grotheer v. Escape Adventures, Cal. Ct. App. 4D, Case no. E0634449, the court examined the concept in the context of a hot-air balloon ride in which a female passenger was injured after signing an express waiver of liability.

Issue: Is a balloon company a common carrier, and was the express waiver of liability sufficient to preclude a finding of liability?

Grotheer, a 78-year-old German woman, was a passenger on a hot-air balloon ride that had been purchased for her by her son while she was visiting California. Grotheer could not speak English. Prior to the ride, her son explained that she could not speak or understand English to the balloon operator but was apparently waved off. Grotheer signed an express waiver of liability prior to the balloon’s takeoff. The trip was apparently uneventful until the landing. The balloon descended too rapidly and crashed through a fence before crashing forcefully to the ground. The force of the landing caused the balloon’s basket to skip across the ground before it came to rest on its side. Grotheer landed at the bottom, and her leg was broken in the crash-landing. She filed a lawsuit against the balloon’s operator, the balloon company and the vineyard from where the balloon launched, alleging negligence. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Grotheer assumed the risk when she chose to go on the hot-air balloon ride, that the company was not negligent or that if it was, it was not grossly negligent to the extent that the assumption of the risk standard would not apply.

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When a person is injured in an accident in in California and share a part of the blame for the accident’s cause, he or she may still be able to recover damages for the losses that were incurred. California follows a rule called comparative negligence, which means that people who have some of the fault may still recover compensation. However, the amount that they may receive will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is allocated to them. Allegations of partial negligence may not always result in a finding that a person was comparatively negligent, however. A recent case in California, Steven Meier v. PennySaver USA, LLC, et al, Riverside Superior Court / RIC1507069, demonstrates the principle that if a person’s negligence did not contribute to the accident, the person may still recover all of his or her damages.

Factual background

Steven Meier, a 59-year-old security guard who worked for Securitas Security Services, was working at a PennySaver USA facility on Oct. 20, 2013. While he was patrolling, a Pennysaver USA employee who was operating a forklift reversed into Meier, dragging him 15 feet and pinning his leg under the equipment. Another piece of machinery had to be brought in to lift the forklift off of his leg. Doctors attempted to save his leg, but it had to be amputated below the knee. Meier filed a lawsuit against PennySaver USA for its employee’s negligence and the company’s vicarious liability for the employee’s failure to look in the direction of travel while he was reversing the forklift.

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car-safety-kitKate bobbed her head slowly as the soft music issued from her car’s stereo. She glanced down at her gas gauge, noting she would easily make it to her parent’s house before empty. The sun set heavy on the horizon as empty field after empty field passed by her window as she bustled along the highway.

She loved visiting family. Although she didn’t get to do it as often as she liked, she took every chance to visit her mom and dad back home. The drive was not that bad. Kate had driven it so much; she knew each turn. Every bend in the road was familiar to her.

As night began to fall, Kate began to drive a little more carefully. As she turned her lights on, the car behind her did as well. She noticed the car behind her was driving a little too close for comfort. She wished the other driver would keep a greater following distance.

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swimming-pool-accident-claims-CaliforniaWhen visitors to the properties of others are injured in California, they may be able to recover damages by holding the property owners liable in a premises liability lawsuit. However, it is important for people to note that just because they might be injured by a dangerous condition that exists on the property does not necessarily mean that they will be able to recover damages. In Jacobs v. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Company,2d Civil No. B277832, the court found that victims who are injured in accidents that are unforeseeable are not able to hold the defendants liable under a theory of premises liability.

Issue: Is climbing on a diving board to inspect property over an empty pool foreseeable?

In the case, the plaintiffs were being shown a bank-owned home that they were interested in buying as an investment property. The home had an empty swimming pool with a diving board, and the listing agent had noted that prospective buyers should exercise caution around the edges of the swimming pool. Prior to the showing, an inspector had inspected each room of the home, the swimming pool and the diving board, and did not see any problems with the diving board such as cracks or other indications that it was in an unsafe condition. While being shown the swimming pool area, the plaintiff climbed on the diving board so that he could see over the fence because he wanted to determine if trespassers would be able to jump over the fence that surrounded the pool area. While he was standing on the diving board, it broke, causing him to fall into the empty pool.

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