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Case Summaries

Injury & Tort Law

[03/30] Taylor v. Rogich
In this excessive force action, the denial of defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law after the first phase of a bifurcated trial in which the jury found in favor of plaintiff on the issue of liability is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, where: 1) this appeal challenges the sufficiency of the evidence underlying the jury's rejection of the defendant's claim of qualified immunity; 2) this court has no interlocutory jurisdiction over sufficiency of the evidence questions; and 3) because the appeal in this case is based on the sufficiency of the evidence, such an appeal on qualified immunity grounds must be dismissed.

[03/27] BNSF Railway Company v. Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles (Kralovetz)
In this wrongful death action in which real parties allege that decedent Kralovetz developed and died from malignant pleural mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos and asbestos-containing products at a facility owned by petitioner's predecessor, petitioner seeks a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its order denying petitioner's motion to quash service of process for lack of general personal jurisdiction. Real parties in interest oppose the issuance of the writ and request judicial notice of several documents that support their position. The request for judicial notice is denied and the petition for writ of mandate is granted, where: 1) none of the reasons real parties advance in support of their request for judicial notice constitute an exceptional circumstance justifying the inclusion of additional evidence; and 2) petitioner's operations in California are not sufficient in comparison to its national operations and are not so "continuous and systematic" as to render it "at home" in California.

[03/25] Keys v. Alta Bates Summit Medical Center
Defendant medical center appeals from the portion of a judgment awarding plaintiffs damages on their claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). Defendant contends that there is no evidence to support the jury's finding that plaintiffs meaningfully comprehended the medical negligence that led to the death of their family member at the time the negligence was occurring. The judgment is affirmed with respect to the emotional distress claims, where: 1) a reasonable inference can be drawn from the evidence that plaintiffs were present and observed their family member's acute respiratory distress and were aware that defendants' inadequate response caused their family member's death; and 2) plaintiffs' testimony provides sufficient proof of serious emotional distress.

[03/25] Johnson v. American Towers
Plaintiff, a prison guard, was shot multiple times in his home in an attack ordered by an inmate using a contraband cell phone. Plaintiff brought suit against defendant cellular phone service providers and owners of cell phone towers, alleging that defendants are liable for plaintiff's injuries because they were aware that their services facilitated the illegal use of cellphones by prison inmates and did nothing to curb that use. Judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims on the merits is affirmed, where: 1) the Communications Act clearly preempts plaintiff's state-law tort claim against defendant Farmers as a matter of law, and consequently, plaintiff does not have a "glimmer of hope" of succeeding in state court on his claim against Farmers; 2) the parties are in complete diversity, and consequently, defendant had jurisdiction over the remaining defendants; 3) the Communication Act's express language preempts plaintiff's claims; 4) plaintiff's claim are barred by conflict preemption; and 5) plaintiff's claims are implausible, and as currently drafted, the complaint resembles a prohibited fishing expedition rather than a properly pleaded complaint.

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Workers' Comp

[01/29] Ogden Entertainment Services v. Workers Compensation Appeals Board
In this case, respondent Ritzhoff sustained numerous orthopedic injuries and injuries to his psyche while working as a banquet server for defendant-petitioner. The decision of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (the Board) denying the petition for reconsideration and adopting the decision of the workers' compensation judge finding Ritzhoff totally permanently disabled is annulled and the case is remanded with directions for new proceedings, where the due process right of defendant to cross-examination of Ritzhoff was violated.

[01/06] Schultz v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board
Decision of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board denying benefits to plaintiff-employee is annulled, where: 1) under the "going and coming rule," workers' compensation benefits are generally not available for injuries suffered by an employee during a local commute to a fixed place of business at fixed hours, because the injury does not occur during the ordinary course of employment; 2) under the premises line rule, the ordinary course of employment is deemed to commence when an employee enters the employer's premises; and 3) the premises line rule applies to an employee injured in a single-car traffic accident if the employee was a civilian working on a secure Air Force base not generally open to the public, the employee entered the base in his personal vehicle after passing a guard gate using a security pass, the employee had travelled one mile inside the base when the accident occurred, and the employer had multiple locations on the Air Force base between which the employee travelled sometimes in his own vehicle to perform work.

[12/17] Cal. Ins. Guarantee Assn. v. WCAB
In this medical billing dispute, the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (the Board) adopting the Workers’ Compensation Judge’s (WCJ) findings of fact and determinations of the reasonable fee for various arthroscopic knee, shoulder, and epidural injection procedures is affirmed, where: 1) despite the fact that the Legislature created a new administrative independent review process for the resolution of billing disputes in the context of workers’ compensation, and although the text of the relevant medical fee legislation and resulting statutes is ambiguous, the most reasonable interpretation of the legislation is that it does not divest the Board of jurisdiction to decide the dispute at issue in this case; and 2) the WCJ’s findings are supported by substantial evidence.

[11/20] In the Matter of Maureen Kigin v. State of New York Workers' Compensation Board
In this case, claimant was injured on the job and entitled to worker's compensation, but upon receipt of acupuncture treatment, a Workers' Compensation Law Judge determined that claimant's medical provider failed to show that the additional acupuncture treatments were medically necessary. The Workers' Compensation Board affirmed the Judge's determination, arguing that the treatments were not medically necessary within the "Medical Treatment Guidelines." Order of the Appellate Division affirming the Board's decision is affirmed, where: 1) the establishment of the variance procedure was within the Board's broad regulatory powers; 2) it was reasonable for the Board to promulgate uniform guidelines for defining the nature and scope of treatment considered medically necessary; 3) nothing in the Workers' Compensation law precludes the Board from requiring proof of medical necessity from claimant's health care provider; 4) the carrier bears the burden of proffering "substantial evidence"; and 5) the Guidelines provide claimants with a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the denial of any variance request.

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