Articles Posted in Case Analysis

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Eight people were killed, and at least 12 injured when an off-road truck participating in the California 200 race veered off the track and plowed into a crowd of spectators. The race was being held in Soggy Dry Lake Bed near Lucerne Valley in the Mojave Desert.

“There was dust everywhere, people screaming, people running,” said photographer David Conklin, who was covering the event for off-road magazines.

It was reported that the truck, a Prerunner, was one of the first off the line in the 200-mile race. The truck had just completed a jump known as “the rockpile” when he lost control, and veered into the crowd, and rolled over. Several victims were trapped under the car, but the driver escaped injury. The driver was, however, forced to flee the scene when angry spectators began to throw rocks at him.

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Good news California. The U.S. Supreme Court may have just inadvertently helped us put an end to the maddening referendum process that pollutes every election cycle in our state. Yesterday, in the case of Doe, et al. v. Reed, Washington Secretary of State, the Supreme Court voted 8-1 that individuals who sign petitions to put referendums on state ballots do not have a privacy right under the First Amendment to keep their name a secret.

The case arose out of a Washington State ballot measure that sought to overturn a state domestic partnership law. Opponents of the measure sought to obtain the names of the 130,000 individuals who signed the petition in order to verify that the signatures were valid. A group called Protect Marriage Washington, which opposes gay marriage, sued to block the release of the names, arguing that those who signed would be subject to threats and harassment, and would likely have their names posted on the internet. Signers, the group argued, have a right to privacy that is protected by the First Amendment.

At first, a federal judge agreed, and prevented the release of the names, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the trial judge in favor of releasing the information. The Supreme Court then took the case on and ultimately agreed with the 9th Circuit.

The San Diego Union Tribune is out with a story today about the risks elderly drivers pose behind the wheel, and the problem of “pedal misapplication.” What is pedal misapplication? An innocuous way of describing what happens when a driver accidentally hits the gas when they think they are applying the brakes.

In the article there are several accounts of San Diego accidents caused by elderly drivers, several of them fatal (and a few covered in this blog). Although pedal misapplication can happen with a driver of any age, the evidence suggests that it is mostly elderly drivers that are the cause.

“I get these cases maybe one week, and three the next week,” said San Diego police Detective Dan Wall. “They’re usually hitting several cars or several people, dealing with very rapid acceleration, flying through the back side of a garage, driving through the front of a post office, a bank, a convenience store, a restaurant, a fast-food store.”

Frank Rogozienski felt that something wasn’t right. The judge in his divorce case kept ruling against him, including voiding a prenuptial agreement that cost Mr. Rogozienski $20 million in stock. Making matters worse, the presiding judge on the case refused to disclose any conflicts of interest he might have.

Mr. Rogozienski decided to conduct his own investigation into any conflicts of interest, and discovered that the judge, James Allen, had received a timeshare condominum during the pendency of the Rogozienski divorce case. A little more digging revealed that the friend that gave Allen the time share, received it from a San Diego lawyer named S. Michael Love. You know what’s coming next. Attorney Love was the lawyer for Mr. Rogozienski’s wife Shirley in the divorce proceedings.

After the divorce, Mr. Rogozienski sued Love and Allen for professional negligence. Allen, a lawyer who was sitting as a private judge, was held to have judicial immunity and protected from liability. Love on the other hand, was determined to be negligent by a San Diego jury and awarded Mr. Rogozienski $800,000 in attorney’s fees. From news accounts, it doesn’t sound like the jury was all that fond of Mr. Rogozieski. For his emotional distress damages he was awarded 1 dollar.

In 2005, several people were injured and killed when a documented gang member stole a tow truck from a commercial vehicle repair shop in Los Angeles County, and, while driving it away, lost control and drove up onto a sidewalk. The injured parties brought a lawsuit against the repair shop alleging that it was negligent for leaving the keys in the tow truck ignition, in an area known for high gang and vehicle theft activity. Apparently the thief simply had to start the vehicle and drive out an open gate.

The defendant repair shop brought a motion for summary judgment, to dismiss the case in its entirety, arguing that it owed no duty to the injured people, and that if it did, any negligence committed was not the cause of the injuries: a criminal intervener was. The court agreed and dismissed the case.

On appeal, the Second District noted that absent special circumstances, California courts have consistently have refused to impose a duty on owners or bailees of automobiles or ordinary pickup trucks who leave the key in the ignition of an unattended vehicle to prevent harm to third parties caused by a thief. The court went on to note several cases where “special circumstances” were found, highlighting cases were heavy equipment machinery was stolen and caused injury.

Anthony Beninati was attending the iconic Burning Man Festival, when he fell into the fire at the annual ritual of actually burning the “Burning Man” was performed. Beninati suffered burns in the incident, hired a lawyer, and sued the Burning Man promoter for personal injury damages, alleging it was negligent in the operation of the festival.

The trial court would have none of it, and dismissed the case on summary judgment. Beninati then appealed. Yesterday, California’s Court of Appeal, First District, affirmed the trial court, holding that the promoter owed no duty of care to Beninati, and that Beninati was barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk.

The facts are actually pretty interesting. Beninati, who is a college educated man employed in real estate, was attending the festival for the third time. In his deposition, he testified that he attended to get away from his workaholic life, and get together with other people who shared his interests in art and spirituality. He planned on attending with his friend, who died in a motorcycle accident six weeks before the festival. Beninati decided to attend alone, and planned to place a photo of his deceased friend in the bonfire.

On December 19th, we wrote an article about a poorly decided California Supreme Court decision, Van Horn v. Watson, S152360, which held that California’s Good Samaritan statute, Health & Safety Code § 1799.102, only provided immunity for persons providing emergency medical care at the scene of an accident or other emergency. The Court held that those who render emergency assistance, such as pulling a person from a burning car, are not immune from liability. We feel this was a poor decision by the Supreme Court and agree with the dissenting minority’s position that immunity should be provided to those who render emergency assistance as well.

At least three legislators, from both parties, agree and have introduced proposed legislation which would expand the Good Samaritan statute to provide immunity for those who render emergency assistance, even if the assistance is not medical in nature.

“As a [former] CHP commander, I rolled up on the scene of many accidents and very often people were there rendering help,” said state Sen. John Benoit, R-Palm Desert, who has authored a bill challenging the Van Horn ruling. “We wouldn’t want that type of thing to stop.” Sen. Benoit is seeking to combine his proposed bill with one proposed by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a former legal aid attorney. Another bill has been proposed by Assemblyman Anthony Adams, R-Hesperia.

Facts: An Escondido motorcyclist suffered serious injuries during the evening of January 13th, when the Suzuki motorcycle he was riding struck the front hood of a Toyota Camry. According to reports, the Camry backed out of a driveway on West 15th Ave. in Escondido and into the path of the rider, causing him serious injuries, including a broken neck and leg injuries. The accident is still under investigation, and anyone with information is asked to call Officer Scott Christenson at 760-839-4962.

Liability Analysis: On its face, this case seems fairly straightforward. The driver of the Camry has a duty to make sure the roadway is clear before exiting the driveway. If he failed to do so, as it appears, he would be liable to the injured rider for the full extent of his damages. If, on the other hand, the motorcyclist was traveling at a high rate of speed, or did not have its lights on, it is possible that liability could fall to the rider, or that it could be shared. A reconstruction of the accident would have to be performed to determine liability.

The Escondido car accident lawyers at Walton Law Firm LLP represents individuals and families who have been impacted by car accidents, defective products, spinal and brain injuries, construction accidents, dog bites, and other cases involving negligence.

FACTS: Last Monday, the passenger of a pick-up truck was ejected from the vehicle when the speeding truck lost control on eastbound Interstate 8 and rolled down an embankment. Rain was likely a factor. The passenger, who was not wearing a seat belt, died in the accident. Walton Law Firm LLP is currently litigating a case that is factually very similar to this one.

LIABILITY ANALYSIS: This type of accident raises several issues related to liability. First, the passenger’s surviving heirs would have a wrongful death case against the driver of the pick-up truck for negligent driving. Since it was a single car accident, it was reportedly traveling 85 mph, and it was raining, the police have probably attributed fault to the driver for operating the vehicle at an unsafe speed in rainy conditions. There may also be a negligent maintenance theory as the tire tread on the vehicle was considered to be lower than the recommended amount.

A wrongful death case, if proven, would entitle the heirs to the loss of love, society, companionship, and support of the victim.

In a narrow 4 to 3 decision, the California Supreme Court has elected to narrow the personal injury immunity provided under the “Good Samaritan” statute, Health & Safety Code § 1799.102. In a poorly decided opinion, Van Horn v. Watson, S152360, a slim majority of the California Supreme Court held that § 1799.102’s immunity provisions apply only to those who render medical care at the scene of a medical emergency despite the plain language of the statute providing no such limitation.

Section 1799.102 provides, in pertinent part, “No person who in good faith, and not for

compensation, renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable

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