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Hot Air Balloon Crashes in California

Hot Air Balloon Crashes in California

Last week the California Court of Appeal decided a case involving injuries suffered in a hot air balloon crash.  It was a case of first impression, meaning the Court never decided this issue in the past. Erika Grotheer was visiting California from Germany.  The 78 year old tourist did not speak English.  Her son bought her tickets to participate in a hot air balloon ride offered by Escape Adventures in Riverside County. The ride was uneventful until landing.  That’s when the balloon crashed violently into a fence,  was thrust onto its side, then dragged 40 yards, all while the occupants were thrashed around.  Ms. Grotheer suffered a fractured leg in the crash. Ms. Grotheer sued the hot air balloon company, the pilot, and the property owner who leased the landing site to the hot air balloon company.  The lawsuit was dismissed on a motion for summary judgment because the Court ruled that participants who ride hot air balloons assume the risk of injuries associated with this inherently dangerous activity. Ms. Grotheer, in turn, tried to overcome this argument by arguing that a hot air balloon is a “common carrier.”  Common carriers owe heightened duties of care to participants, as discussed here.  Usually, common carrier rules apply to busses, taxis, and any other transportation that is paid for and open to the public.  Common carriers are not absolved of liability even when a participant engages in and assumes the risks of the dangerous activity. The Court rejected Ms. Grotheer’s argument.  “The key inquiry in the common carrier analysis is whether passengers expect the transportation to be safe because the operator is...
Injuries at a Los Angeles Open House

Injuries at a Los Angeles Open House

What happens if a potential home buyer visits an open house and is injured while looking around?  Can the brokerage be responsible for the injuries? That was a question recently decided by the Court of Appeal in Jacobs v. Coldwell Banker. Mr. Jacobs attended an open house of a bank-owned property in Simi Valley.  Coldwell Banker listed the house, which had an empty backyard swimming pool and diving board. During the open house, Mr. Jacobs visited the backyard of the property.  He stood on the diving board to try and get a good look whether the fence surrounding the backyard was easy to hop over from behind the property.  While standing on the diving board, it snapped, catapulting Mr. Jacobs into the empty pool. He was seriously injured. Mr. Jacobs sued Coldwell Banker for negligence, arguing that the diving board was a dangerous condition of property.  The trial court dismissed his case, and the Court of Appeal affirmed. The Court found that it was undisputed that Coldwell Banker had no notice that the diving board was defective.  The brokerage included a warning on the MLS site advertising the home saying “please use CAUTION around the empty pool.”  Thus, Coldwell Banker fulfilled its obligation to warn of the hazards of the empty pool; it had no duty to warn about a defective diving board that it did not know was defective. The Court ruled that for the entirety of the case, Mr. Jacobs argued that the diving board was the dangerous condition.  He could not avoid a summary judgment motion by now claiming the empty pool was the dangerous condition. Open houses are a common...
Medical Emergencies While Driving

Medical Emergencies While Driving

What happens if a driver experiences a sudden emergency, medical or otherwise, and then causes a crash? As a Los Angeles attorney who’s handled many different accident scenarios, I can report that the sudden emergency doctrine is a complicated one and is highly fact intensive. The elements of a sudden emergency defense are found in CACI (civil jury instructions) 452: “Defendant claims that he/she was not negligent because he/she acted with reasonable care in an emergency situation.  Defendant was not negligent if he/she proves all of the following: That there was a sudden and unexpected emergency situation in which someone was in actual or apparent danger of immediate injury; That Defendant did not cause the emergency; and That Defendant acted as a reasonably careful person would have acted in similar circumstances, even if it appears later that a different course of action would have been safer.” The sudden emergency doctrine is only applicable where an unexpected physical danger is so suddenly presented as to deprive the Defendant of his power of using reasonable judgment. (Sadoian v. Modesto Refrigerating Co., (1958) 157 Cal.App.2d 266.)  The doctrine does not apply to a person whose conduct causes or contributes to the imminent peril. (Pittman v. Boiven (1967) 249 Cal.App.2d 207.) These cases are highly fact intensive.  For example, say someone has a heart attack while driving and then causes a crash.  Did the attack arise suddenly, out of nowhere? Did the driver have a history of heart trouble before causing the collision? Was he/she taking heart medication? Did the driver experience heart attack symptoms prior to getting behind the wheel? These are some of the...
Reporting Unsafe Drivers to the DMV

Reporting Unsafe Drivers to the DMV

Did you know you can report an unsafe driver to the DMV? If you know someone who might be a potentially unsafe driver, you can send the DMV a request for driver re-examination form. One who reports an unsafe driver must sign the authorization form, but can request to remain anonymous. Reporting an unsafe driver, especially an older one, can be a very sensitive subject.  The DMV receives thousands of these requests per year, and they are thoroughly investigated. You can learn more about reporting an unsafe driver to the DMV here. For questions about your Los Angeles car accident case, the Rabbi Lawyer is ready to assist,...
Unbuckled in the Back Seat?  Don’t Risk Being a Human Missile!

Unbuckled in the Back Seat? Don’t Risk Being a Human Missile!

Are you riding in the back seat without your seat belt fastened? If you answered yes, you could become a human missile in the event of a crash, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in a report released this week. In the event of a collision, an unbelted passenger in the back seat can become a projectile, slamming into the driver seat at speeds up to 35 miles per hour.  That impact, in turn, can propel the driver into the airbag, causing further injuries or worse. The Insurance Institute’s study cites statistics that unbelted passengers in the back seats have increased as a result of increased ridesharing like Uber and Lyft. For some reason, many passengers believe they are safer in the back seat, even when not wearing a seat belt.  Four out of five adults who sit in the back seat for short rides admit to riding unbuckled. As this article points out, the laws of physics aren’t suspended just because a passenger is sitting in the back seat.  In 2015, 1,018 unrestrained back seat passengers were killed in collisions in the United States. Wearing a seat belt is required under California law, even in the back seat.  Buckle up! For questions about your Los Angeles accident case, the Rabbi Lawyer is ready to assist,...