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Results 2014

Defense Verdict – July 29, 2014
Alice C. Smith

Alice Chen Smith obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Fitness International, LLC in a five-day jury trial against Girardi & Keese on July 29, 2014.

Plaintiff sued Fitness International, LLC for negligence and premises liability for her alleged psychological injuries arising from an unlawful sexual relationship with another fitness club member, Derek Marks, from February 2011 to June 2011. Plaintiff was 17 years old when she allegedly saw 31 year-old Marks at the club and exchanged eye contact. They met outside in the parking lot and proceeded to have a sexual relationship entirely outside of the fitness club until law enforcement intervention. Plaintiff hid the relationship from her boyfriend, family and friends, and avoided communications and physical contact with Marks inside the fitness club. Marks was criminally charged and convicted of unlawful sex with a minor.

Plaintiff claimed that because there was a prior 2006 complaint to Fitness that Marks was flirting with two female members, Fitness should have revoked his membership and if it did so then Marks and plaintiff would have never met. Fitness denied that it had a duty to revoke Marks' membership for the complaint and that it acted reasonably by documenting Marks’ membership and sending a warning letter to him, after which Fitness received no further complaints regarding Marks. Fitness denied liability on the basis that it did not have a duty to prevent two members from engaging in a secret consensual relationship off of its premises, where it did not know about the relationship, where it did not receive any complaints from plaintiff regarding Marks, and where its conduct was not a substantial factor in causing any harm to plaintiff. Fitness also had no reason to believe that Marks, who was a California Highway Patrol officer, would engage in a sexual relationship with a minor. Further, Fitness denied that plaintiff was harmed in the relationship, but rather her emotional injuries arose from not wanting the relationship to end. Plaintiff claimed emotional and psychological injuries as a result of the consensual relationship with Marks. At closing argument, plaintiff asked for $18,550 in past psychological expenses, $127,400 in future psychological expenses, $250,000-$300,000 in past pain and suffering, and $100,000 per year in future pain and suffering for 20 years, for a total of over $2.5 million.

The jury agreed with Fitness’ arguments and rendered a 10-2 defense verdict after 2 hours of deliberation.

Summary Judgment in favor of defense – July 22, 2014
Christopher E. Faenza and Alice C. Smith

Plaintiff, Kirk Anderson filed an action against Defendant, Fitness International, LLC for damages arising out of a slip and fall incident in a gym’s shower area. Plaintiff’s complaint is premised entirely on the contention that Plaintiff and others had previously slipped in the shower area and had asked Defendant to make the area more slip-resistant, but Defendant failed to do so. Defendant moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s complaint, contending that Plaintiff signed a release and waiver that barred plaintiff’s action. Plaintiff argued that Defendant’s conduct amounted to "gross negligence," and a claim for gross negligence is not barred by a release and waiver. Defendant argued that no claim for gross negligence can be maintained under the facts of the case.

Prior to the hearing on summary judgment, the Court granted Defendant’s motion to strike the language concerning "gross negligence" from the complaint, finding that the complaint sounded in ordinary negligence, but not in gross negligence. The Court further found that there was no similar authority finding the alleged failure to act to be grossly negligent, as opposed to ordinarily negligent.

The Court granted defendant’s motion and awarded judgment to defendant.

Defense Decision, Arbitration – June 2014
Stephen H. Smith and Sung Ho (Sean) Kim

Stephen H. 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 State Farm. Plaintiff, State Farm, alleged that Colder’s quick-disconnect coupling attached to a residential water filter system was defectively designed, such that the alleged design defect caused the coupling to fail. This failure allegedly resulted in property damage. Based on the property damage, plaintiff sought reimbursement of all payments made by plaintiff for repairing the damage.

In response, defendant Colder demonstrated that the couplings were a component part of an overall water filtration system designed by others. Since Colder’s role was limited to that as a component part supplier, Colder argued that it was insulated from liability under the "component part manufacturer defense." In support of that defense, Colder established that the subject coupling was manufactured and supplied in accordance with the specifications provided by its customer, the filter system manufacturer and designer. In addition, although plaintiff’s expert opined – in a conclusory manner – that the subject coupling was defectively designed, Colder effectively cross-examined plaintiff’s expert by showing that plaintiff’s expert had no knowledge of the design history and product development of the component part and the overall water filtration system.

The arbitrator found in favor of Colder, based primarily on the component part manufacturer defense. Accordingly, a defense verdict was awarded in favor of colder and judgment entered for Colder in accordance with the arbitrator's decision.

J. KIM, ET AL. vs. Y. PARK, ET AL.
Defense Decision, Demurrer – May 2014
Christopher E. Faenza and Sung Ho (Sean) Kim

Chris Faenza and Sung Ho (Sean) Kim obtained a dismissal of defendant Y. Park, by reason of the Court’s sustaining of Ms. Park’s demurrer. In this lawsuit, several plaintiffs sued Ms. Park and her restaurant, and other defendants, for failure to pay overtime and wages and for personal injuries. Ms. Park, in her individual capacity, was sued for personal injuries, on plaintiffs’ causes of action for premises liability and product liability. Plaintiffs claimed that they suffered personal injuries from smoke they inhaled while working at the Korean barbecue restaurant.

In response, defendant Ms. Park filed two rounds of demurrers to plaintiffs’ complaint(s). In the demurrers, Ms. Park argued that plaintiffs’ injuries arose solely from the workplace, such that the workers compensation exclusive remedy rule barred plaintiffs’ civil action. Ms. Park established that plaintiffs were former waitresses and employees of the restaurant, that plaintiffs’ injuries arose while they worked inside the restaurant, and that the restaurant was responsible for maintaining workplace safety.

The Court found in favor of Ms. Park and sustained her demurrer. By sustaining her demurrer, Ms. Park was dismissed from the lawsuit.

Dismissal — February 7, 2014
Christopher Faenza and Timothy McCormick

Christopher Faenza and Tim McCormick successfully defended a lawsuit involving allegations of a dangerous condition of public property, obtaining a dismissal in exchange for a waiver of defense costs. Plaintiff was a 21-year-old student at the University of California who rode his bicycle into a drainage catch basin on a landscaped portion of campus and sustained catastrophic injuries rendering him a paraplegic. Plaintiff demanded $26 million from the defendants at mediation. Our client was a landscaping company that constructed a block wall around the catch basin where the plaintiff fell. On the eve of trial, plaintiff effectively conceded the client had no liability to the plaintiff based on the "completed and accepted" doctrine, which shields contractors from liability where a property owner, in this case the University of California, accepts the contractor's completed work.

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