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FMG Law Blog Line

Posts Tagged ‘liability’

YMCA Owes No Duty To Provide Or Use AEDs When Renting Field To Private Soccer Club

Posted on: October 17th, 2018

By: Carlos Martinez-Garcia

California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal recently affirmed the trial Court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the YMCA, disposing of a wrongful death lawsuit involving a patron who died of a heart attack on their property. The appellate court agreed YMCA had no statutory or common law duty to provide or utilize AED devices to an adult experiencing cardiac arrest, when that adult is a permissive user of the facility whose independent soccer club rented an outdoor portion of YMCA’s soccer field.

Decedent Mr. Adeal Jabo was a member of a private soccer league (“The League”) which rented the YMCA’s enclosed soccer field independent of the YMCA’s memberships. The YMCA had defibrillator AEDs on its premises and regularly took AEDs to YMCA-led sport events, however, it did not bring AEDs to the League games since the games were independent of the YMCA. Mr. Jabo experienced cardiac arrest after a League game, later dying from the attack. Mr. Jabo’s on site medical care was limited to CPR despite AED devices available at the front desk of the YMCA.

The presence and use of AEDs at facilities are governed by CA Health & Safety Code section 104113 and Civil Code sections 1797.196 and 171421. “Health Studios” are required to acquire, maintain and train personnel on the use of AEDs.

Although the Appellate Court held the YMCA was a “health studio” towards its members, in this case it was renting a field to a nonmember League that did not choose to accept YMCA’s membership or regulatory practices. The Court narrowly construed the statutory language that imposes duties on Health Studios to its members. Consequently, the YMCA did not bring itself within the statutory definitions and duties applicable to “health studios” that are required to supply AEDs to ensure the safety of its members.

Next, the Court looked at Civil Code 104113, which outlines duties related to AEDs, and also grants immunities for not only the use of AEDs, but also their nonuse. The Court held that as a matter of law, Civil Codes 1797.196 and 171421 did not impose a duty on the YMCA’s employee to apply and activate an AED given the ‘nonuse’ portion of the statute, even though the YMCA had an AED on site to promote the safety of its members and other patrons on site.

Lastly, the Appellate Court determined that the YMCA had no common law duty to supply and implement an AED, because it did not take any action to increase risk of injuries to the Soccer League members, and the YMCA merely rented a portion of its property for the League’s independent use. Imposing a common law duty on the YMCA would improperly broaden the Legislative’s intent.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Carlos Martinez-Garcia at [email protected].

An Examination of the Interpretation of Free Recreation

Posted on: October 15th, 2018

By: Kevin Stone

In Georgia, if property is open free of charge for recreational purposes, the landowner is normally immune from liability for injuries occurring on the property.  A court can decide this as a matter of law without sending the case to a jury.  When sales occur on such property, however, a court may require a jury to decide whether the property’s use is “purely recreational,” rather than commercial.  This creation of a jury issue exists even if the sales are by private vendors and the landowner receives no payment.

For example, the Court of Appeals recently found that a free concert—at which concert-goers had the option of buying concessions from outside vendors (that did not pay the property owner), and where the event may have created a marketing benefit for the landowner—was considered to have both recreational and commercial purposes.  The result being that a jury, not a judge, had to resolve the issue of the property owner’s primary purpose for the property.  This interpretation of the law allows a commercial classification even though property is open for free for recreation.

This seems at odds with the purpose of the Recreational Property Act: “to encourage property owners to make their property available to the public for recreational purposes.”  In a concurrence, Chief Judge Dillard made the keen observation that a fair interpretation of the Act strongly suggests that the only relevant economic consideration is whether an admission fee is charged.  In such a case, the immunity would apply.

The Georgia Supreme Court has decided to weigh in and granted certiorari on these issues.  The Court’s examination will provide clarification for landowners who allow free access for recreation but also allow the public the option of making purchases.  We will continue to follow this case and keep you updated with the Court’s explanation.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Kevin Stone at [email protected].

Following in the Footsteps of Lebron James? Ohio Parts Ways with the Restatement of Liability Insurance

Posted on: August 17th, 2018

By: Matthew Weiss

Last week Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law legislation that rejected the American Law Institute’s (ALI) Restatement of the Law of Liability Insurance, claiming that it “does not constitute the public policy of Ohio.”  According to ALI, the legislation marks the first time a state has rejected a Restatement in its entirety.

The Restatement of the Law of Liability Insurance was approved by the ALI in May but has received a decidedly mixed public reaction.  Insurance attorneys have criticized numerous provisions within the Restatement.

In one example, lawyers have disagreed with the Restatement’s adoption of a “plain meaning presumption” in the interpretation of insurance contracts in the Comment to Section 3, rather than the “plain meaning rule” used in a majority of states.  This means that the Restatement advocates a “contextual approach” when interpreting provisions that requires the utilization of custom, practice, or usage.  In effect, this would lead courts to interpret insurance policies in light of the circumstances surrounding the drafting, negotiation, and performance of the policy.  By contrast, the plain meaning rule states that when a provision is “unambiguous” when applied to a claim in the context of the entire policy, courts must interpret the provision according to its plain meaning.

Another controversial provision is Section 8, which uses the word “substantiality” with respect to misrepresentation of material facts.  Experts claim that the word is unnecessarily vague and at odds with existing statutory and common law governing misrepresentation and rescission.  Similarly, Section 13 of the Restatement deviates from the majority of states by creating a duty to defend not only based on the allegations of a complaint, but also based on extrinsic evidence known to the insurer.  Finally, Section 11 provides that an insurer does not have a right to receive any information of the insured that is protected by attorney-client privilege, work-product immunity, or a lawyer’s duty of confidentiality under the rules of professional conduct if that information could be used to benefit the insurer at the expense of the insured.

The actual impact of the Restatement’s deviations from established case law in the field of liability insurance is subject to debate.  While the Restatement may have an impact in areas where limited case law exists nationally on a particular issue, where state law is silent on an issue, or where case law exists within a jurisdiction but no clear rule has been established, the Restatement will not overcome a rule in a state where clear precedent exists on a topic.

The impact of the Restatement of Liability Insurance remains to be seen, but the Ohio legislation is more likely to be the beginning, rather than the end, of a debate concerning its relevance and practicality.

For more information about the Restatement, or other insurance coverage issues, please contact Matthew Weiss of the Law Firm Freeman Mathis & Gary LLP at (678) 399-6356 or [email protected].

Is Georgia Game for Growing Bad Faith Liability?

Posted on: July 17th, 2018

By: Jessica Samford

As discussed in my last blog on bad faith, seeking bifurcation can be a proactive means to distinguish the issue of coverage from the issue of bad faith and appropriately manage the all too often unwieldy discovery process before it’s too late.  A recent case in Georgia is an interesting illustration of an insurer’s attempt to bifurcate issues after the discovery stage in a bad faith failure to settle claim in particular and is yet another cautionary example for insurers to carefully consider the increasing potential for extracontractual liability in Georgia.  Whiteside v. GEICO Indem. Co., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87868, *3-*4 (M.D. Ga. May 25, 2018).

In that case, the trial court declined to bifurcate the issues of liability and proximate cause of damages at the trial stage as requested by Geico, which sought to have a jury determine whether or not Geico could be held liable for bad faith failure to settle before being presented with evidence of the default judgment entered against Geico’s insured of almost $3 million and causation of same.  Separation of liability and damages issues was not warranted according to the trial court because facts relating to Geico’s claim handling were relevant to both, and Geico’s concerns could be handled through proper jury instructions, special interrogatories, and the verdict form.  See also Whiteside v. GEICO Indem. Co., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52761 (M.D. Ga. Mar. 29, 2018).  The trial court did, however, bifurcate the claim for punitive damages from the rest of the jury trial.

The result was a jury verdict of $2 million against Geico for failing to settle in response to a bicyclist’s demand for the $30,000 policy limit based on medical bills of almost $10,000 following a motor vehicle accident.  Previously, Geico had argued there was no coverage due to the insured’s failure to notify Geico of the subsequent lawsuit she was served.  Whiteside v. GEICO Indem. Co., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 203617, *6, 2017 WL 6347174 (M.D. Ga. Dec. 12, 2017).  Notwithstanding such a flagrant breach of the policy’s notice conditions, the trial court did not see coverage as being an issue since that coverage defense did not exist at the time Geico responded to the demand by offering to settle for about half the limits instead.

These unusual circumstances are certainly noteworthy, and extracontractual damages such as these are becoming less uncommon in Georgia bad faith cases.  FMG’s Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith BlogLine has already geared up to cover the Georgia Supreme Court’s upcoming rulings after granting cert on the scope of what triggers failure to settle liability in Georgia, not to mention the proposed changes to the Restatement of the Law of Liability Insurance and their impact.  Whatever is in the cards for extracontractual liability in Georgia, the risks presented by settlement demands should be evaluated in light of these current trends.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Jessica Samford at [email protected].

Driverless Motor Vehicle Lawsuit – The First of its Kind

Posted on: February 7th, 2018

By: Courtney K. Mazzio

General Motors is the first manufacturer to be hit with a driverless motor vehicle lawsuit. On December 7, motorcycle driver, Oscar Nilsson, alleges he was attempting to pass a self-automated Chevy Bolt on the right. The Bolt had indicated it was moving into the left hand lane, and according to Nilsson, when the coast was clear, he proceeded in his attempt to pass the Bolt. It was at that point the Bolt swerved back into Nilsson’s lane, knocking Nilsson over. Nilsson did walk to the side of the road, but was complaining of neck and shoulder injuries, which he allegedly treated for extensively and which required him to take disability leave from his job.

However, GM paints quite a different picture, detailing that the self-driving car attempted to merge into the left lane. However, the minivan ahead of it slowed down, and so the self-driving car abandoned the merge attempt. GM maintains it was as the self-driving car was attempting to center itself in the middle lane once again that Nilsson attempted to pass between the self-driving vehicle and a vehicle in the right lane. As he was attempting to make that pass, he hit the side of the self-driving vehicle. Notably, GM reported the self-driving car was keeping with traffic at its speed of 12 miles per hour while the motorcycle was traveling 17 miles per hour, which if proven, could be useful for them in mitigating liability They have also represented that the police report also maintains the company is at fault.

In the analysis swirling around driverless car technology and anticipated lawsuits sure to crop up, there is anticipation that car manufacturers will take the tack of either resolving swiftly when liability is poor or fighting tooth and nail when liability is questionable. The technology of the driverless vehicle no doubt affords car manufacturers the ability to be a bit more dichotomous. We will have to wait and see how this one pans out.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Courtney Mazzio at [email protected].