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March 3, 2014 / Akinyemi Ajayi

House Party Turns Deadly: California Supreme Court Expands the Rights of Victims Harmed By Intoxicated Individuals at House Parties

In a unanimous decision this week, the California Supreme Court ruled homeowners may be liable for the harm caused by individuals who attend a house party and pay a cover charge, and then cause harm to others in an intoxicated state.  This ruling stems from a 2007 house party that turned deadly in Diamond Br, California.  Specifically, Andrew Ennabe was killed by Thomas Garcia, who struck Ennabe with his vehicle after being thrown out of a house party thrown by Jessica Manosa.  Manosa charged  uninvited guests, mostly under-aged guests, anywhere from $3-$5 dollars to attend the house party.

The Supreme Court held that this cover charge, though not intended by Manosa to make a profit but to help pay for the alcohol provided, amounted to the sale of alcohol.  Since the cover charge constituted a sale of alcohol and California law creates liability for those who sell alcohol to minors, liability may be extended to Manosa and her family.  The Supreme Court further explained that a strong public policy exists in California to disincentivize the illegal consumption of alcohol by minors.

Prior to this decision, two lower courts ruled against the Ennabe family because it was found that Manosa was not legally responsible because she was not engaged in the commercial sale of alcohol and did not intend to profit from the entrance fee.  The Supreme Court disagreed.  The Supreme Court likened this house party to a “pop-up nightclub” and further expanded the liability created by the California state legislature in the 1970s, which created liability for adult hosts who sold alcohol to intoxicated guests, whether licensed or not.  This ruling now reaches minors who are engaged in the sale of alcohol.

If you or anyone you know has been injured by an intoxicated driver, contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

***The facts from this blog posting can be found here.

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February 25, 2014 / Nazareth M. Haysbert

Kaiser Pays $4.1 Million Settlement in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

A settlement has been reached in a medical malpractice lawsuit against Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and the Permanente Medical Group, for delaying the birth of minor. Despite days of signs and symptoms that his mother was in labor,  Plaintiff, Demorea Ferdinand delivery was delayed.

According to the petition to approve settlement filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, Defendants’ negligent medical care caused Demorea to suffer catastrophic injuries, including spastic quadriparetic cerebral palsy, symptomatic epilepsy, and hip dysplasia. The now seven-year-old boy cannot walk or crawl, communicate or follow commands, and will require 24 hour-a-day supervision.

The case was filed by the great grandmother of the boy as his guardian ad litem.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of medical negligence, please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a consultation.

February 14, 2014 / Akinyemi Ajayi

A Uber Tragedy: Mobile App May Have Contributed to the Death of a Young Child

San Francisco based mobile ride-share technology company, Uber, faces a wrongful death lawsuit after one of its drivers struck a family in a San Francisco crosswalk and killed a 6-year-old girl.  This lawsuit raises several issues of first impression for the legal community.

The accident occurred on New Year’s Eve, when an Uber driver, was utilizing the Uber mobile app to locate fares around San Francisco.  Specifically, the driver was an Uber X driver.  Uber X is the low cost version of Uber’s black town car service.  Uber X utilizes drivers using everyday vehicles, usually the driver’s personal vehicle.  The complaint alleges that the driver was logged into the Uber X application and contributed to distracting the driver, which caused the accident and contributed to the driver’s violation of laws against distracted driving.

Uber asserts that they are not liable for this incident one because the driver is not an employee of the company and also because the driver was not transporting a passenger at the time the car struck the pedestrians or “doing a trip on the Uber system.”  Significant to the ultimate resolution of this lawsuit and to the landscape of the mobile ride-share industry will be the determination of whether the Uber X driver is an employee of Uber.  This is significant because, generally, employers are legally responsible for the acts of their employees or agents if done within the scope of their employment.

In California, only the negligent party is responsible for the injuries incurred during a car accident.  A person acts negligently when that person fails to act in a manner expected of a reasonable person acting under similar circumstances. In the context of a car accident, if the Plaintiff can show that the driver violated one of California’s many traffic rules that could establish the driver’s negligence. It is without question that a negligence cause of action will be sustained against the driver, but many more issues are to be determined with respect to Uber.  Uber has become commonplace in several metropolitan cities across the world and like every other business who provide service to the community at large, they too will need to be held responsible for contributing for any harm they cause.

If you or anyone you know has been injured in an automobile accident, contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

***The facts from this blog posting can be found here.

February 13, 2014 / Scott Tillett

Court Holds a Food Truck is Not a Truck

Irais Gomez, a food truck operator, was injured when hot oil from a fryer spilled on her when the food truck she and her husband leased from Royal Catering Company was hit by another vehicle. Although they were not at fault in the underlying vehicle collision, Mrs. Gomez was standing in the kitchen area in the rear of the truck when the accident occurred and not seated in the passenger seat or using a seatbelt.

The Gomezes filed a lawsuit against Royal for products liability (both negligence and design defect), negligent infliction of emotional distress, property damage, and loss of consortium. Royal admitted that it was partially responsible for Mrs. Gomez’s burns because the fryer baskets the company had provided for use in the food truck’s deep fryer prevented the latching mechanism on the fryer from closing, allowing the hot oil to escape. Royal, its automobile insurance carrier, American States Insurance Company, and the Gomezes agreed to arbitrate the Gomezes’ claims, but Travelers Property Casualty Company of America declined to defend Royal under its commercial general liability insurance policy. The arbitrator attributed 40% of the fault for Mrs. Gomez’s burns to Royal, entering a judgment against Royal for $2.4 million.

Subsequently, American States filed a complaint against Travelers in the Los Angeles Superior Court (case no. BC459824), which in turn filed a cross-complaint against American States, each arguing Royal was covered under the other’s policy. The trial court held that the food truck was an “auto” and that the injury was therefore covered by the American States auto policy. On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision, holding that Mrs. Gomez’s injury was covered under an exception to the “auto” exclusion in the Travelers policy for “mobile equipment,” defined as vehicles primarily used for purposes other than transportation of persons or cargo. In holding that Travelers was required to defend and indemnify Royal for burns caused by the fryer, the appellate court determined that the food truck was “mobile equipment,” primarily used as a “kitchen and not to transport persons or cargo.”

If you or someone you know has been injured on the job or in an automobile accident, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

 

January 31, 2014 / Akinyemi Ajayi

SF General Hospital Makes Changes After Federal Investigation into Missing Patient’s Death

After the mysterious death of 57-year-old Lynne Spalding, a San Francisco resident who went missing for days in SF General Hospital, federal changes have been implemented at the city’s cornerstone hospital to prevent such occurrences from repeating.

Spalding checked herself into the hospital on September 19, 2013 for an infection.  Ms. Spalding went missing days later and was ultimately found dead in a stairwell on the fourth floor of the hospital, after more than a week had passed by.

Significant mistakes during the initial search and investigation were revealed.  A significant blunder occurred when a report on October 4, 2013 was made, describing a person lying in a stairwell in the hospital.  Neither hospital staff nor sheriff’s officers, who provided security for the hospital, followed up with report.  Apart from this report a thorough search of the facilities was not conducted.

As a result, the federal investigation resulted in SF General instituting daily security checks of all stairwells, improvements to the alarm system found on doors and adding other security checks.  All sheriff officers who are placed at the hospital will undergo new training on security and safety protocol.

Aside from the lack of adequate security and safety procedures, the subsequent federal investigation uncovered several violations of patient privacy.  Sherriff and hospital personnel accessed Ms. Spalding’s medical records several times without authorization.  In California, laws regarding access to and privacy of personal health information, including medical records, are governed by the Patient to Health Records Act (PAHRA), the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA) and the Information Practices Act (IPA).  These California laws are attempts to make health information more accessible to the people who are the subject of the information and to rein in some of the dissemination of private health information. The federal counterpart and more widely known law is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

Californians have a right to feel safe and protected within hospital walls.  The negligence by hospital personnel and sheriff’s officers could have been avoided by the simplest of measures.  If you or anyone you know has been a victim of a medical negligence or have had your privacy infringed upon, contact the attorneys at Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a free confidential consultation regarding your potential claims.

***The facts from this blog posting can be found here.

January 22, 2014 / Nazareth M. Haysbert

Ninth Circuit Set To Decide Whether Los Angeles Skid Row Advocates Deserve Injunction Against Regulation Criminalizing Disruptions of Public Meetings

On January 7, 2014, a panel of three Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges heard arguments in CPR, et al v. City of Los Angeles, a lawsuit stemming from an incident which occurred on July 6, 2011, during the Skid Row Walk, a monthly event described by the City of Los Angeles as a “community meeting” to discuss solutions to one of the nation’s largest homeless populations. During the event, advocates for the homeless living in Skid Row, including members of the unincorporated association, CPR for Skid Row (“CPR”), rallied to protest the Skid Row Walk, which in their view was aimed at forcing the homeless out of Skid Row.

According to CPR member Pete White, he was chanting during the walk when the Los Angeles Police Department (“LAPD”) arrested him under California Penal Code Section 403 (“Section 403”), a law passed in 1872 that criminalizes the disruption of public meetings. Hamid Khan, another protestor and member of CPR, claimed he was threatened with arrest. No charges were filed against Mr. White, who was booked and later released on bail.

On February 10, 2012, CPR, Mr. White, and Mr. Khan, (collectively “Plaintiffs”), filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the enforcement of Section 403, arguing California had wrongfully criminalized the disruption of public meetings in violation of the First and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution. Finding no evidence that Section 403 was unconstitutionally vague under the First Amendment or that the Plaintiffs had been denied equal protection under the 14th Amendment, U.S. District Court Judge John Walter granted summary judgment for the City of Los Angeles and dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims.

With the help of Santa Monica civil rights attorney Carol Sobel, Plaintiffs appealed Judge Walter’s decision to the Ninth Circuit, and petitioned the court to issue an injunction against enforcement of Section 403.

At the hearing, the panel of three Ninth Circuit judges took a pessimistic view of the appeal. According to Judge Clifton, there was no evidence of a persistent pattern of police misapplication of Section 403, only the one episode involving Mr. White’s arrest and subsequent release, and even in his case the statute was not applied. Furthermore, Judge Clifton opined, the regulation “made complete sense”, and was “not inconsistent with the First Amendment”. Arguing for the Plaintiffs, attorney Carol Sobel asserted that the regulation could not be applied consistent with the First Amendment as it was written, and that without intervention, there was nothing to stop the city from chilling the right of “anyone who wants to go out and engage in expressive activity at a public meeting.”

Judge Clifton was joined by Judge Stephen Reinhardt and U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey, sitting by designation from Nevada.

A decision on the appeal is expected later this year.

January 21, 2014 / Akinyemi Ajayi

When Tanning Goes Wrong: Former American Idol Judge Feels the Burn

Paula Abdul, the former American Idol judge and pop music star, recently filed suit against UVASUN West, Inc. for alleged burns she sustained to her leg after a tanning treatment.

UVASUN West Inc. owns and operates a tanning salon in the Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles.  Based on court documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Abdul claims that the SlimStar Infrared body wrap treatment she received was performed negligently, carelessly and recklessly, causing her severe injuries, including second or third degree burns to a portion of her left thigh.

Under California law, negligence refers to the duty of care that people owe one another and any breach of the duty that directly results in injury or damages.  In this case, UVASUN and their employees owed a duty of care to Ms. Abdul to properly apply the SlimStar Infrared treatment in a safe and proper manner so as not to cause her harm.  It is possible, and often, sadly the case that tanning salon operators are responsible for injuries to patrons because of failing to properly train their employees or follow proper safety protocols.  Tanning salon operators must take great care in operating their business, and provide the proper safety equipment, as well as clear instructions to all employees and patrons alike of proper use and risks.

Tanning salons are frequented by millions of people every year.  Owners, operators, and employees of such establishments who fail to provide these services without due care should be held accountable if their negligence causes harm.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of a negligent tanning salon owner/operator or employee, contact the attorneys at Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a free confidential consultation regarding your potential claims.

December 26, 2013 / Steven Soliman

Charges Brought Against 18 Sheriff’s Officers in Jail Abuse Case

Federal prosecutors charged 18 current and former members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department with excessive use of force and obstruction of justice as part of a year-long FBI investigation into allegation of misconduct inmate abuse in LA County jails. All 18 officers worked in the jail system.

One victim was permanently disabled after his beating resulted in a broken arm and a dislocated shoulder. In another case, two deputies beat an inmate and then attempted to hide him after realizing he was an informant for the FBI’s investigation. The officers changed records in an attempt to make it seem as though the inmate had been released, and then rebooked him into the jail using a different name. Some of the other incidents of inmate abuse date back to several years.

As Andre Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney for Los Angeles, explained, “These incidents did not take place in a vacuum. Certain behavior had become institutionalized, and a group of officers considered themselves to be above the law. Instead of ensuring the law is defended, they are accused of taking steps to prevent that.” Sheriff Lee Baca has stated that 14 of the officers charged were still with the department and would be placed on unpaid leave.

The LA County jail system is the largest in the country and is considered the most troubled.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of inmate abuse, please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a private consultation.

November 25, 2013 / Akinyemi Ajayi

Student’s Hair-Raising Fall Results in $11.6 Million Settlement

Former University of Pennsylvania undergraduate student, Lorna Bernhoft, recently settled with an off-campus apartment complex owner for injuries she sustained after falling 20 feet through a raised skylight opening.

In 2010, Ms. Bernhoft was attending an event at the apartment complex when she fell through an open skylight on the fourth floor that was only covered with flex board and carpet.  The 20 foot fall resulted in Ms. Bernhoft becoming a paraplegic.  The $11.6 million dollar settlement was reached days before the case was set for trial.  The high settlement number likely compensates Ms. Bernhoft for her extensive injuries, the future medical care she will need for the rest of her life and the high amount of fault placed on the defendants.

Through discovery, it was revealed that the building owners and student tenants were aware of the opening and did nothing to safeguard against the potential hazard.  Premises liability law mandates that the person who is in possession of land or premises, whether it is the landowner or a tenant, is responsible for certain injuries suffered by persons who are present on the premises. One such responsibility is the responsibility to safeguard against defective conditions on the premises that are known or should be known.

Accidents such as these are avoidable.  It is unreasonable in light of the circumstances of this case, that the landowner and the tenants on the building who knew about the defective condition not to warn against this harm.  Any cost of safeguarding the area is offset by the potential harm to tenants and their guests.

If you or anyone you know has been injured by a dangerous condition on the premises of an owner/occupier, contact the attorneys at Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a free confidential consultation regarding your potential claims.

***The facts from this blog posting can be found here and here.

 

November 19, 2013 / Akinyemi Ajayi

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING: Washington Police Videotape Female Arrestees During Private Moments

A class action suit comprised of 10 women and 1 man in Washington State has been filed against the Puyallup Police Department for its policy of video recording DUI suspects undressing and changing into jail clothes.  Video recordings have also been taken while women have used the toilets.

The class action complaint specifically alleges that individuals were forced to strip naked and change into jail clothing as male officers watched and recorded them without their knowledge.

The City of Puyallup stands by its policy.  City Attorney Kevin Yamamoto believes that the video evidence is legal and is evidence that the police department acted professionally and appropriately in the situations complained of.

The City of Puyallup mandates the “safety” camera to maintain a safe and efficient jail, however, it has become a disturbing trend in today’s society where the government and regulatory bodies think that safety concerns can override an individual’s freedom.  Violations to one’s privacy in the name of safety are still a violation of one’s constitutional rights.

In California, generally, there are four types of causes of action: 1) Public Disclosure of Private Facts; 2) Intrusion into Private Matters; 3) Misappropriation of a Person’s Name or Likeness; and 4) Portraying a Person in a False Light.

The elements of intrusion into private matters are (Miller v National Broadcasting Co. (1986)

187 Cal. App. 3d 1463):

1. An intentional intrusion, physical or otherwise

2. into plaintiff’s private life, seclusion or solitude

3. that would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person; and

4. it is the cause of an adverse effect on he plaintiff.

If you or anyone you know has been unlawfully videotape/recorded, contact Khorrami, LLP for a confidential consultation.

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