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Results 2012

PERKINS vs. ROYAL VIOLET
Jury Trial January 31, 2012
Christopher E. Faenza; Mary Childs

In the early morning of January 8, 2009, plaintiff Jerry Lynn Perkins headed from his home in Burbank to his mother's home in Sun Valley in his mother's 1951 Chevy Coupe. Plaintiff was heading northbound on Glenoaks Blvd. Eduardo Diaz, a professional truck driver for Royal Violet LLC, was heading northbound on Glenoaks Blvd. on his way to make his first delivery of the day. Diaz was operating a tractor trailer rig.

The accident occurred on Glenoaks Blvd. in Sunland, California, near the entrance to Sunland Produce's parking lot. There are two northbound lanes on Glenoaks in the vicinity of where the accident occurred. The posted speed limit was 40 miles per hour.

Defendant Eduardo Diaz was traveling northbound on Glenoaks Blvd. in the number two lane. Defendant intended to make a right turn into Sunland Produce. Defendant reduced his speed and signaled indicating he would be making a right turn. He swung wide into the number one lane at which time he was traveling at between 5 to 8 miles per hour. He continued to move at all times. He angled the front of his tractor into the number two lane as he began to execute his right turn into the parking lot.

Plaintiff was traveling to the south of the defendant on Glenoaks Blvd. in the number two lane. Plaintiff claims defendant was moving slowly and that the defendant's tractor trailer rig was completely in the number one lane. Plaintiff did not know why defendant was moving slowly. Plaintiff testified defendant never activated his right turn signal indicating to approaching vehicles that he was initiating a right turn. When plaintiff was less than 50' from the rear of defendant, plaintiff saw defendant begin to turn right from the number one lane into Sunland Produce's parking lot. Plaintiff slammed on his brake and swerved to the number one lane, rear-ending the right rear portion of defendant's trailer. The impact occurred in the number one lane. Plaintiff's 1951 Chevy Coupe submarined under defendant's tractor trailer rig totaling out plaintiff's vehicle.

Plaintiff was transported from the scene to Pacifica Hospital where he was treated for neck, knee, and back pain. Plaintiff also complained that a couple of his front teeth were knocked out when his face slammed into the steering wheel.

Plaintiff received follow-up care in the form of doctor visits and physical therapy. Plaintiff ultimately underwent knee surgery. Neck surgery was recommended but plaintiff had not undergone same at the time of trial. Plaintiff also claimed he would need a total knee replacement. Plaintiff had past medical specials of $80,000 and future specials of $210,000.

Plaintiff claimed a past loss of earnings of $150,000 and a future loss of earnings of $1,000,000.

Plaintiff counsel "Big Game James" Silverstein argued to the jury that defendant was the sole cause of the accident by making a sudden right turn in front of plaintiff at which point plaintiff had nowhere to go. Plaintiff testified that he swerved to the left to avoid plowing into the gas tank on the side of defendants' tractor. Plaintiff asked the jury to award in excess of $2,500,000.

Defendants argued to the jury that Diaz activated his turn signal in excess of 100' before beginning his wide right turn. Defendants argued that plaintiff caused the accident by traveling too fast and being inattentive. Defendants claimed that plaintiff was the sole cause of the accident and asked for a defense verdict.

The jury was only out about 55 minutes before coming back with a defense verdict.

SANG SOON LEE, ET AL. vs. UNITED BUSINESS MANAGEMENT COMPANY, LLC.
Jury Trial April 4, 2012
Christopher E. Faenza; Sung Ho (Sean) Kim

Christopher Faenza and Sean Kim obtained a defense verdict on behalf of United Business Management Company, LLC, in a wrongful death action, in which plaintiffs sought over $4 million in damages.

Plaintiffs are the spouse and children of decedent Mr. Lee. On March 29, 2009, Mr. Lee fell from a building owned by United. At that time Mr. Lee was allegedly conducting an inspection of a skylight near the edge of the roof during the course and scope of his employment with Safeway Self Storage Co., Inc. Safeway is a tenant of the building.

Based thereon, plaintiffs asserted negligence as against defendant United. Plaintiffs contended that there should have been guardrails on top of the 2 foot parapet wall and that the floor on the roof had half-inch, or less, bumps. In addition, plaintiffs sought to use a Cal-OSHA violation issued to Safeway (the building tenant and employer of decedent) as the basis for negligence per se instruction as against United, the property owner.

In defense, Mr. Faenza and Mr. Kim contested liability contending that Mr. Lee intentionally took his own life based on ongoing financial issues. Mr. Lee suffered from ongoing financial problems that plagued both his personal life and his businesses. Moreover, decedent had no reason being on the roof of the building after closing his employer's office, and decedent rarely, if ever, went to the roof. In fact, defendant United never instructed decedent to go on the roof. Moreover, Mr. Faenza and Mr. Kim contended that the roof complied with applicable Building Code requirements and was, thus, safe.

During trial, Mr. Faenza successfully forced plaintiff's expert to admit that the roof of the building complied with applicable Building Code. In addition, a roofer for the building testified that the roof was safe and was previously resurfaced in September of 2008. Furthermore, while cross-examining plaintiffs' "star-witness", Mr. Faenza forced the witness to admit that he had a financial stake in the lawsuit because plaintiffs still owed him $30,000, and that he threatened to sue the owner of defendant for a different matter.

This case was tried in Los Angeles County, in Los Angeles, before the Honorable John Segal. The trial lasted for six days.

After approximately three hours of deliberations, the jury returned a defense verdict in favor of defendant United.

STATE FARM GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY (SUBROGEE OF ALFRED BADAL) vs. COLDER PRODUCTS COMPANY
Summary Judgment May 2012
Stephen Smith; Sung Ho (Sean) Kim

Stephen Smith and Sung Ho (Sean) Kim obtained summary judgment on behalf of Colder Products Company in a lawsuit brought by State Farm General Insurance Company. Plaintiff, State Farm, claimed that Colder Products Company ("CPC") caused or was responsible for property damage that occurred to State Farm's insured Alfred Badal's home. Plaintiff alleged that the property damage resulted from water leaking from a coupling designed and manufactured by CPC. At the time of the incident, the subject coupling was attached or assembled to a Watts RIL-10 water filter system.

Defendant CPC contended that it was not responsible for the incident and property damage because the subject coupling was not intended to be used with a Watts RIL-10 water filter system. In fact, the RIL-10 water filter has an on-product label that instructs users to assemble or attach brass fittings to the water filter. Those brass fittings are packaged along with the RIL-10 water filter. CPC further contended that there was no evidence of product defect with the subject coupling.

Based on the foregoing, the court found that CPC sustained its initial substantive burden of proof, so the burden shifted to plaintiff to establish a triable issue of material fact. The court found that CPC established that there was no evidence of product defect with the coupling, that the coupling was misused, and that the coupling was not used for its intended purpose.

In an attempt to establish a triable issue of material fact, State Farm offered a declaration from an expert, who alleged that the subject coupling had a product defect. State Farm's expert also explained that someone removed the subject coupling from another water filter system and then installed the coupling into the Watts RIL-10 filter.

In response to State Farm's expert's declaration, CPC reasoned that, pursuant to well-established case law, CPC cannot, and should not be forced to, anticipate every unintended and unforeseeable manner by which its coupling would be broken apart from another filter system and then incorporated into another filter. CPC concluded that it should not be held liable for another person's engineering spirit by which s/he ignored the installation instructions for the Watts RIL-10 filter and cannibalized two different water filter systems to create one Frankenstein-like water filter system.

The court held that plaintiff failed to overcome its burden to create a triable issue of fact. Accordingly, summary judgment was granted in favor of CPC and as against State Farm.

JOHNNY C. MURRAY vs. HOME DEPOT U.S.A. INC. AND J'S MAINTENANCE SERVICES INC.
Jury Trial July 18, 2012
Christopher E. Faenza; Alice Chen Smith

Christopher Faenza and Alice Smith obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. and J's Maintenance Services Inc. in this negligence/premises liability action involving plaintiff's slip-and-fall incident that occurred at the Home Depot located in Goleta, California.

On August 31, 2008, plaintiff and his wife went to Home Depot to purchase a tube of wood glue. After allegedly purchasing the wood glue (the time of the transaction on the receipt was after the time of the alleged incident), they exited the store then re-entered with the intent to purchase a microwave oven. As they walked behind a sales associate to the back aisle of the store where the microwave ovens were displayed, plaintiff Johnny Murray allegedly slipped and fell on a "puddle" of water, landing on his head and back. Plaintiff contended that defendant Home Depot negligently maintained the premises in a reasonably safe condition and defendant J's Maintenance negligently operated a floor scrubbing machine by leaving water on the polished concrete floor, which caused the floor to be slippery.

As a result of the incident, plaintiff claimed injuries to his head, neck, and low back, requiring two back surgeries and claimed future spinal fusion and/or spinal stimulator. Prior to trial, plaintiff demanded in excess of $1 million. At trial, plaintiff sought damages in excess of $262,000 for past medical bills, $500,000 for loss of earnings and earning capacity (which was dropped during trial), $250,000 for past noneconomic damages, and $423,600 for future noneconomic damages.

In defense, Mr. Faenza and Ms. Smith contested liability and damages based on plaintiff's history of fraudulent conduct and lack of credibility. Plaintiff's 20-plus years of prison medical records provided a wealth of information such as that plaintiff swallowed a razor blade, faked seizures and falls in order to get out of his jail cell and manipulate the prison medical system in order to get "property" was highlighted. Plaintiff readily admitted these fraudulent schemes on the stand, and also admitted that his parole was revoked twice following the incident, in one instance because he impersonated a city building inspector in order to get paid on a contractor's job he was working on without proper licensure from the state. In furtherance of their position that plaintiff's claim was fraudulent, defendants presented surveillance videos depicting plaintiff moving about freely without a cane, performing car mechanics work, jumping a curb with a motorized scooter. These videos stood in stark contrast to plaintiff's demeanor at the examination by defense's orthopedic surgeon where he complained of chronic pain and exhibited 25 percent of normal range of motion, and in court where he used the cane in front of the jury until it was revealed that defendants intended to use impeachment evidence.

The case was tried in the Superior Court of the County of Santa Barbara before the Honorable Colleen Sterne. The trial lasted for seven days.

After three hours of deliberations, the jury returned a 10-2 verdict in favor of defendants on causation.

CSAA (SUBROGEE OF ZAMORA) vs. COLDER PRODUCTS COMPANY
Defense Decision, Arbitration October 2012
Stephen Smith; Sung Ho (Sean) Kim

Stephen Smith and Sung Ho (Sean) Kim obtained a defense verdict in favor of Colder Products Company in binding arbitration conducted in connection with a lawsuit brought by California State Automobile Association. Plaintiff, CSAA, alleged that Colder's quick-disconnect couplings on a residential water filter were defective caused and caused $100,000 in property damage that had occurred to CSAA's insured's residence. Based on the property damage, plaintiff sought reimbursement of all payments made by plaintiff for repairing the damage and for interest for more than six years. Plaintiff contended that the coupling was defectively designed or defectively manufactured by Colder.

In response, defendant Colder demonstrated that the couplings were a component part of an overall water filtration system designed by others such that Colder was insulated from liability under the "component part manufacturer defense." In support of that defense, Colder demonstrated that the subject coupling was manufactured and supplied in accordance with the specifications provided by its customer, the filter system manufacturer and designer, such that Colder was not responsible for the incident and property damage. Further, Colder established that about $20,000 in repairs to the residence was due to the negligence of the contractor, and not to the failure of the filter system, and demonstrated to the satisfaction of the arbitrator that plaintiff's expert's opinions were fundamentally flawed, lacked a scientific foundation in evidence and were contradicted by evidence. As a result, the arbitrator found plaintiff's expert, along with her opinions, to be unpersuasive.

The arbitrator found that plaintiff CSAA failed to establish proof of product defect and failed to establish that Colder caused the incident. In addition, the arbitrator found that the component part manufacturer defense applied. Accordingly, a defense verdict was awarded in favor of colder and judgment entered for Colder in accordance with the arbitrator's decision.

ROBIN HENRY V. HILTON PASADENA, ET AL.
Motion for Summary Judgment — December 18, 2012
Stephen H. Smith and Lauren A. R. Lofton

Stephen H. Smith and Lauren A. R. Lofton obtained judgment on behalf of a client hotel owner in this negligence/premises liability action involving plaintiff's slip-and-fall incident that occurred in a parking structure just outside the Pasadena Hilton.

On October 31, 2011, plaintiff was a hotel guest who, upon entering a parking structure on land adjacent to the hotel, fell off a step at the end of a walkway. Plaintiff claimed that she was distracted by a poorly placed sign that said "Please Watch Your Step." She sued not only the hotel but also the owners of the walkway and parking structure for her injuries, which included fractured and broken bones in her feet, wrists, and arm. During the course of discovery, the adjacent property owners admitted that they owned the property on which plaintiff fell and had a duty to maintain same. Also, pursuant to an agreement with the adjacent property owners, the hotel had an easement to allow its guests to use the walkway. Based primarily on this easement, plaintiff ascribed liability to the hotel owner for her injuries.

In the hotel's motion for summary judgment, it argued that it did not own the subject property nor did it have any duties with respect to maintaining said walkway. Plaintiff's opposition to the motion asserted a number of procedural and evidentiary objections, including that the hotel could not rely on the adjacent property owners' written discovery responses and deposition testimony setting forth their ownership and responsibilities with regard to maintaining the property. Plaintiff further interpreted the easement agreement to impose a duty of care upon the hotel to maintain the walkway.

The court, not having been distracted by plaintiff's objections, found it undisputed that the hotel did not own the alleged dangerous property. It also agreed with the hotel's interpretation and analysis of the easement agreement, which did not impose a duty on the hotel to maintain the walkway. Rather, according to the court, and all parties except for plaintiff, it was clear that such was the responsibility of the adjacent property owners.

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