A jury recently awarded $20 million against the City of Exeter in San Luis Obispo County, California in a case involving a 2016 retired police dog which attacked and killed one individual and injured another. The jury verdict fits the mold of the typical Nuclear Verdicts™ plaguing our country. Defense attorneys can utilize methods to prevent these types of verdicts from being handed down if they understand and recognize the mold.
Noneconomic damages often make up a large portion of Nuclear Verdicts™. Defense attorneys will be happy to know there is a new interpretation of “damage cap” at play in Tennessee after the ruling in Yebuah v. Ctr. for Urological Treatment, PLC.[i] The Tennessee Supreme Court’s ruling is a small step in the right direction for the defense. In the case, the court reviewed whether the statutory cap on noneconomic damages applies separately to a spouse’s loss of consortium claim pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-39-102, thus allowing each plaintiff to receive an award of up to $750,000 in noneconomic damages.
Could a Medi-Cal lien for recovery of advanced medical expenses be pre-empted by federal law? This was the issue recently decided by the Second District Court of Appeal in L.Q. v. California Hospital Medical Center.[i] The case involves the conflict between federal and state law on whether a state’s Medicaid program can legally claim a lien against a beneficiary’s personal injury settlement without violating the anti-lien provision in the federal Medicare Act. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and held the state Medi-Cal lien was valid, allowing recovery of the portion of the settlement proceeds to be attributable to past medical care paid for by Medi-Cal.
California enacted Assembly Bill-218 on October 14, 2019, amending Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1. In doing so, California greatly expanded damages awards available to childhood sexual assault victims, including treble damages against entities that engage in “covering up” childhood sexual assault. One of the principal byproducts of the reform legislation is treble damages claims may be erroneously asserted against public school districts in childhood sexual assault cases. In two recent decisions, California’s appellate courts have vigorously reaffirmed the traditional rule that statutory sovereign immunity under Government Code section 818 bars liability for treble damages claims brought against public entities under Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1.
A strategic and thoughtfully prepared motion in limine can allow a party to assert control over the facts that will be presented to a jury and are a commonly used tool for raising evidentiary issues relating to expert witness testimony. A successful motion in limine can shape the course of a trial. In Valderrama v. Beautologie Cosmetic Surgery, Inc., the use of thoughtful motions in limine to preclude irrelevant testimony and prevent plaintiffs’ experts from relying on the irrelevant testimony, allowed defendants to succeed at trial.
Vicarious liability, the doctrine that imposes liability on a party not directly at fault, is one of the most malleable concepts in California law. Most recently, the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Kern County analyzed the reach of two forms of vicarious liability — the peculiar risk doctrine and the nondelegable rule — in the unpublished matter of Ruckman v. Wildwood Farms.
All too often, property owners are sued after hiring an independent contractor who 1) causes injuries, or 2) has employees who sustained an injury while performing work. Under the Privette doctrine, such lawsuits would generally be barred under California law doctrine because there is a strong presumption that a property owner who hires an independent contractor delegates all responsibility for workplace safety to the contractor. The Privette doctrine applies even where the property owner was at least partially to blame due its negligent hiring and where the independent contractor is has no employees or workers’ compensation insurance.
In California v. Texas,i the Supreme Court of the United States heldii Texas and other states, as well as two individual plaintiffs, do not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the minimum essential health provision (also known as the “individual mandate”) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).
In July of 2020, a jury awarded the largest personal injury verdict ever against the state of Washington. This was a $115 million award to the maternal grandparents of two boys murdered by their father during visitation. This article will analyze the verdict: why it was awarded, and what we can learn from it.
In our April Newsletter, Tyson & Mendes reported a California federal court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the wife of a construction worker. Plaintiff claimed her husband contracted COVID-19 at work and brought the virus home infecting her as well. Following the dismissal, the district court judge gave plaintiff an opportunity to amend her complaint. At a hearing on May 7, 2021, the court upheld the dismissal without further leave to amend. As of this date, it is unknown whether plaintiff will appeal.