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Overflow Parking Accidents- Is the Venue Liable?

Overflow Parking Accidents- Is the Venue Liable?

Your synagogue or church hosts an event using overflow parking lots away from the premises.  Someone gets hurt going from the parking lot to the venue.  Is the synagogue or church responsible? That was the question the California Supreme Court decided in Vasilenko v. Grace Family Church.  (I note that I previously discussed this case when it was decided by the California Court of Appeal. Since the Supreme Court overturned that decision, I now hereby overturn my previous blog post on the topic!) Mr. Vasilenko was attending a church function in November 2010.  The church’s main parking lot was full.  An attendant directed him to park across the street at a vacant parking lot. The lot was across 5 lanes of traffic, with no marked crosswalk.  As Mr. Vasilenko crossed the busy thoroughfare, he was hit and injured by a passing car. He argued that the church was responsible because the arrangement with the rented parking lot created a foreseeable risk of harm to patrons attending church events who were required to park at the overflow lot. The lower court dismissed Mr. Vasilenko’s case, concluding that the church did not owe any duties because it did not own the adjacent overflow parking lot. The Court of Appeal reversed.  The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal ruling, essentially reinstating the decision of the trial court. The Supreme Court provided a lengthy analysis of landowner duties and liabilities in this case, which will serve as important precedent in cases like these.  The Court concluded that it was foreseeable that someone like Mr. Vasilenko could be injured traveling from the parking lot to the venue. ...
Collisions Caused by Inoperable Traffic Lights

Collisions Caused by Inoperable Traffic Lights

Someone recently asked me about a scenario that is unfortunately, too common. What happens when a collision is caused by a traffic light that is out of service or inoperable in Los Angeles?  Can an injured person sue the City or entity responsible for maintaining the traffic light? California courts have dealt with this issue before.  The key case is White v. Southern California Edison (25 Cal.App.4th 442 (1994). That case involved a collision where one driver turned left at an intersection that had an inoperable traffic light. The driver turned into another vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, causing serious injuries. The injured driver sued Southern California Edison, a public utility, for failing to maintain the traffic light. The Court analyzed whether the public utility entity owed a duty of care to drivers.  The Court concluded that it did not.  While the entity has a duty to exercise reasonable care, there is no duty of care stemming from the interruption of service or a failure to provide a service.  Surprisingly, California law holds that municipalities are under no duty to provide street lights, even though they may choose to do so. The White case is still valid law in California.  But what happens when the street light is maintained by a private company?  Can there be an actionable case against the private company for failing to maintain a traffic light? This was the subject of the recent case Lichtman v. Siemens Industries Inc. Siemens contracted with the City of Glendale to maintain backup batteries for traffic signals in the city. The Court noted that summary judgment was improperly granted for Siemens when it argued that it owed no duty to plaintiffs...
California Dirt Bike Accidents: Do Riders ‘Assume the Risk’ of Injury?

California Dirt Bike Accidents: Do Riders ‘Assume the Risk’ of Injury?

I’ve discussed dirt bike accidents on these pages before. Last week, the California Court of Appeal ruled on an important issue involving dirt bike accidents: whether riders assume the risk of injuries associated with this dangerous recreational activity. Kimberly Foltz went dirt-bike riding with her fiancee Darryl Wayne Johnson in 2011 in the Mojave Desert.  Ms. Foltz was inexperienced, while Mr. Johnson had significant experience. While riding, Ms. Foltz became concerned that a hill they were approaching would be too difficult for her to traverse with her limited dirt bike riding skills.  Her fiancee encouraged her to continue.  She did for a little bit, then she turned around to go back the way she had come.  That’s when her dirt bike lost its traction, hit a rock, and propelled her over the handlebars.  The bike ran over her back, causing serious spinal injuries. Ms. Foltz sued her fiancee, arguing that he was negligent in leading her on a dirt bike excursion knowing that she was inexperienced and could not properly handle the terrain.  The trial court dismissed the case on summary judgment. Last week, the Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal.  Quoting the case Knight v. Jewett (1992) 3 Cal.4th 296, the Court ruled that the assumption of the risk doctrine applies to recreational activities like dirt bike riding.  “By choosing to participate, one assumes the particular risks inherent in the sport, and a defendant generally owes no duty to protect the plaintiff from those risks.” Applies to this case, the Court noted that when Ms. Foltz voluntarily went up the hill on her dirt bike, she knew that she...
Pedestrian & Bicyclist Deaths Hit Highs Last Year

Pedestrian & Bicyclist Deaths Hit Highs Last Year

Earlier this year, I discussed how 2016 saw an all-time high in the number of traffic fatalities in the United States. According to Consumer Reports, the number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities hit a record in 2016 too. Approximately 6,000 pedestrians were killed in this country as a result of being hit by a car in 2016.  Bicycle deaths hit a 25 year high with 840. Similarly, the Wall Street Journal last week reported that serious bicycle injuries are on the rise in the U.S.  A big reason for this is the increase in bike share programs in cities like New York and Beverly Hills. Bicyclists should remember to wear helmets. Riders under 18 are required to wear them under California law.  There are other important bicycle safety tips which you can find here. Let’s hope that with improved awareness of the alarming increase in the number of pedestrian and bicycle deaths, we can stem the tide of this tragic uptick. For questions about your Los Angeles bicycle or pedestrian accident case, the Rabbi Lawyer is ready to assist,...
Rollercoaster Injuries in California

Rollercoaster Injuries in California

The summer is over, but it won’t be long before many families are back at some of our area theme parks. My office was recently asked about rollercoaster injuries in California.  It turns out that this issue was heavily litigated before the California Supreme Court about a decade ago in the case of Gomez v. Superior Court (35 Cal.4th 1125 (2005)). Cristina Moreno was visiting Disneyland shortly after her wedding in 2002.  While on the Indiana Jones ride, she suffered a brain hemorrhage and injuries as a result of the ride’s jarring jumps and movements.  She was hospitalized and later died. Ms. Moreno’s estate sued Disneyland, arguing that it was a “common carrier” under California tort law.  Since 1859 in California, “carriers of persons for reward” have been the subject of a heightened duty of care.  Disneyland moved to dismiss the case, which the trial court did.  On appeal,  the Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court both disagreed with Disneyland. The Supreme Court provided a lengthy historical analysis of California’s common carrier rules.  Examples that have evolved over time include ski lifts, elevators, escalators, and of course buses and airplanes. The Court found that the fact that a rollercoaster ride is intended for thrills and recreation does not remove the theme park’s obligations under California’s common carrier rules. In the Court’s words, “[a] passenger’s purpose in purchasing the transportation, whether it be to get from one place to another or to travel simply for pleasure or sightseeing, does not determine whether the provider of the transportation is a carrier for reward.  The passenger’s purpose does not affect the duty...
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...