Summary Judgment Rulings On Duty And Causation Elements Taco Truck And Apartment Fire Cases

by Low, Ball & Lynch

Low, Ball & Lynch

Travis Sakai v. Massco Investments, LLC
Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District (February 8, 2018)

Taco Truck Case re: Duty

Defendant Massco Investments LLC (Massco) owned a gas station with a parking lot which it leased to a taco truck. Plaintiff drove into the lot to buy food from the taco truck. Plaintiff got into an accident with another driver Ana Avalos who was not a party. This first accident caused some property damage to Plaintiff’s car. Plaintiff and Avalos exited their vehicles to inspect their cars. Plaintiff asked Avalos to exchange insurance information, but Avalos did not. Instead, Avalos got back into his car and sped away, hitting Plaintiff and dragging him into the street. This second accident caused bodily injury to Plaintiff.

The trial court granted Massco’s summary judgment motion, finding that there was “no foreseeability and no duty.” The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

Although the Court said it is foreseeable that a food truck customer might be struck by a car exiting a parking lot in an imprudent manner, the conduct of Avalos was not foreseeable or derivative of Massco’s conduct in designing, leasing, or operating the parking lot. Even Plaintiff did not expect Avalos to suddenly get in his car and abruptly leave while they were discussing the first accident. The Court concluded that Massco’s conduct in leasing the parking lot bore only an attenuated relationship to Plaintiff’s injuries. Furthermore, the parking control measures suggested by Plaintiff would be burdensome with no evidence that they would have prevented Plaintiff’s injuries.

Duty is a question of law, and when the facts are not disputed, a defendant can prevail on a summary judgment motion if an accident is not considered foreseeable.

For a copy of the complete decision, see: Travis Sakai v. Massco Investments, LLC

Agustin Leyva et al., v. Abel Garcia
Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District (February 7, 2018)

Apartment Fire Case re: Causation

Tenants sued their landlord for injuries and property damage sustained in an apartment fire. The landlord met his initial burden of showing the tenants could not prove causation by citing declarations of two fire investigators who could not tell what caused the fire to ignite, but agreed a wall heater was the heat source. Tenants did not provide any contrary evidence in their opposition to the landlord’s summary judgment motion. The trial court granted summary judgment on the ground that the tenants were unable to establish causation. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

The Court found that the landlord met his initial burden as the moving party by presenting prima facie evidence that the tenants would not be able to establish the element of causation in a negligence cause of action. Since the initial burden was met, the burden shifted to the tenants to produce evidence showing a triable issue of material fact. Since the tenants failed to present any evidence creating a triable issue of material fact, the trial court properly granted the summary judgment. Another reason the Court upheld the trial court’s judgment was that the tenants failed to provide a separate statement in opposition to the motion as required in CCP Section 437c, subd.(b)(3); Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1350(e).

Summary judgment was properly granted based upon evidence that experts could not establish the cause of the fire.

For a copy of the complete decision, see: Agustin Leyva et al., v. Abel Garcia


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