- Case Updates3.28.23
In Hoffmann v. Young, et. al, (2022) 13 Cal.5th 1257, the California Supreme Court held that a teen's parents were liable for injuries sustained by a guest while riding a motorcycle on the motocross track built on their property. The court found that the exception to the recreational immunity defense (Civil Code Section 846(a)) does not apply when the injured party was expressly invited by an agent of the landowner whom the landowner has properly authorized to extend invitations to enter the land on their behalf.
- Case Updates3.28.23
In Brianna Garza and Mario Garza v. Matthew Perry and American Family Insurance Company, No. 83377-4-I, the Washington Court of Appeals determined that an insurance company could not intervene in an action intending to nullify a settlement agreement involving a covenant judgment. The court denied the insurer's attempt to nullify the covenant judgment settlement because it was not a party to the agreement, and upheld the lower court's approval of the agreement through a reasonableness hearing.
- Case Updates3.27.23
In the case of River's Side at Washington Sq. Homeowners Assn. v. Superior Court, 3d. Cir. No.C095860 (2023), a homeowners association successfully argued that it had standing to sue for construction defects on behalf of individual unit owners. Under the Right to Repair Act, homeowner associations do not have standing to sue on behalf of members for construction defects within individual units, but may sue for defects in the common areas. In this case the court distinguished between claims brought under the Right to Repair Act and claims for breach of contract or fraud. If those claims qualify as representative actions, then the association may have standing to sue for issues in the common areas as well as the individual units pursuant to section 382 of the California Civil Code.
- Case Updates3.27.23
In the case of Tufield Corporation v. Beverly Hills Gateway, Case No. B314862 (2022), the court got back to basics in this landlord-tenant dispute. It found that a lease exceeding 99 years is void under the law as a suppression of California public policy encouraging the free exchange and development of land. The primary issue on appeal is whether a lease that violates Civil Code section 718 is void or voidable and is essentially an issue of first impression. The court held that the part of the lease exceeding 99 years was void.
- Case Updates3.9.23
What happens when an injury doesn't surface until fifty years later? The case of Ramirez v. Avon Products, Inc. (2023) Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. 20STCV22671 Case No. JCCP 4674, discusses this conundrum. It analyzes how courts have dealt with the issue of witness testimony where few at the corporation ever had personal knowledge of policies and procedures regarding the disputed claim at the time the incident took place. Testimony of the "Person Most Knowledgeable” does not earn businesses a pass on the hearsay rules.
- Trial Results3.6.23
WSHB partners Christopher Heo and Jack Pemberton succeeded in their motion for summary judgment on behalf of the client, a resort vacation club, accused of negligence and premises liability after a patron was injured in a slip and fall incident.
- General Contractor Who Did Not Contribute to Subcontractor Employee's Injury Granted Summary JudgmentTrial Results3.6.23
In a spectacular win, Partner Keith Smith and Senior Counsel Courtney Jakofsky, successfully obtained summary judgment and a dismissal in a general negligence and premises liability case filed against their general contractor and owner clients by an employee of a subcontractor working on the project.
- Appellate Results3.6.23
In an appeal involving new evidence supposedly discovered after entry of judgment and allegations of procedural irregularities, the WSHB team rallied for the clients on appeal and successfully defended the trial court's grant of a summary judgment motion and denial of plaintiff's subsequent new trial motion. WSHB attorneys Claudia Borsutzki (Partner in the Thousand Oaks office) and Nick Gedo (Of Counsel in the Glendale office) vigorously represented the clients, securing an affirmation of the judgment in their favor.
- Trial Results3.3.23
In a highly contested matter, Arizona partner Jodi Mullis successfully argued a motion for summary judgment decided in favor of the client. This case arose out of a construction project for an assisted living facility. WSHB's client was the contractor for the project and entered an AIA Document A 102-2017 Standard Form Agreement. A fireplace subcontractor was retained to install and/or construct the fireplaces and chimneys at the facility. Construction on the project was completed in December 2020, and several weeks later a fire caused significant damage to the property. The plaintiff claimed that it suffered $2,777,183.40 in damages as a result. This amount included damage to real property, personal property, the cost of rehousing residents and loss of business income. Of the claimed loss only $713,172.00 was not covered by insurance.
- Trial Results2.24.23
WSHB partner Joel Odou and associate Laura Bown secured a tremendous win for the client after arguing a successful motion for summary judgment before the court. In a case involving respondeat superior issues, the court found that the employer was not liable for the tortious actions of an employee that occurred after an off-site work event had ended at a local bar and restaurant.
- Case Updates2.23.23
Under fee-shifting statutes, a trial judge must award fees to the prevailing party regardless if the prevailing party will actually be responsible for paying the fees. In Cell-Crete v. Federal Insurance Co. (2022) WL 4103354, the surety on a construction project argued that it was owed attorney fees and costs under the fee-shifting statute even though it did not actually pay any of the fees or costs. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the trial court's order to deny the surety's requests for those fees.
- Case Updates2.22.23
In Regan Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. v. Arbella Protection Insurance Company, Inc., No. 2020-170-Appeal (Jan. 27, 2023), the Rhode Island Supreme Court, on the facts before it, expanded the obligations of insurers to examine potential policy ambiguities. In short, the Court found that "diversity of judicial thought" as to the meaning of insurance policy language is "proof positive of ambiguity." The implications for insurers are unclear at the moment, but at least on these facts – whether oil was a "pollutant" and thus losses arising from an oil spill were excluded – the Court has now determined that insurance policy contract language may be considered ambiguous where its treatment differs across various jurisdictions. This decision may now impose a duty on insurers to examine how other states treat relevant policy language before making coverage decisions.
- Trial Results2.22.23
Congratulations are in order for WSHB Nevada office managing partner Janice Michaels and senior associate Xheni Ristani who on a summary judgment win for the firm's client.
- Case Updates2.17.23
Insurance companies may not automatically be off the hook when it comes to coverage for resulting damages stemming from faulty construction. In Gardens Condo v. Farmers Ins. Exch., No. 83678-1-I (Wash. Ct. App. Dec. 19, 2022), the court found that a resulting loss clause in an all-risk insurance policy may provide a condominium complex insurance coverage from damages caused to units by faulty construction of the roof. The resulting damages were covered perils and thus, potentially covered by the policy.
- Case Updates2.17.23
In a pivotal decision, the National Labor Relations Board in Thryv, Inc. and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1269 Cases 20-CA-250250 and 20-CA-251105, appears to have expanded the potential exposure for employers in actions brought claiming violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Signaling a shift from prior agency interpretation, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has now said that the NLRA's "make whole remedy" requires employers in violation of the law to compensate affected employees for all "direct or foreseeable pecuniary harms" suffered as a result of the respondent's unfair labor practices.
- Trial Results2.13.23
In a high-profile suit involving the City of New York, the NYC Department of Buildings, a former mayor, several lobbying firms and some of NYC's largest real estate developers, Senior Counsel John Darminio decisively secured a dismissal of our client, a large New York City commercial real estate consulting firm.
- Case Updates2.13.23
In the case of Norg v. City of Seattle, No. 100100-2 (Wash. 2023), the Supreme Court of Washington answered the question of whether the public duty doctrine insulates the City of Seattle from liability for a 911 response to the wrong address. The Court held that the City was not protected by the public duty doctrine where the harm was particularized and not related to general public duty.
- Case Updates2.6.23
Though attempts to contractually waive an employee's right to sue pursuant to the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) typically fail in court, a narrow, but important exception to this rule are collective bargaining agreements involving construction workers. In Oswald v. Murray Plumbing & Heating Corp., No.B312736, 2022 Cal. App. Lexis 752 (Ct. App. Sep. 2, 2022), the Court of Appeal found that because the collective bargaining agreement at issue addressed wage and hour provisions, working conditions, and grievance procedures, and specifically mandated arbitration of disputes regarding Labor Code violations, the denial of the plaintiff's right to sue under PAGA was warranted. Consequently, the Court of Appeal found that all employment claims, including those claims under PAGA, should have been submitted to arbitration for resolution in accordance with the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.
- Case Updates2.6.23
In the case of Gulf Coast Center v. Curry, Case No. 20-0856 (Tex. 2022), the Supreme Court of Texas found that courts may not render a judgment that exceeds the statutory damage cap under the Texas Torts Claims Act and a plaintiff seeking recovery under the Act has the burden to prove which cap applies. The plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the trial court had jurisdiction to render a judgment exceeding the minimum statutory cap. The Texas Supreme Court reduced the $216,000 judgment finding that the Act requires lower courts to cap damages when the defendant is a local government or governmental unit, even if the issue wasn't brought during trial.
- Case Updates2.6.23
The Texas Supreme Court handed down an opinion on January 27, 2023 in Taylor Morrison of Texas, Inc. v. Skufca. A trial court denied a motion to compel arbitration that involved breach of contract claims brought by Jack and Erin Skufca, along with their minor children alleging construction defects with their new home. The Court of Appeals upheld the denial. In reversing, the Texas Supreme Court held "that the Skufcas' petition, which did not distinguish between the parents' claims and the children's claims, unambiguously reflects the children as joining their parents in asserting the breach-of-contract claim and that the children therefore may be compelled to arbitrate."
- Trial Results2.3.23
The Georgia Bulldog’s repeat National Championship has nothing on the Atlanta office of WSHB! Since December 1st, our superstar Atlanta team has secured five Motion for Summary Judgment rulings. Take a closer look at what's happening in the Peach State.
- Appellate Results1.25.23
In a contentious case involving allegations of negligent maintenance, inspection and security against an apartment complex owner, the Appellate Court of New Jersey affirmed the lower court's decision granting the defendant's motion for summary judgment. WSHB’s team, including partners Jill Mucerino and Kelly Waters, and associate Sean Shoolbraid, successfully argued that the property owner had no duty to prevent injuries sustained by plaintiff tenant resulting from a physical altercation in the complex’s parking garage and, thus, was not liable. They argued that the altercation was not foreseeable and, therefore, was not within the scope of the duty owed by the owner to plaintiff. The Appellate Court, conducting a de novo review of the trial court’s decision, agreed.
- Trial Results1.6.23
In a high-exposure wrongful death case, WSHB has succeeded in a motion for summary judgment in favor of all three WSHB-represented clients. WSHB partner Andrew Mallon and the team at the Orange County branch fought zealously for their clients to obtain the big win.
- Case Updates12.29.22
In Venema v. Moser Builders, Inc., 2370 EDA 2021 (Pa. Super. Ct. Aug. 29, 2022), the Superior Court held that the Statute of Repose was not tolled by repairs made several years after the certificate of occupancy was issued. Homeowners are not entitled to unilaterally dictate an extended window to file suit because a builder complies with the agreement in good faith and makes repairs years after the original purchase date.
- California Court Grants Summary Judgment Plus Costs to Chemical Manufacturer in a Product Liability CaseTrial Results12.29.22
Thomas Vandenburg and Rudolf Petrosyan from our Glendale office have secured a summary judgment in favor of our client in a product liability case.
- Trial Results12.20.22
In a case before the Ninth Circuit, WSHB attorneys Tom Vandenburg and Nick Gedo successfully argued that the district court erred in refusing to grant intervention in a complex environmental tort case in which WSHB represented the insurers of a defunct defendant.
- Case Updates12.13.22
The court in De Leon v. Juanita's Foods, Inc., No. B315394 (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 23. 2022) made it clear that if a business or employer fails to pay its arbitration fees on time, it will be found in material breach of the arbitration agreement. Juanita's Foods paid its arbitration fees a few days late and despite its assurances that payment was coming and a subsequent payment in fact made, the court held that it was in material breach and refused to consider any other factors to mitigate the late payment. Following clear precedent, the clear language of the statute, and stated legislative intent, the court found that Code of Civil Procedure sections 1281.97 and 1281.98 provide a bright line rule that courts must follow to the letter.
- Trial Results12.6.22
WSHB senior associate Zachary Fletcher secured a defense verdict for our Condominium Association client. Notably, plaintiff claimed damages of over $5.5 million and potential exposure in excess of $8-10 million. Before trial, Plaintiff issued a non-negotiable $1,350,000 settlement demand, which we flatly rejected. Zack’s analysis was validated by the jury, who deliberated for about one hour before returning with a defense verdict following the three-day trial.
- Appellate Results12.6.22
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has affirmed the granting of summary judgment by the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, in favor of out-of-possession residential landlords who were represented by Andy Kessler, a partner in WSHB’s Philadelphia Office. The Plaintiff, who was 22 years old at the time of the event, attended a birthday party at a residential rental property and later in the evening sustained catastrophic injuries when he was savagely beaten by a mob who “crashed” the party.
- FINRA Arbitration Panel Dismisses Securities Claims Brought Against WSHB’s Stock Broker Client After Week-Long HearingTrial Results11.30.22
Following a week-long hearing, a three-person Panel of Arbitrators dismissed Claimant's allegations that WSHB's client violated several provisions of state and securities laws, seeking $1.4 million in damages, in favor of our client.
- Case Updates11.29.22
In a case of first impression, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Norman International, Inc., and Richfield Window Coverings, LLC d/b/a Niem Made (USA), Inc. v. Admiral Insurance Company, 251 NJ 538 (2022) enforced a Designated New York Counties Exclusion included in a commercial general liability insurance policy issued by Admiral Insurance Company ("Admiral"). In so holding, the Supreme Court found that the policy's broad and unambiguous language did not require a causal relationship to trigger the exclusion. Rather, any claim "in any way connected with" the insured's operations in an excluded county fell within the exclusion. Additionally, Admiral had no duty to defend a claim that it was not obligated to indemnify. The determination of whether Admiral had a duty to defend was not determined solely by the allegations of the complaint. Instead Admiral relied upon facts adduced during discovery indicating that in certain instances an insurer may use extrinsic evidence to deny a defense to its insured. The Supreme Court recommended that going forward, in similar situations, courts should indicate when an issue requires consideration of facts beyond the complaint.
- Case Updates11.17.22
A New York City eviction court denied a motion for summary judgment, ruling that a tenant in a polyamorous relationship with the lease holder was entitled to the same eviction protections as those in two-person relationships. In its denial of summary judgment, the court found that the holdover tenant may be entitled to take the lease in his name after the death of his partner. What could the recognition of polyamorous relationships mean not only for property disputes in the future, but for employers and insurance carriers moving forward?
- Case Updates11.7.22
Washington state courts favor enforcing contractual arbitration clauses, and will strictly enforce an LLC operating agreement to arbitrate claims, including derivative claims, where agreement language is broad enough to include the same. Moreover, a contractual arbitration clause will be enforced absent evidence clearly indicating waiver of an intention to arbitrate.
- Case Updates11.3.22
Determining appropriate policy limits is no easy task. On one the hand, an insured has motivation to keep its retentions, deductibles and premiums down to a reasonable level. On the other hand, that fiscal interest is balanced against the security found in high policy limits designed to protect against a potential serious claim that requires a large payout. Often clients rely on the advice of a broker to help them select appropriate limits and policy terms. When claims come in the door, and the limits are insufficient to cover the damages, the broker may find themselves in the crosshairs of an angry client liable for damages not covered by their policy - and open the door for claims of professional negligence against the broker. Whether an insurer is obligated to defend and indemnify the broker against a claim of professional negligence is a question of policy interpretation recently addressed by the Ninth Circuit in Bliss Sequoia Ins. & Risk Advisors v. Allied Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., No. 20-35890 (9th Cir. Oct. 27, 2022).
- Case Updates10.31.22
Courts must abide by the terms of arbitration agreements that invoke the governance of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), or contain a clearly written delegation clause. Terms that provide for an arbitrator to decide threshold issues may not be sidestepped or ignored by state courts. This is true even if the district court finds that the subject of the dispute is not within the scope of the arbitration agreement.
- Case Updates10.28.22
King County alleged that a judge was openly hostile to an attorney during a jury trial that resulted in the jury having negative feelings toward the defense. The court ruled that the audio recordings were not subject to disclosure as public records. The lack of transparency and accountability could make for a troublesome precedent.
- Attorneys on the Hook for Professional Malpractice After Obtaining Multi-Million Dollar Verdict for Med Mal ClientCase Updates10.27.22
An Illinois appellate court recently held that a patient's medical privacy rights were violated after the attorneys who secured him a $4.2 million verdict released details of his condition and medical history in the media after the trial concluded.
- Case Updates10.26.22
In quite a scolding for defense counsel, the court in Shapell Socal Rental Properties, LLC v. Chico's FAS, Inc., found on appeal that attorneys have both an ethical and statutory duty to notify opposing counsel of an intent to seek a default. The fact that one party failed to pay rent and pushed the envelope due to COVID closures did not change the obligation of professionalism between legal teams.
- Case Updates10.25.22
The Supreme Court of Washington found that the interruption of a dental office's business operations, caused by the COVID-19 shutdown and restrictions, did not constitute a physical loss under the property insurance policy. Although the dentists' argument that they should succeed under the "loss of functionality" theory was considered by the court, it still found in favor of the insurer because the dental office premises were not physically harmed and, in fact, the office was still functional and being used for emergency dental procedures. The policy also contained a virus exclusion. The efficient proximate causation theory did not assist the plaintiffs because the initial peril in the causation chain (the COVID-19 virus) was excluded under the policy.
- Case Updates10.24.22
New Orleans restaurant wins ground-breaking case in which an appellate court ruled that shut-downs and partial closures due to COVID-19 particles invading a restaurant's physical space may constitute direct physical loss sufficient to trigger coverage under an all-risks insurance policy that did not contain a virus exclusion.
- Case Updates10.10.22
When a property insurer pays for losses under a first-party property insurance policy, they are often paid at actual cash value. Actual cash value is calculated by taking the replacement cost, i.e., the amount it would cost to repair or replace an item of similar kind and quality, less depreciation, i.e., the decrease in the property’s value because of use, wear, obsolescence, or age. For an insurer, this often begs the question, what costs are depreciated when calculating actual cash value?
- Trial Results10.10.22
In a high-profile, high-exposure products liability case involving allegations of a defective cannabis leaf trimmer that caused serious injuries, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado granted summary judgment in favor of the manufacturer. WSHB partner Ryan Hicks and his team prevailed in navigating this victory.
- Case Updates10.5.22
In a recurring issue of statewide importance, the Supreme Court of Arizona in Zambrano v. M & RC II, LLC, No. CV-21-0205-PR (Sept. 28, 2022) decided that it is against public policy to waive or disclaim the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability in a purchase agreement with a homebuyer. This rule extends to circumstances in which a builder simultaneously provides express warranties providing similar protections.
- Case Updates9.19.22
If a lawyer is not licensed in California but practices law as part of a team of licensed California lawyers, is this enough to invalidate the arbitration agreement between the client and California law firm? That question was squarely answered by California’s Fifth Appellate District in its recent decision in Brawerman v. Loeb & Loeb, LLP. 297 Cal.Rptr.3d ----, 81 Cal.App.5th 1106, 2022 WL 3053302, 2022 Daily Journal D.A.R. 8347. The work performed by an unlicensed attorney that is completed in conjunction with a team of properly qualified attorneys does not invalidate the retainer agreement as a whole, the court concluded. Any allegedly “illegal” work performed by the unlicensed attorney can be severed from the work performed by licensed counsel, thereby allowing the agreement between the parties to be preserved. Since the retainer agreement was not inherently illegal in its inception, its provisions, including the arbitration agreement, can withstand an alleged partial illegality. See, Birbrower, Montalbano, Condon & Frank v. Superior Court (1998) 17 Cal.4th 119 (Birbrower).
- Case Updates9.14.22
A Hollywood producer was not held vicariously liable for the negligent activities of his personal chef in supplying the entourage's executive assistant with drugs and alcohol that contributed to her demise. The court reasoned that the rendezvous between the chef and the assistant took place after hours, in a private bungalow and was not related to the chef's scope of employment.
- Trial Results9.12.22
In a closely watched case involving an admitted liability matter, jurors returned a favorable damages verdict on behalf of WSHB’s client. Trial lawyer Morgan Metzger tried this matter before Judge Ruth Ann Kwan in a case that lasted over 2 weeks.
- Trial Results9.9.22
Sometimes the defense is so strong that the case is gutted before it makes it to the jury. That is the result in a Santa Barbara matter where WSHB trial lawyer Frances O’Meara prevailed on her motion for a directed verdict following plaintiff’s case in chief. Focus on this case now moves to cost recovery given the result and beating the statutory offer to compromise.
- Trial Results9.9.22
When two companies both catering to the rich and famous of Orange County tried to merge, and failed, litigation was bound to ensue. Thankfully, for one of the companies, Rebecca Gabroy was the trial lawyer.
- When it Rains it Pours in Texas: Plaintiff's Negligence Claim Held Water In a Statute of Limitations AnalysisCase Updates9.2.22
The exact moment a statute of limitations begins to run is not always black and white. In a case where water and mud were directed onto a property by an adjacent property’s construction project the Texas Court of Appeals, basing its holding on accrual of nuisance claims rather than accrual of a negligence action, found that the two-year statute of limitations did not accrue until property damage occurred, even though plaintiff knew at a much earlier date that the condition might cause property damage.
- Case Updates8.30.22
This case underscores the importance of interrogatory answers, and attempts to be evasive can come back to bite. In the case of Field v. U.S. Bank National Assn. as Trustee, etc., et al. (2022) 79 Cal.App.5th 703, the California Court of Appeals addressed the issue of evasive discovery responses where a plaintiff who filed a wrongful foreclosure claim could not change a deliberately evasive interrogatory answer in an effort to defeat a motion for summary judgment filed against her by the defense.
- Washington Supreme Court: "Claims-Made" Commercial General Liability Insurance Policy Without Retroactive Coverage UnenforceableCase Updates8.29.22
A commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy that contains a requirement that the loss occur and be reported by the policyholder within the same policy year, and does not include retroactive coverage was in violation of Washington public policy. In Preferred Contractors Ins. Co. v. Baker & Son Construction, Inc., 2022 Wash. LEXIS 426(Aug. 11 2022), the court looked to RCW 18.27.050 which provides that registered contractors bear financial responsibility for bodily injuries and death, and found that a denial of coverage a policy stemming from a wrongful death on a construction site was contrary to the statutorily-supported public policy of protecting the public.
- Pennsylvania Carves Out Cause of Action Against Attorneys for Alleged Fraud in Connection with Settlement of Civil ActionCase Updates8.29.22
In Khalil v. Williams, et al., the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that attorneys who may have engaged in fraud in connection with the execution of a release may not shield themselves from potential liability based on the Court’s holding in Muhammad v. Strassbruger, McKenna, Shilobad & Gutnick, 587 A.2d 1346 (Pa. 1991) which stands for the proposition that attorneys cannot be liable on legal malpractice claims when clients change their minds about the sufficiency of a negotiated settlement.
- Case Updates8.19.22
The insured was not entitled to recovery under a professional errors and omissions policy for a loss resulting from a hacking incident. Considering both North Carolina and Pennsylvania law, the court found that coverage was barred by the insurance policy's unauthorized computer use exclusion as well as the insured's failure to comply with the condition to obtain insurer consent before finalizing all settlements. Constr. Fin. Admin. Servs. LLC v. Fed. Ins. Co., No. 2:19-CV-00020, Doc. 63 (E.D. Pa. June 9, 2022).
- Case Updates8.4.22
In Viking River Cruises v. Moriana, B297327 (Cal. App. Sep. 18, 2020), the issue before the court was whether a pre-dispute arbitration agreement under the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") purporting to require arbitration of any such claim is valid. The decision effectively invalidates longstanding California law precluding arbitration of any Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claim, and will have massive positive repercussions in favor of employers.
- California School District Liable for Stabbing of Student on Campus After She Left School and Returned to Collect BooksCase Updates8.3.22
Schools must take reasonable steps to protect their students from foreseeable injury inflicted by third parties. A trip to Starbucks after track practice did not relieve the school of its duty to a student when she returned to school and was stabbed on campus. The school had a "special relationship" with the student under the law and owed her a heightened duty of care while she was present on campus during open hours.
- Case Updates8.3.22
The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that treating physicians who have personal and direct knowledge of the patient in question and who testify as to the standard of care, diagnosis, and treatment for that patient are not considered experts for purposes of the One Expert Rule. Further, the One Expert Rule's purpose is to reduce costs in presenting multiple expert witnesses rather than combating cumulative evidence, which is already addressed by Rule 403 of the Arizona Rules of Evidence.
- Case Updates8.3.22
People suffer injuries on other people's property all the time, but the responsibility to keep them safe may be legally delegated to an independent contractor. In this influential Washington court decision, Eylander v. Prologis Targeted U.S. Logistics Fund, No. 82834-7-I (Wash. Ct. App. Jul. 18, 2022), the court ruled that a landowner must take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of an independent contractor's employees on their property, but may delegate that duty if they exercise reasonable care to ensure that the independent contractor will protect their own employees against known or obvious dangers.
- Case Updates8.1.22
A mother's claim against the City of Peoria for an incident resulting in the death of her son was not invalidated due to the inclusion of a shortened settlement window in her notice of claim. The Arizona Supreme Court in James v. City of Peoria, No. CV-21-0125-PR (Ariz. Jul. 18, 2022), found that a notice of claim otherwise in compliance with A.R.S. §12-821.01 is not invalid because it attempts to set a deadline for settlement prior to the sixty-day period outlined by the statute. The action was a legal nullity.
- Case Updates8.1.22
In another defining decision regarding ostensible agency, the Court of Appeal in De Valle v. Doctors Med. Ctr. of Modesto, No. F082099 (Cal. Ct. App. Jul. 6, 2022) found in favor of a defendant hospital. Based upon this recent decision, a patient’s claim for injuries against a hospital based upon ostensible agency for negligent surgery performed by an independent contractor will fail when it is demonstrated that the patient had a pre-existing relationship with the physician, that such physician scheduled the surgery and selected the hospital where the surgery would be performed, and that the patient should have reasonably known that the hospital was simply the venue for the surgery.
- Case Updates7.28.22
A gym member's claim of negligence, gross negligence and premises liability was shot down by the court when it found that she signed a release of claims as part of her membership agreement. A slip and fall in the gym's sauna as a result of a burnt out light bulb did not rise to the level of gross negligence to subject the club to liability.
- Case Updates7.21.22
A court invalidated an arbitration agreement as unconscionable and adhesive where it was presented to an employee as a condition of employment. The agreement was found procedurally unconscionable because the employee spoke Spanish and was only provided documentation in English, without any offer of translation or assistance in understanding the document. The agreement was also found substantively unconscionable because it permitted the arbitrator to shift all attorney's fees and costs to the employee in the event the employee was the losing party and severely limited discovery.
- Case Updates7.19.22
Washington’s Court of Appeals held an owner of land who did not exercise control over the manner of work on a worksite was not vicariously liable for the death of an employee of one of its general contractors. The decision handed down on June 21, 2022, in Farris, et al. v. The Port Blakely Company, et al. is instructive on common law and regulatory scheme establishing the line dividing responsibility between landowners and contractors performing works of improvement.
- Extended Statute of Repose for Injury or Wrongful Death Action is Not Applicable to Employer of OffenderCase Updates7.13.22
The standard statute of limitations for a party to bring a personal injury or wrongful death actions is two years. There are, however, circumstances in which the statute of limitations for such causes of action are extended. The victim of a felony in California, for example, has an extended statute of limitations in which to bring an action for personal injury or wrongful death against the person convicted of that felony. (Code Civ. Proc., § 340.3) In Cardenas v. Horizon, the California Court of Appeal made a notable ruling limiting the extended statute of limitations, holding such an extension does not apply to the convicted felon's employer. The Court further held that Labor Code section 2802, which allows an employee to be indemnified by his or her employer, does not apply to third parties in this circumstance.
- Case Updates7.13.22
The California Court of Appeal ruled that a general liability policy does not provide coverage to a homeowner who grades a neighbors' property because of a mistaken understanding of the property lines. The homeowner’s policy contained standard language creating coverage for property damage caused by an “occurrence,” which the policy defined as an “accident.” The insurer did not have a duty to defend the policyholder because a mistake as to property lines did not qualify as an accident and trigger coverage under the policy.
- In Negligence Suit for Failure to Test for THC, Texas Supreme Court Thwarts Attempt to Discover Information on Unrelated Drivers' Drug UseCase Updates7.12.22
The Texas Supreme Court found in In re UPS Ground Freight, 65 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 1532 (Tex. June 17, 2022) [20-0827] that a discovery request in a wrongful death action compelling production of the drug tests and other personal information of uninvolved UPS drivers was overbroad and prohibited by federal law.
- Texas Supreme Court Finds That a Corporation's Director Cannot Owe an Informal Fiduciary Duty To Benefit an Individual ShareholderCase Updates7.12.22
Dick Poe was the only director of Poe Management, Inc. (PMI). As part of that role he authorized the issuance of 1,100 shares of PMI stock, which he purchased for $3.2 million. Prior to the issuance of these shares, Dick's son, Richard, was PMI's only shareholder. Richard did not have knowledge of the issuance until after Dick's death and at that point he brought suit to invalidate the share issuance.
- Case Updates7.6.22
In a recent decision, the Illinois Supreme Court found that an employer's acknowledgement of vicarious liability can no longer prevent a plaintiff from filing negligence claims directly against the employer. Prior to this decision, employers were shielded from independent, individual claims of negligence and could only be vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees, with certain exceptions. Employers and their legal counsel as well as insurance adjusters should take note of this important development.
- New Jersey Supreme Court Rules Mode of Operation Rule Does Not Apply to Sale of Produce in Sealed ContainersCase Updates6.22.22
New Jersey Supreme Court excludes application of rule relieving plaintiffs who bring premises liability claims against businesses that employ self-service models of the burden of proving actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition to produce sold in sealed containers.
- Trial Results6.18.22
Following an eight-week bench trial, plaintiffs dropped its $6 million dollar plus demand and accepted a dismissal with a cost waiver. This trial victory, led by WSHB trial lawyer Rebecca M. Gabroy, underscored a hard fought battle in a complex defamation, breach of contract, lost profits and punitive damage case which endured many failed mediations.
- Trial Results6.17.22
Following a protracted trial, an Orange County jury handed an impressive win for WSHB trial lawyers Sheila Fix and Greg Amundson in a habitability case. Notably, this trial started on March 29 and the verdict was handed down almost three months later.
- Case Updates6.15.22
Senate Bill S74A, also known as the “Grieving Families Act” (“GFA”) is set to vastly expand compensable damages in wrongful death actions. Currently, compensable damages in these types of actions are limited to pecuniary loss only, such as pre-death medical expenses, funeral expenses and loss of financial support.
- Case Updates6.15.22
In the past several years, Florida homeowners have accounted for somewhere between 65 to 80 percent of all property lawsuits filed nationwide. In just this calendar year, insurers in the Florida market have either stopped writing business or have gone under. For instance, since February 2022, at least three insurers – Lighthouse Property Insurance, Avatar Property & Casualty, and St. John’s Insurance Co. – have been declared insolvent.
- Jury Rejects $45 Million Verdict in Fatal Jet Ski Accident; WSHB Trial Team Prevails Following Three Week TrialTrial Results6.14.22
Following a three-week trial, a Los Angeles jury rejected a $45 million demand for a fatality in a jet ski accident in favor of Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman’s client.
- Jury Rejects Plaintiff Million Dollar Injury Claim; WSHB Attorneys Beat Statutory Offer in San Diego WinTrial Results6.14.22
In another victory for the team at WSHB, partner Ranjan Lahiri and senior counsel Sarah Spaulding obtained an outstanding verdict for the client, defeating Plaintiff’s 998 offer. Plaintiff who was injured while inside a self-storage unit demanded $1,175,000 in damages.
- Case Updates6.14.22
By way of a recent Arizona Supreme Court holding, Arizona law continues to support the legal conclusion that non-contracting parties cannot maintain a cause of action sounding in negligence for purely economic damages. Cal-Am Properties Inc. v. Edais Eng’g Inc., CV-21-0129-PR, 2022 WL 1613497, at *5 (Ariz. May 23, 2022).
- Case Updates6.13.22
In a trifecta of good news for defense attorneys, three separate cases in the New York Court of Appeals were decided in favor of insurers in bodily injury construction claims. Although it may not yet be considered a trend, a positive decision for the defense, especially in traditionally plaintiff-friendly counties, is good news for insurance companies and the attorneys who defend them.
- Trial Results6.6.22
Another trial “first” for national law firm Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman last week when a Los Angeles jury returned the verdict. Tried by sibling partners, Tracy and Paul Lewis, this case represents a brother-sister trial duo that defeated plaintiff’s claim for over $2.4 million.
- Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Holds that Three Prong Independent Contractor Test Applies to FranchisesCase Updates6.1.22
In a widely-anticipated decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously held that where a franchisee is an “individual performing any service” for a franchisor, the three prong test set forth in the independent contractor statute applies to the relationship between a franchisor and the individual and is not in conflict with the franchisor’s disclosure obligations prescribed by the FTC Franchise Rule.
- Case Updates5.31.22
Appellate Division revokes case law carrying a presumption that third-parties or recording devices are allowed in the examination room for psychological defense medical examinations, but require plaintiffs to show “special circumstances” warranting third-party observation or recording of physical examinations.
- Case Updates5.6.22
After decades of debate, the reform of medical malpractice claims in California is finally coming to fruition. Legislators and interested parties on both sides of the MICRA debate have reached a compromise and agreed to a deal that will avert a planned ballot measure in the upcoming election.
- Case Updates5.4.22
A constant struggle for Florida insurers is how to handle partial claim payments when the Insured assigns benefits under the Policy to entities that are not a party to the insurance contract, like mold mitigation and testing vendors. This is especially true when there may be insufficient limits available due to a mold or water limitation, or when considering how to apply the deductible. A recent Fourth District Court of Appeal decision highlights the conflicting viewpoints on how an insurer should handle these disputes.
- Case Updates5.3.22
A football player injured during a game was barred from filing a claim against the school district and its employees after signing an express assumption of the risk agreement. The school followed all applicable CIF and school regulations regarding concussions and was not grossly negligent in its actions.
- Landowner Not Required to Warn of Open and Obvious Danger That Was Necessarily Undertaken by Employee to Complete His WorkCase Updates4.22.22
Generally, a property owner is required to warn contractors performing work on their property of dangerous conditions. Where the condition is open and obvious, however, this obligation is no longer required and the property owner will not be liable for any personal injuries or property damage that occur due to the known danger.
- Nurse Convicted in Criminal Proceedings for Medication Mistake Spawns Concern Among Medical ProfessionalsCase Updates4.22.22
In a fear-inspiring decision for medical professionals, a Tennessee jury recently found a nurse from Vanderbilt University Medical Center guilty of reckless homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult patient. Criminal charges were filed against the nurse after she accidentally administered the wrong medication to a patient who later died. This case has wide-ranging implications for health care law and medical professionals across the country.
- Case Updates4.21.22
In a decision released on March 11, 2022, the California Court of Appeal held that Amazon was not immune from liability for failing to provide California Proposition 65 warnings on certain skin-lightening creams sold on its website. In Lee v. Amazon.com, Inc., Court of Appeal Case No. A158275, the Court held that a plaintiff was not required to show that Amazon had actual knowledge of the presence of mercury in the products it sold on its website and the Communications Decency Act did not protect Amazon from liability. The decision may have wide-ranging implications for e-commerce, requiring web retailers to issue warnings to California residents when manufacturers do not.
- Case Updates4.18.22
California Business and Professions Code 7031 is a provision prone to drawn out court battles with confusing fact patterns. In the recent case of Panterra GP, Inc. v. Superior Court, 74 Cal. App. 5th 697, 289 Cal. Rptr. 3d 743 (2022), review filed (Mar. 10, 2022), the justices were persuaded by the conclusion that the application of this section often results in a harsh outcome for many plaintiffs. Given that, they found that a licensed contractor who was not properly named in the contract could have its day in court to seek reformation of the contract to reflect the true intent of the parties.
- Case Updates4.18.22
The Supreme Court answered the Fifth Circuit’s certified question inquiring whether the employee exception in the Texas Anti-Indemnity Act (TAIA) permits additional insured coverage when an employee who was injured on the job site sues the additional insured for his personal injuries. Can the injured employee recover under these circumstances and is he a co-employer of the indemnitor under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act (TWCA)?
- Case Updates4.11.22
Although surety companies are generally not liable for tort damages to a third party, Washington’s legislature has carved out a limited exception for the setting up and sitting of mobile homes. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) establishes a per se violation of the Consumer Protection Act in situations where a bonding company does not perform a reasonable investigation to resolve the claims of third parties who have sustained injuries or other damages as a result of a faulty set-up of a mobile home. However, to access this exception, the injured party must make a claim against the bond by filing a lawsuit in superior court. A surety’s duty to investigate and resolve the claim is not triggered until such suit is filed.
- Plaintiff Suing for Legal Malpractice Excused From Arbitration Costs Where Financially Unable to PayCase Updates4.10.22
A trial court that granted defendant’s motion to compel arbitration has jurisdiction to lift the stay where a plaintiff demonstrates financial inability to pay arbitrations costs. The trial court may then instruct the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s share of costs for arbitration, or agree to waive its right to arbitration.