Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

A woman and her four children sued two doctors and a medical group, alleging a cause of action for the wrongful death of the woman’s husband from medical malpractice during surgery. The doctors and their medical group filed a joint motion for summary judgment, with the doctors invoking the “Good Samaritan Law” (see Bus. & Prof., § 2396) and their group arguing that, absent liability on the doctors’ part, it could have no vicarious liability as their principal. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion. The family appealed, and California’s Second District Court of Appeal affirmed.

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On May 15, 2012, the husband underwent scheduled, elective shoulder surgery at a hospital in East Los Angeles. A doctor performed the surgery. At the same time that a doctor was performing his shoulder surgery, two other doctor was performing heart surgery in an adjacent operating room.

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smart phoneA Texas couple recently sued Apple, Inc. in Santa Clara Superior Court. The suit claims that the iPhone’s FaceTime app caused the death of their 5-year-old daughter, Moriah Modisette, who was killed in a car crash due to a distracted driver using FaceTime. The child’s parents, James and Bethany Modisette, claim that Apple has failed to use “lock-out” technology to stop FaceTime from being used by drivers: “Apple has consistently and continuously failed to implement a safer, alternative design that would lock-out and prevent use of FaceTime while driving.” The suit alleges negligence and wrongful death, among other causes of action.

Moriah Modisette was killed on Christmas Eve 2014 when her parents’ Toyota Camry was hit from behind by a Toyota SUV driven by then 20-year-old Garrett Wilhelm. The lawsuit indicates the Camry had stopped for traffic when it was hit by Wilhelm’s SUV traveling at 65 mph on Interstate 35. His car allegedly rolled over the driver’s side of the Camry. While both James and Moriah were critically injured, Moriah did not survive the crash: she died of soon after being airlifted to a Fort Worth hospital. James, Bethany, the couples’ other daughter, Isabella, and Wilhelm were all taken in an ambulance to a Denton hospital.

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Early one evening in July 2015, 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was shot and killed on Pier 14 in San Francisco. The bullet hit Steinle from behind, piercing her aorta. She quickly collapsed to the ground and screamed for help. Her father performed CPR on his daughter before paramedics arrived. Kathryn died two hours later at the hospital. The shooter, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, was arrested roughly an hour after the shooting and charged with murder. The Steinles filed suit for wrongful death and negligence against various government officials in May 2016.


Lopez-Sanchez was charged with first-degree murder on July 6, 2015. The defendant admitted in an interview that he fired the lethal shot, but that he found the gun under a bench after taking sleeping pills from the trash. He also said that he was aiming to shot sea lions and hit Steinle accidentally. Lopez-Sanchez pleaded not guilty to the charges. The trial is scheduled for February 17, 2017.

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At the beginning of this month, a fire broke out in an Oakland warehouse known as the Ghost Ship at roughly 11:30 p.m. The Fruitvale neighborhood warehouse had been converted into an artist collective and housing units. The Ghost Ship was hosting a concert promoted by an LA record label. Thirty-six people were killed in the fire, making it the deadliest fire in Oakland history and the deadliest California fire since the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.


Several factors interfered with the escape process and led to the eventual fatalities. There were no sprinklers in the building, and firefighters on scene did not hear smoke detectors. The building was cluttered with wooden furniture and art. There was also a “makeshift, one-way stairwell” composed of wooden pallets that connected the first and second floors. Oakland Department Chief told reporters, “It was like a maze, almost.”

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A recent lawsuit filed in federal court in California claims officials should have prevented the death of  California inmate Hugo Pinell, who was killed just two weeks after being released into the general prison population last August. Pinell was revered by civil rights activists for his role in California’s prisoner rights movement of the 1960s.


Born in Nicaragua, Pinell was convicted of rape at age 19 and sentenced to life in prison in 1965. Pinell had been in solitary confinement since a violent escape attempt from San Quentin in 1971, which left six dead, including three prison guards and Black Panther activist and inmate George Jackson. Pinell was deemed one of the “San Quentin Six” for slitting the throats of several guards during the botched attempt. After what was at the time the longest trial in California history, Pinell was given a third life sentence for his involvement in the incident.

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The widow and children of a construction worker killed at a wastewater treatment facility in Southern California were recently awarded $16.3 million in their case against the construction company. construction

In August 2011, Edgar Alejandro Gonzalez was working at the Hyperion Treatment Plant, a wastewater plant in Playa del Rey that handles Los Angeles’ water supply. Edgar was helping to erect a concrete wall panel when it collapsed, causing him to fall 30 feet. Part of the wall then fell on him, resulting in severe head trauma that ultimately caused his death. His family filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Atlas Construction Supply, Inc.

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The California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District recently upheld the lower court’s grant of summary judgment for the defendants following a skateboarding death, based on the doctrine of primary assumption of risk.


Brett Bertsch died while using a skateboard in Mammoth Lakes, a resort community. His brother and he were traveling downhill at a fast speed and without helmets when the front wheels of Brett’s skateboard hit a gap between the paved road and a cement collar surrounding a manhole cover. As a result, Brett was thrown off the board. He suffered brain trauma and unfortunately eventually passed away from his injuries.

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The mother and son of deceased California resident Angela Slack, who died at the hospital less than a week after being arrested, are suing Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles. The police department is calling the incident an “in-custody suicide attempt.” breakout-1181601

Virginia Wheeler and Jonathan Goetz filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court this month on behalf of Slack, who was 40 years old at the time of her death. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages stemming from allegations of wrongful death, negligence, failure to provide medical care in police custody, deprivation of life without due process, and interference with the parent-child relationship.  A spokesperson from the City Attorney’s Office failed to provide comment.

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The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District recently held that in order to avail itself of the statutory immunity granted to public entities from a death or injury resulting from police pursuits of suspected criminals, the entity must develop, adopt, promulgate, and provide regular and periodic training policies. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Decedent Mike Wayne Morgan suffered fatal injuries when defendant Thomas Durnin crashed head-on into Morgan’s vehicle as Durnin was fleeing from Beaumont Police Officer Brian Stehli during a 12-minute car chase. The decedent’s widow and daughter filed suit, alleging wrongful death against defendants the City of Beaumont and the Beaumont Police Department (BPD).

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The California Court of Appeal for the Second District recently held in an asbestos-related cancer case that the trial court properly admitted testimony that the decedent’s exposure to asbestos in brake linings was a substantial factor in contributing to his developing mesothelioma. It further held that the manufacturer was not entitled to a supplemental instruction regarding factors to determine whether a plaintiff’s exposure to a particular asbestos-containing product should be deemed a substantial factor in causing the cancer.asbestos-1522143

In Rutherford v. Owens-Illinois, Inc., the California Supreme Court addressed the plaintiff’s burden in an asbestos-related cancer case to prove that the defendant’s product was a legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The California high court held that the plaintiff may prove causation by demonstrating that his exposure to defendant’s asbestos-containing product was a substantial factor in contributing to the aggregate dose of asbestos the plaintiff ingested and hence to the risk of developing asbestos-related cancer. To meet this burden, plaintiffs tend to present testimony from medical experts adopting the theory that exposure to even low doses of asbestos contributes to the development of mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer.

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