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This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 08/14/2019 at 09:43:42 (UTC).

BRANDO JONES ET AL VS AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR CO INC ET AL

Case Summary

On 02/23/2016 BRANDO JONES filed a Personal Injury - Other Product Liability lawsuit against AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR CO INC. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are MEL RED RECANA, DEIRDRE HILL and BENNY C. OSORIO. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****1277

  • Filing Date:

    02/23/2016

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Personal Injury - Other Product Liability

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

MEL RED RECANA

DEIRDRE HILL

BENNY C. OSORIO

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs and Petitioners

JONES BRANDON

JONES REBECCA

Defendants and Respondents

TRACY MOTORSPORTS INC.

HONDA MOTOR CO. LTD.

AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR CO. INC.

VERDI TRAVEL USA INC.

HONDA MOTOR CO. LTD - DOE 8

PRO CIRCUIT PRODUCTS INC. - DOE 2

MODS TOKYO

HAESEKER JIM

KG CLUTCH FACTORY - DOE 4

DENSO CORPORATION - DOE 7

FACTORY CONNECTION RACING INC. - DOE 11

PRO CIRCUIT RACING INC. - DOE 1

RDUB INC.

FACTORY CONNECTION INC. - DOE TEN

KG POWER SPORTS - DOE 4

VORTEX IGNITIONS - DOE 9

MIKA METALS - ROE 3

Defendants and Cross Plaintiffs

PRO CIRCUIT PRODUCTS INC. - DOE 2

MODS TOKYO

PRO CIRCUIT RACING INC. - DOE 1

RDUB INC.

Cross Defendant

HAESEKER RACING ENGINES A BUSINESS ENTITY OF UNKNOWN FORM

12 More Parties Available

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorneys

JONES CLIFFORD LLP

BELL STEVEN JAMES

BELL STEVEN J. ESQ.

Defendant and Respondent Attorneys

BOWMAN AND BROOKE LLP

BERGSTEN ROBERT T. ESQ.

HSU JEFF CHIEH

HOFFMAN BRIAN L

MINNICK KRISTINE ELIZABETH

TABAK JORDAN SAMUEL

HALE MICHAEL

STONE & ASSOCIATES

REED SMITH LLP

YUKEVICH/CAVANAUGH

Cross Plaintiff Attorney

GILLESPIE PATRICK

Other Attorneys

FRIEDENTHAL HEFFERNAN & BROWN LLP

 

Court Documents

Minute Order

6/5/2019: Minute Order

Motion for Summary Judgment

7/15/2019: Motion for Summary Judgment

Case Management Statement

6/21/2018: Case Management Statement

Case Management Statement

9/19/2018: Case Management Statement

Objection

9/27/2018: Objection

Declaration

12/12/2018: Declaration

Motion for Summary Judgment

12/12/2018: Motion for Summary Judgment

Notice of Motion

12/18/2018: Notice of Motion

Case Management Statement

12/21/2018: Case Management Statement

Opposition

12/27/2018: Opposition

Cross-Complaint

1/10/2019: Cross-Complaint

Notice

3/11/2019: Notice

Declaration

3/14/2019: Declaration

Separate Statement

3/14/2019: Separate Statement

Case Management Statement

4/5/2019: Case Management Statement

Minute Order

5/21/2019: Minute Order

SUBSTITUTION OF ATTORNEY

8/25/2016: SUBSTITUTION OF ATTORNEY

Minute Order

6/2/2017: Minute Order

152 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 04/15/2020
  • Hearingat 08:30 AM in Department 37 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment

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  • 10/04/2019
  • Hearingat 08:30 AM in Department 37 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Case Management Conference

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  • 08/07/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department M; Hearing on Motion for Summary Adjudication - Not Held - Vacated by Court

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  • 08/07/2019
  • Docketat 4:00 PM in Department 37; Informal Discovery Conference (IDC) - Held

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  • 08/07/2019
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Informal Discovery Conference (IDC))); Filed by Clerk

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  • 08/05/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department M; Hearing on Motion for Leave (to Withdraw Admissions) - Not Held - Vacated by Court

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  • 08/02/2019
  • DocketNotice of Change of Address or Other Contact Information; Filed by Kristine Elizabeth Minnick (Attorney)

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  • 07/31/2019
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 07/18/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department M; Hearing on Motion to Compel Further Discovery Responses - Not Held - Vacated by Court

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  • 07/15/2019
  • DocketDeclaration (of Jim Payton); Filed by PRO CIRCUIT PRODUCTS, INC. - DOE 2 (Legacy Party)

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378 More Docket Entries
  • 03/15/2016
  • DocketProof-Service/Summons; Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff/Petitioner

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  • 03/15/2016
  • DocketProof-Service/Summons

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  • 03/15/2016
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS & COMPLAINT

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  • 03/07/2016
  • DocketFirst Amended Complaint; Filed by Plaintiff/Petitioner

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  • 03/07/2016
  • DocketFirst Amended Complaint; Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff/Petitioner

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  • 03/07/2016
  • DocketTHE FIRE AMENDED COMPLAINT

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  • 02/23/2016
  • DocketComplaint

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  • 02/23/2016
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by BRANDON JONES (Plaintiff); REBECCA JONES (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/23/2016
  • DocketSUMMONS

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  • 02/23/2016
  • DocketCOMPLAINT-PERS. INJURY, PROP DAMAGE, WRONGFUL DEATH (2 PAGES)

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC611277    Hearing Date: July 15, 2020    Dept: 37

HEARING DATE: July 15, 2020

CASE NUMBER: BC611277

CASE NAME: Brandon Jones v. American Honda Motor Co., et al.

MOVING PARTY: Defendant, Factory Connection, Inc.

RESPONDING PARTY: Plaintiff, Brandon Jones

TRIAL DATE: February 2, 2021

PROOF OF SERVICE: OK

MOTION: Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment

OPPOSITION: Conditional Non-Opposition (American Honda Motors Co.) April 3, 2020 ; Non-Opposition (Plaintiff), April 3, 2020.

REPLY: April 10, 2020

TENTATIVE: Factory’s motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. Factory is to give notice.

Background

This is a personal injury action arising out of Plaintiff, Brando Jones (“Brandon’s)’s use of a 2014 Honda CRF250R motorcycle (“Motorcycle”). The operative First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) alleges that the Motorcycle was designed, assembled, constructed, manufactured and/or engineered with defects, including a defect to the stator. The FAC further alleges that all defendants’ negligence regarding the Motorcycle caused Brandon to suffer severe personal injuries. Plaintiff, Rebecca Jones (“Rebecca”) also alleges that she suffered emotional distress as a result of witnessing Brandon’s injuries.

The FAC alleges causes of action as follows: (1) general negligence by Plaintiffs against defendants, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (“HMC”), American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (“AHM”) and Tracey Motorsports, Inc. (“Tracey”), (2) product liability against HMC, AHM and Tracy, and (3) loss of consortium by Rebecca against all defendants.

On April 22, 2016, Plaintiff dismissed HMC without prejudice.

On October 27, 2017, Plaintiffs filed doe amendments naming the following new defendants: (1) Pro Circuit Racing, Inc., (2) Pro Circuit Products, Inc., (3) Mika Metals, (4) KG Power Sports d/b/a KG Clutch Factory, (5) Rdub, Inc., a California corporation d/b/a Tokyo Mods, (6) Denso International America, Inc., (7) Denso Corporation, (8) Vortext Ignitions.

On January 10, 2019, defendant Tokyomods filed its cross-complaint for equity indemnity and contribution against Jim Haeseker and Haesker Racing.

Doe 10, Defendant Factory Connection, Inc. (“Factory”) now moves for summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication, on the following issues:

  1. Issue One: Plaintiffs’ First Cause of Action for General Negligence is without merit as a matter of law because Factory did not breach any duty to Plaintiffs.

  2. Issue Two: Plaintiffs’ Second Cause of Action for Products Liability is without merits as a matter of law because Factory did not design, distribute, manufacture or sell any product at issue in this case. Factory therefore owed Plaintiffs no duty to warn. Factory provided services only – not the sale of any product.

  1. Issue Three: Plaintiffs’ Third Cause of Action for Loss of consortium on behalf of plaintiff Rebecca Jones is without merit as a matter of law because it requires plaintiff Brandon Jones to have proven his claim against Factory. As set forth further herein, plaintiff Brandon Jones’ claims for general negligence and products liability fail as a matter of law. Plaintiff Rebecca Jones did not sustain a loss caused by Factory.

On April 3, 2020, Plaintiffs filed a notice of non-opposition to Factory’s motion. Further, Honda also filed a notice of non-opposition on April 3, 2020. As such, the court is inclined to grant Factory’s motion if Factory demonstrates that it has met its burden, as will be discussed more fully below.

Factual Background

Factory is the business of re-valving motorcycle suspension. (Separate Statement in Support of Motion (“DSS”) ¶ 1; Declaration of Steven J. Ross (“Ross Decl.”), ¶ 4.) Neither Plaintiff contends that there was any defect or failure of the work performed by Factory. (DSS ¶¶ 2-3; Exhibits in Support of Motion, Exhibits B-C (Plaintiffs Responses to Requests for Admission) at nos. 17-20, 24.)

On or about October 16, 2014, Plaintiff purchased the Motorcycle, a Honda CRF250R from a private seller named Lynn Arakelian. (DSS ¶ 5; Exhibit D (Plaintiffs Responses to Special Interrogatories), nos. 2-3.) Factory did not sell the Motorcycle to Plaintiffs and did not distribute, manufacturer or sell a suspension fork or shock absorber to Plaintiffs. (DSS ¶¶ 6-7; Ross Decl. ¶¶ 5-6; Exhibit B, nos. 25-26.) After Plaintiffs’ purchase of the Motorcycle, Factory’s only work on the Motorcycle was to modify one suspension fork by replacing the existing suspension fork with that for a Honda CFR 450. (DSS ¶¶ 9-10; Ross Decl. ¶ 7; Declaration of Stephen Watson (“Watson Decl.”), ¶ 6.) Further, Brandon made several modifications to the Motorcycle on his own. (DSS ¶ 11; Exhibit D, nos. 6-7.)

On January 27, 2015, Brandon was involved in a single-vehicle accident while riding the Motorcycle on the outdoor track at his home in Denair, California (the “Incident”). (DSS ¶ 12; Exhibit E (Plaintiff Depo) at 92:1-20.) At the time of the Incident, Brandon was a professional competitor in motocross/arenacross. (DSS ¶ 13, Exhibit E at 58:4-59:2.)

Plaintiffs allege the Incident was caused by the stator in the Motorcycle failing, which caused the engine to stall. (DSS ¶ 14; Exhibit A (First Amended Complaint) at ¶ 4.) The stator is a component of a motorcycle’s powertrain which is involved in delivering electrical power to the motorcycle’s engine. (DSS ¶ 15; Watson Decl. ¶ 9.) On the other hand, a motorcycle’s suspension forks and shock absorbers are a part of its’ structure; they have no direct relationship to the powertrain and are not electrical components. (DSS ¶ 16; Watson Decl. ¶ 10.) Factory did not have the Motorcycle’s stator in its possession or control at any time, never interacted with the Motorcycle’s stator, and provided no advice to Brandon regarding the stator. (DSS ¶¶ 18-20; Ross Decl. ¶¶ 8-11.) Finally, it is undisputed that there was no defect or failure of the Motorcycle’s suspension or shock absorbers, the only Motorcycle components which Factory interacts with in its ordinary course of business. (DSS ¶ 23; Watson Decl. ¶ 8; Exhibits B-C at nos. 11-12.)

Discussion

  1. Legal Standard

“The purpose of the law of summary judgment is to provide courts with a mechanism to cut through the parties' pleadings in order to determine whether, despite their allegations, trial is in fact necessary to resolve their dispute.” (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 843.) Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure, section 437c, subdivision (a):

A party may move for summary judgment in any action or proceeding if it is contended that the action has no merit or that there is no defense to the action or proceeding. The motion may be made at any time after 60 days have elapsed since the general appearance in the action or proceeding of each party against whom the motion is directed or at any earlier time after the general appearance that the court, with or without notice and upon good cause shown, may direct…. The motion shall be heard no later than 30 days before the date of trial, unless the court for good cause orders otherwise. The filing of the motion shall not extend the time within which a party must otherwise file a responsive pleading.

(Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (a).) A motion for summary judgment may be granted “if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (c).)

“The motion shall be supported by affidavits, declarations, admissions, answers to interrogatories, depositions, and matters of which judicial notice shall or may be taken. The supporting papers shall include a separate statement setting forth plainly and concisely all material facts that the moving party contends are undisputed. Each of the material facts stated shall be followed by a reference to the supporting evidence. The failure to comply with this requirement of a separate statement may in the court’s discretion constitute a sufficient ground for denial of the motion.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (b)(1); see also Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1350(c)(2) & (d).)

In analyzing motions for summary judgment, courts must apply a three-step analysis: “(1) identify the issues framed by the pleadings; (2) determine whether the moving party has negated the opponent's claims; and (3) determine whether the opposition has demonstrated the existence of a triable, material factual issue.” (Hinesley v. Oakshade Town Center (2005) 135 Cal.App.4th 289, 294 (Hinsley).) Pursuant to Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subdivision (p)(2):

A defendant or cross-defendant has met his or her burden of showing that a cause of action has no merit if the party has shown that one or more elements of the cause of action, even if not separately pleaded, cannot be established, or that there is a complete defense to the cause of action. Once the defendant or cross-defendant has met that burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff or cross-complainant to show that a triable issue of one or more material facts exists as to the cause of action or a defense thereto. The plaintiff or cross-complainant shall not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings to show that a triable issue of material fact exists but, instead, shall set forth the specific facts showing that a triable issue of material fact exists as to the cause of action or a defense thereto.

(Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (p)(2).) The court must “view the evidence in the light most favorable to the opposing party and accept all inferences reasonably drawn therefrom.” (Hinesley, 135 Cal.App.4th at p. 294; Dore v. Arnold Worldwide, Inc. (2006) 39 Cal.4th 384, 389 [Courts “liberally construe the evidence in support of the party opposing summary judgment and resolve doubts concerning the evidence in favor of that party.”].) A motion for summary judgment must be denied where the moving party’s evidence does not prove all material facts, even in the absence of any opposition (Leyva v. Sup. Ct. (1985) 164 Cal.App.3d 462, 475) or where the opposition is weak (Salasguevara v. Wyeth Labs., Inc. (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 379, 384, 387).

  1. Analysis

  1. Issue One: Plaintiffs’ First Cause of Action for General Negligence Fails as a Matter of Law as to Factory

As a general principle, “(a)¿Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.” (Civil Code § 1714.)

Negligence consists of the following elements: (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, (2) the defendant breached that duty, and (3) the breach proximately caused the plaintiff’s damages or injuries. (Lueras v. BAS Home Loan Servicing, LP (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 49, 62.) “Whether a duty of care exists is a question of law to be determined on a case-by-case basis.” (Ibid.)   

As discussed above, Factory contends that it is entitled to summary adjudication on the first issue because it owes Plaintiff no duty as a matter of law. Specifically, Factory contends that it has no duty to Plaintiff with respect to the Incident because it never possessed the Motorcycle or its stator, is not in the business of working on Motorcycle stators, and never offered Brandon any opinion on the Motorcycle’s stator. Further, and as discussed above, Factory has submitted evidence to demonstrate all of these contentions through the Declarations of Steven Ross and Stephen Watson. Finally, it is undisputed that Plaintiff contends the Incident was caused by a defect in the Motorcycle’s stator and Plaintiff nor Honda oppose Factory’s motion on this issue.

Accordingly, viewing the evidence submitted in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the court finds that no triable issue of material fact exists with regard to whether Factory was negligent. As such, summary adjudication is granted with respect to the first issue.

  1. Issue Two: Plaintiffs’ Second Cause of Action for Product Liability Fails as a Matter of Law as to Factory

“A manufacturer, distributor, or retailer is liable in tort if a defect in the manufacture or design of its product causes injury while the product is being used in a reasonably foreseeable way.” (Soule v. General Motors Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 560.) “The elements of a strict products liability cause of action are a defect in the manufacturer or design of the product or a failure to warn, causation and injury.” (County of Santa Calara v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2006) 137 Cal.App.4th 292, 318.)

Factory contends it is entitled to summary judgment as to the second issue on the following grounds: (1) Factory is in the business of providing a service, modifying shock absorbers, and not in the business of distributing motorcycles or stators, (2) Plaintiffs do not allege that Factory’s work was defective, or that Factory failed to warn them of any defect in the Motorcycle or its stator. (Motion, 13-15.) As discussed above, Factory has submitted evidence to demonstrate that it is in the business of modifying suspension forks and shock absorbers, and that both Plaintiffs admitted through their discovery responses that they have no evidence to support their claims against Factory. Further, neither Plaintiff nor Honda oppose Factory’s contentions.

Accordingly, viewing the evidence submitted in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the court finds that there is no triable issue of material fact with regard to Factory’s liability under Plaintiffs’ second cause of action. It is undisputed that Factory does not manufacture or distribute motorcycles, or their stators. Further, it is undisputed that Plaintiffs do not contend that Factory’s work was defective, or that Factory failed to warn of any defect.

Given the foregoing, summary adjudication is granted as to the second issue.

  1. Issue Three: Plaintiffs’ Third Cause of Action for Loss of Consortium Fails as a Matter of Law as to Factory

It is undisputed that Rebecca cause of action for loss of consortium is derivative of Brandon’s cause of action for negligence. Having found that there is no triable issue of material fact with respect to Plaintiffs’ first cause of action for negligence as to Factory, the court now finds that there is no triable issue of material fact with respect to the third cause of action for loss of consortium as to Factory.

Accordingly, Factory’s motion for summary adjudication is granted with respect to the third issue.

Conclusion

Factory’s motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. Factory is to give notice.

********************* 

HEARING DATE: July 15, 2020

CASE NUMBER: BC611277

CASE NAME: Brandon Jones v. American Honda Motor Co., et al.

MOVING PARTY: Defendant, Rdub, Inc., a California Corporation, d/b/a Tokyo Mods

RESPONDING PARTY: Plaintiff, Brandon Jones

TRIAL DATE: February 2, 2021

PROOF OF SERVICE: OK

MOTION: Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment

OPPOSITION: July 1, 2020; Conditional Non- Opposition by Defendant American Honda Motor Corp. April 3, 2020

REPLY: July 9, 2020; Reply to Conditional Non-Opposition by Defendant American Honda Motor Corp. July 9, 2020

TENTATIVE: Tokyo Mods’ motion for summary adjudication is GRANTED. Tokyo Mods is to give notice.

Background

This is a personal injury action arising out of Plaintiff, Brandon Jones (“Brandon’s)’s use of a 2014 Honda CRF250R motorcycle (“Motorcycle”). The operative First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) alleges that the Motorcycle was designed, assembled, constructed, manufactured and /or engineered with defects, including a defect to the stator. The FAC further alleges that all defendants’ negligence regarding the Motorcycle caused Brandon to suffer severe personal injuries. Plaintiff, Rebecca Jones (“Rebecca”) also alleges that she suffered emotional distress as a result of witnessing Brandon’s injuries.

The FAC alleges causes of action as follows: (1) general negligence by Plaintiffs against defendants, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (“HMC”), American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (“AHM”) and Tracey Motorsports, Inc. (“Tracey”), (2) product liability against HMC, AHM and Tracy, and (3) loss of consortium by Rebecca against all defendants.

On April 22, 2016, Plaintiff dismissed HMC without prejudice.

On October 27, 2017, Plaintiffs filed doe amendments naming the following new defendants: (1) Pro Circuit Racing, Inc., (2) Pro Circuit Products, Inc., (3) Mika Metals, (4) KG Power Sports d/b/a KG Clutch Factory, (5) Rdub, Inc., a California corporation d/b/a Tokyo Mods (“Tokyo Mods”), (6) Denso International America, Inc., (7) Denso Corporation, (8) Vortext Ignitions.

On January 10, 2019, defendant Tokyomods filed its cross-complaint for equity indemnity and contribution against Jim Haeseker and Haesker Racing.

Tokyo Mods now moves for summary judgment, or, in the alternative, summary adjudication on the following issues:

  1. Plaintiffs’ first cause of action for General Negligence is barred as to Tokyo Mods because Plaintiffs have failed to prove one or more essential elements, namely the existence of a defect. Code of Civil Procedure § 437(c)(f)(1);

  2. Plaintiffs’ first cause of action for General Negligence is barred as to Tokyo Mods because component parts doctrine operates as a complete defense to Plaintiffs’ cause of action against Tokyo Mods;

  3. Plaintiffs’ second cause of action for Products Liability is barred as to Tokyo Mods because Plaintiffs have failed to prove one or more essential elements, namely the existence of a defect. Code of Civil Procedure § 437(c)(f)(1);

  4. Plaintiffs’ second cause of action for Products Liability is barred as to Tokyo Mods because component parts doctrine operates as a complete defense to Plaintiffs’ cause of action against Tokyo Mods;

  5. Plaintiff Rebecca Jones’ third cause of action on the basis that it [is] derivative of the Plaintiffs’ first and second causes of action, and therefore barred as to Tokyo Mods. Code of Civil Procedure § 437(c)(f)(1);

Plaintiffs oppose the motion. AHM also filed a notice of “Conditional Non-Opposition” on April 3, 2020. AHM contends through this notice that the court’s ruling on Tokyo Mods’ motion “should clearly state that it does not limit any of Honda’s product modification defenses.” (see Notice of Conditional Non-Opposition to Tokyo Mods MSJ, p. 6.)

Request for Judicial Notice

Tokyo Mods requests that the court take judicial notice of the following pursuant to Evidence Code sections 452 and 453:

  1. Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint;

  2. Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Adjudication of Defendant AHM’s Second, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth and Ninth Affirmative Defenses.

Tokyo Mods’ request is granted. The existence and legal effect of these documents are appropriate matters for judicial notice. (Evidence Code § 452(d).)

Factual Background

On January 27, 2015, Brandon was injured while riding the Motorcycle on a practice racetrack at his residence allegedly malfunctioned. (hereinafter the “Incident”) (Request for Judicial Notice, Exhibit A (FAC)). Tokyo Mods contends that Jim Haeseker examined the Motorcycle following the Incident and determined that the Motorcycle’s stator had failed, causing the Motorcycle to lose power while Brandon was riding it. Although Tokyo Mods cites to Haeseker’s deposition transcript in support of this proposition, the cited portion does not support this contention. Specifically, Haeseker testified as follows:

Q: Okay. And would you expect there to be power coming out of the stator when you go through the kick-start procedure -- if it was working properly?

A: Yes, sir.

(Exhibit 1 (Haeseker Depo) at pp. 34:20-35:3.)

Further, Tokyo Mods also contends that Plaintiffs have admitted to only alleging a defect with the Motorcycle’s stator, and no other part. Tokyo Mods submits Plaintiff’s responses to its Special Interrogatories, Request for Admissions, and Supplemental Interrogatories in support of this contention.

Specifically, Plaintiff admitted that “the SUBJECT VORTEX” did not contain any defect” in response to Tokyo Mods’ Request for Admissions. (Separate Statement in Support of Motion (“DSS”) ¶ 2, Exhibit 3 (Plaintiff’s Responses to Request for Admissions, Set Two), number 10.) Further, Plaintiff was asked to “state all facts setting forth any design defects that [he] contend[s] exist in the SUBJECT VORTEX” in Tokyo Mods’ Supplemental Interrogatories. (DSS ¶ 2, Exhibit 4 (Plaintiff’s Responses to Supplemental Interrogatories, Set One), number 16.) In response, Plaintiff stated that “Plaintiff no longer contends that the SUBJECT VORTEX was defectively designed.” (Id.)

In opposition, Plaintiff does not dispute that he admitted in discovery that there were no defects with Tokyo Mods’ Vortex Ignition. (Separate Statement in Support of Opposition, (“PSS”), ¶ 2.) However, Plaintiff contends that “if the Vortex Ignition did in fact contribute or cause the stator failure,” then “the product is liable for the harm caused and under the claim for failure to warn.” (Id.)

Discussion

  1. Legal Standard

“The purpose of the law of summary judgment is to provide courts with a mechanism to cut through the parties' pleadings in order to determine whether, despite their allegations, trial is in fact necessary to resolve their dispute.” (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 843.) Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure, section 437c, subdivision (a):

A party may move for summary judgment in any action or proceeding if it is contended that the action has no merit or that there is no defense to the action or proceeding. The motion may be made at any time after 60 days have elapsed since the general appearance in the action or proceeding of each party against whom the motion is directed or at any earlier time after the general appearance that the court, with or without notice and upon good cause shown, may direct…. The motion shall be heard no later than 30 days before the date of trial, unless the court for good cause orders otherwise. The filing of the motion shall not extend the time within which a party must otherwise file a responsive pleading.

(Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (a).) A motion for summary judgment may be granted “if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (c).)

“The motion shall be supported by affidavits, declarations, admissions, answers to interrogatories, depositions, and matters of which judicial notice shall or may be taken. The supporting papers shall include a separate statement setting forth plainly and concisely all material facts that the moving party contends are undisputed. Each of the material facts stated shall be followed by a reference to the supporting evidence. The failure to comply with this requirement of a separate statement may in the court’s discretion constitute a sufficient ground for denial of the motion.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (b)(1); see also Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1350(c)(2) & (d).)

In analyzing motions for summary judgment, courts must apply a three-step analysis: “(1) identify the issues framed by the pleadings; (2) determine whether the moving party has negated the opponent's claims; and (3) determine whether the opposition has demonstrated the existence of a triable, material factual issue.” (Hinesley v. Oakshade Town Center (2005) 135 Cal.App.4th 289, 294 (Hinsley).) Pursuant to Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subdivision (p)(2):

A defendant or cross-defendant has met his or her burden of showing that a cause of action has no merit if the party has shown that one or more elements of the cause of action, even if not separately pleaded, cannot be established, or that there is a complete defense to the cause of action. Once the defendant or cross-defendant has met that burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff or cross-complainant to show that a triable issue of one or more material facts exists as to the cause of action or a defense thereto. The plaintiff or cross-complainant shall not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings to show that a triable issue of material fact exists but, instead, shall set forth the specific facts showing that a triable issue of material fact exists as to the cause of action or a defense thereto.

(Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (p)(2).) The court must “view the evidence in the light most favorable to the opposing party and accept all inferences reasonably drawn therefrom.” (Hinesley, 135 Cal.App.4th at p. 294; Dore v. Arnold Worldwide, Inc. (2006) 39 Cal.4th 384, 389 [Courts “liberally construe the evidence in support of the party opposing summary judgment and resolve doubts concerning the evidence in favor of that party.”].) A motion for summary judgment must be denied where the moving party’s evidence does not prove all material facts, even in the absence of any opposition (Leyva v. Sup. Ct. (1985) 164 Cal.App.3d 462, 475) or where the opposition is weak (Salasguevara v. Wyeth Labs., Inc. (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 379, 384, 387).

  1. Analysis

Tokyo Mods contends that summary judgment is warranted as to each of Plaintiffs’ causes of action against it because Plaintiffs cannot establish the elements of a manufacturing defect against it. (Motion, 9-11.) Tokyo Mods points to Plaintiff’s discovery responses, as discussed above, in support of this contention. (Id.) Tokyo Mods alternatively contends that all of Plaintiffs’ claims are barred because it is a component part distributor who allegedly had no part in installing the Subject Vortex on the Motorcycle. (Motion, 11-12.)

  1. Issues One, Two: First Cause of Action for General Negligence

As a general principle, “(a)¿Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.” (Civil Code § 1714.)

Negligence consists of the following elements: (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, (2) the defendant breached that duty, and (3) the breach proximately caused the plaintiff’s damages or injuries. (Lueras v. BAS Home Loan Servicing, LP (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 49, 62.) “Whether a duty of care exists is a question of law to be determined on a case-by-case basis.” (Ibid.)   

In opposition, Plaintiffs do not appear to dispute that they admitted that there was no defect in the Motorcycle’s Vortex Ignition. However, Plaintiffs contend that Tokyo Mods’ motion must be denied because it failed to disprove that using the Vortex Ignition in other motorcycles in a manner similar to how Plaintiff Brandon used the Vortex Ignition would not contribute to the stator failing. (Opposition, 8-9.) Plaintiffs contend that Tokyo Mods’ owner testified in deposition on January 22, 2019 that the Vortex Ignition, if modified similar to how Plaintiff modified it, “may reduce engine service.” (Opposition, 8.)

In reply, Tokyo Mods reiterates its contention that Plaintiffs do not contend that the Motorcycle’s Vortex Ignition was defective. (Reply, 1-2.) As such, Tokyo Mods’ contends that Plaintiffs’ apparent arguments regarding evidence of the Vortex Ignition in other motorcycles should not be considered. (Id.)

Given the foregoing, the court agrees with Tokyo Mods. It is undisputed that the Motorcycle’s Vortex Ignition was not defective. Further, it is undisputed that Plaintiffs have admitted as such through their responses to requests for admissions. Evidence of how the Vortex Ignition does function or may function in other motorcycles is irrelevant to whether the instant Motorcycle’s Vortex Ignition caused or contributed to Plaintiff Brandon’s injuries.

As such, viewing the evidence submitted in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the court finds that no triable issue of material fact exists with regard to whether Tokyo Mods’ was negligent. Accordingly, summary adjudication is granted with respect to the first and second issues.

  1. Issue Three, Four: Second Cause of Action for Products Liability

“A manufacturer, distributor, or retailer is liable in tort if a defect in the manufacture or design of its product causes injury while the product is being used in a reasonably foreseeable way.” (Soule v. General Motors Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 560.) “The elements of a strict products liability cause of action are a defect in the manufacturer or design of the product or a failure to warn, causation and injury.” (County of Santa Calara v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2006) 137 Cal.App.4th 292, 318.)

As discussed above, Tokyo Mods similarly contends that summary adjudication is warranted as to the third and fourth issues because Plaintiffs have admitted that Tokyo Mods’ Vortex Ignition was not defective in the Motorcycle. Plaintiffs do not dispute that the Motorcycle’s Vortex Ignition was not defective but instead appear to contend that Tokyo Mods was required to prove that the Vortex Ignition, if modified as Plaintiff did on the Motorcycle, would not contribute to stator failure.

Given the foregoing, and viewing the evidence submitted in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the court finds that no triable issue of material fact exists with regard to Plaintiffs’ second cause of action against Tokyo Mods. It is undisputed that the Motorcycle’s Vortex Ignition was not defective, and that Tokyo Mods had no other involvement in the parts or components of the Motorcycle.

As such, summary adjudication is granted with respect to the third and fourth issues.

  1. Issue Five: Third Cause of Action for Loss of Consortium

It is undisputed that Plaintiffs’ third cause of action is derived from Plaintiffs’ first and second causes of action. Having granted summary adjudication as to each of the first four issues, the court now grants summary adjudication as to the fifth issue.

Conclusion

Tokyo Mods’ motion for summary adjudication is GRANTED. Tokyo Mods is to give notice.

******************

HEARING DATE: July 15, 2020

CASE NUMBER: BC611277

CASE NAME: Brandon Jones v. American Honda Motor Co., et al.

MOVING PARTY: Defendant, Pro Circuit Products, Inc.

RESPONDING PARTY: Plaintiff, Brandon Jones

TRIAL DATE: February 2, 2021

PROOF OF SERVICE: OK

MOTION: Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment

OPPOSITION: July 1, 2020;

OPPOSITION (2): Conditional Non- Opposition by Defendant American Honda Motor Corp. June 10, 2020.

REPLY: July 9, 2020

REPLY (2): Reply to Defendant American Honda Motor Corp. Conditional Non-Opposition July 9, 2020

TENTATIVE: Pro Circuit’s Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. Pro Circuit is to give notice and prepare a proposed judgment.

Background

This is a personal injury action arising out of Plaintiff, Brandon Jones (“Brandon’s)’s use of a 2014 Honda CRF250R motorcycle (“Motorcycle”). The operative First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) alleges that the Motorcycle was designed, assembled, constructed, manufactured and /or engineered with defects, including a defect to the stator, which malfunctioned and cause Plaintiff injury. The FAC further alleges that all defendants’ negligence regarding the Motorcycle caused Brandon to suffer severe personal injuries. Plaintiff, Rebecca Jones (“Rebecca”) also alleges that she suffered emotional distress as a result of witnessing Brandon’s injuries.

The FAC alleges causes of action as follows: (1) general negligence by Plaintiffs against defendants, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (“HMC”), American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (“AHM”) and Tracey Motorsports, Inc. (“Tracey”), (2) product liability against HMC, AHM and Tracy, and (3) loss of consortium by Rebecca against all defendants.

On April 22, 2016, Plaintiff dismissed HMC without prejudice.

On October 27, 2017, Plaintiffs filed doe amendments naming the following new defendants: (1) Pro Circuit Racing, Inc., (2) Pro Circuit Products, Inc. (“Pro Circuit”), (3) Mika Metals, (4) KG Power Sports d/b/a KG Clutch Factory, (5) Rdub, Inc., a California corporation d/b/a Tokyo Mods (“Tokyo Mods”), (6) Denso International America, Inc., (7) Denso Corporation, (8) Vortext Ignitions.

On January 10, 2019, defendant Tokyomods filed its cross-complaint for equity indemnity and contribution against Jim Haeseker and Haesker Racing.

On January 10, 2020, Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary adjudication as to AHM’s affirmative defenses. Plaintiffs withdrew the motion on July 13, 2020.

Pro Circuit now moves for summary judgment as to Plaintiffs’ FAC in its entirety. Plaintiffs oppose the motion. Further, on June 10, 2020 Defendant AHM filed a “Conditional Non-Opposition” to Pro Circuit’s motion. The Condition Non-Opposition contends that any ruling on Pro Circuit’s motion “should clearly state that it does not limit any of Honda’s product modification defenses.”

Factual Background

On January 27, 2015, Plaintiff Brandon was injured while operating the Motorcycle when it malfunctioned. (the “Incident”) (Separate Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“DSS”), ¶ 1; FAC at p. 4.) Plaintiff testified that he had never experienced an engine malfunction in the Motorcycle prior to the Incident. (DSS ¶ 3; Exhibit B (Plaintiff Depo) at p. 147:16-24.) The Incident occurred when the Motorcycle suddenly lost power while Brandon was using it on a private motorcycle track on his property. (DSS ¶ 4; Exhibit C (Plaintiff Depo, Volume II) at pp. 236:8-239:16.)

Following the Incident, Plaintiff asked Jim Haeseker (“Haeseker”) to examine the Motorcycle to see what needed to be repaired. (DSS ¶ 6; Exhibit A (Haeseker Depo) at p. 28:3-29:13.) Haeseker owns Haeseker Racing Engines, a business involved in “rebuilding engines for motocross motorcycles.” (DSS ¶ 5; Exhibit A (Haeseker Depo) at p. 12:11-13:17.) Haeseker performed a diagnostic test and determined that the Incident had occurred because the Motorcycle’s stator had failed. (DSS ¶ 7; Exhibit A at pp. 28:3-36:13.) According to Pro Circuit’s expert, Christopher Brignola, P.E. (“Brignola”), the failure of the wire solder connection to the stator was consistent with a sudden loss of power to the Motorcycle. (DSS ¶ 8; Brignola Decl., ¶ 4.) Further, and according to Brignola, the stator is a stationary portion of the Motorcycle’s electric generator which supplies voltage to the Motorcycle’s engine. (Id.) A failure of the stator would result in no voltage, no combustion, and a stall of the Motorcycle’s engine. (Id.)

Prior to the Incident, Plaintiff had purchased parts, including pistons and clutch springs from Pro Circuit. (DSS ¶ 9; Declaration of Jim Payton (“Payton Decl.”), ¶ 2.) Jim Payton, the manager of Pro Circuit, attests that Pro Circuit at no time installed any of the parts Brandon purchased on the Motorcycle or on any motorcycle Brandon owned. (DSS ¶ 10; Payton Decl. ¶ 3.)

Plaintiff Brandon admitted in responses to Pro Circuit’s requests for admissions that he had no evidence that any of the parts he purchased from Pro Circuit had design or manufacturing defects. (DSS ¶ 11; Exhibit E (Plaintiff Responses to Pro Circuit Requests for Admission, Set Two).) However, Plaintiff Brandon stated in response to Form Interrogatories, Set Two, number 17.1, that AHM’s “experts” assert that Pro Circuit’s parts “could” cause a stator failure. (DSS ¶ 12; Exhibit F (Plaintiff Responses to Pro Circuit Form Interrogatories, Set Two.) Specifically, Plaintiff Brandon’s response to form interrogatory number 17.1 states as follows:

“…According to AHM’s experts, including but not necessarily limited to Graeme Fowler, the combination of the addition of a Vortex Ignition, SUBJECT PISTON, and SUBJECT EXHAUST, and/or other unspecified modifications to the engine of the SUBJECT VEHICLE could cause the wires of the stator to experience increased loading and stresses thereby leading to stator failure. If true, then the SUBJECT PISTON and SUBJECT EXHAUST were defectively designed because they did not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected them to perform when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable way.”

(Exhibit F at p.3, lines 3-10.) Further, AHM admitted in its own responses to Pro Circuit’s requests for admissions that it had no evidence that any of Pro Circuit’s parts had design or manufacturing defects. (Exhibit G (AHM Responses to Pro Circuit Requests for Admissions, Set One.) AHM also admitted that it had no evidence that Pro Circuit breached any express or implied warranties to Plaintiff Brandon, or that Pro Circuit failed to provide adequate warnings. (Id.; see e.g. Request numbers 3-5.)

Finally, both Payton and Brignola attest that there was no indication that any of the parts manufactured and sold by Pro Circuit and used by Plaintiff Brandon had any defect in design, manufacture or warning. (Brignola Decl. ¶ 7, Payton Decl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiffs dispute Brignola’s conclusion, and contend that he was unable to give an opinion during his deposition. Specifically, Brignola testified at his deposition that he had no opinion as to all of the following:

  1. Whether or not the Vortex Ignition, used with the Pro Circuit parts had any combined effect on the Incident;

  2. Whether or not the Pro Circuit parts have an effect on the Motorcycle;

  3. Whether or not the Vortex Ignition has an effect on the operation of the Motorcycle.

(Declaration of Steven J. Bell in Support of Opposition, ¶, Exhibit 27 at pp. 13:11-15:12.) Further, Brignola stated that he had not done any analysis as to how the modifications Plaintiff Brandon applied to the Motorcycle had affected the stator. (Id. at p. 15:4-12.)

Discussion

  1. Legal Standard

“The purpose of the law of summary judgment is to provide courts with a mechanism to cut through the parties' pleadings in order to determine whether, despite their allegations, trial is in fact necessary to resolve their dispute.” (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 843.) Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure, section 437c, subdivision (a):

A party may move for summary judgment in any action or proceeding if it is contended that the action has no merit or that there is no defense to the action or proceeding. The motion may be made at any time after 60 days have elapsed since the general appearance in the action or proceeding of each party against whom the motion is directed or at any earlier time after the general appearance that the court, with or without notice and upon good cause shown, may direct…. The motion shall be heard no later than 30 days before the date of trial, unless the court for good cause orders otherwise. The filing of the motion shall not extend the time within which a party must otherwise file a responsive pleading.

(Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (a).) A motion for summary judgment may be granted “if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (c).)

“The motion shall be supported by affidavits, declarations, admissions, answers to interrogatories, depositions, and matters of which judicial notice shall or may be taken. The supporting papers shall include a separate statement setting forth plainly and concisely all material facts that the moving party contends are undisputed. Each of the material facts stated shall be followed by a reference to the supporting evidence. The failure to comply with this requirement of a separate statement may in the court’s discretion constitute a sufficient ground for denial of the motion.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (b)(1); see also Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1350(c)(2) & (d).)

In analyzing motions for summary judgment, courts must apply a three-step analysis: “(1) identify the issues framed by the pleadings; (2) determine whether the moving party has negated the opponent's claims; and (3) determine whether the opposition has demonstrated the existence of a triable, material factual issue.” (Hinesley v. Oakshade Town Center (2005) 135 Cal.App.4th 289, 294 (Hinsley).) Pursuant to Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subdivision (p)(2):

A defendant or cross-defendant has met his or her burden of showing that a cause of action has no merit if the party has shown that one or more elements of the cause of action, even if not separately pleaded, cannot be established, or that there is a complete defense to the cause of action. Once the defendant or cross-defendant has met that burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff or cross-complainant to show that a triable issue of one or more material facts exists as to the cause of action or a defense thereto. The plaintiff or cross-complainant shall not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings to show that a triable issue of material fact exists but, instead, shall set forth the specific facts showing that a triable issue of material fact exists as to the cause of action or a defense thereto.

(Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (p)(2).) The court must “view the evidence in the light most favorable to the opposing party and accept all inferences reasonably drawn therefrom.” (Hinesley, 135 Cal.App.4th at p. 294; Dore v. Arnold Worldwide, Inc. (2006) 39 Cal.4th 384, 389 [Courts “liberally construe the evidence in support of the party opposing summary judgment and resolve doubts concerning the evidence in favor of that party.”].) A motion for summary judgment must be denied where the moving party’s evidence does not prove all material facts, even in the absence of any opposition (Leyva v. Sup. Ct. (1985) 164 Cal.App.3d 462, 475) or where the opposition is weak (Salasguevara v. Wyeth Labs., Inc. (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 379, 384, 387).

  1. Analysis

As a general principle, “(a)¿Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.” (Civil Code § 1714.)

Negligence consists of the following elements: (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, (2) the defendant breached that duty, and (3) the breach proximately caused the plaintiff’s damages or injuries. (Lueras v. BAS Home Loan Servicing, LP (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 49, 62.) “Whether a duty of care exists is a question of law to be determined on a case-by-case basis.” (Ibid.)  

“A manufacturer, distributor, or retailer is liable in tort if a defect in the manufacture or design of its product causes injury while the product is being used in a reasonably foreseeable way.” (Soule v. General Motors Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 560.) “The elements of a strict products liability cause of action are a defect in the manufacturer or design of the product or a failure to warn, causation and injury.” (County of Santa Calara v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2006) 137 Cal.App.4th 292, 318.)

Pro Circuit contends that summary judgment is warranted as to Plaintiffs’ entire action against it because Plaintiffs’ claims are based solely on speculation and conjecture. (Motion, 9-11.) As discussed above, Plaintiffs have admitted in discovery that they have no evidence of any part sold by Pro Circuit being defective.

In opposition, Plaintiffs appear to contend that Pro Circuit was required to disprove AHM’s expert’s theory that any of its parts could have caused or contributed to the stator’s ultimate failure, resulting in the Incident. (Opposition, 8-10.) Specifically, Plaintiffs argue that AHM expert Graeme Fowler’s declaration “may provide a reasonable inference that the use of the Circuit Piston and Exhaust with the subject motorcycle could cause stator failure, both individually and in combination with other non-OEM aftermarket components.” (Opposition, 8.)

In reply, Pro Circuit contends that its motion must be granted because Plaintiffs reliance on AHM expert Fowler’s declaration is improper. (Reply, 1-3.) Pro Circuit reiterates that Plaintiffs themselves have admitted that they have no evidence of any design defect, manufacturing defect, failure to warn or breach of warranty as to Pro Circuit’s products. (Id.)

Given the foregoing, and viewing the evidence submitted in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to establish the existence of a triable issue of material fact as to their claims against Pro Circuit. As discussed above, Plaintiffs do not dispute that their admitted in Responses to Requests for Admission that they had no evidence of a design defect, manufacturing defect, failure to warn or breach of warranty against Pro Circuit. Instead, Plaintiffs appear to contend that Pro Circuit is not yet entitled to summary judgment because future evidence which supports the Fowler Declaration may arise, which may demonstrate that Pro Circuit is liable in part for Plaintiffs’ injuries. However, this is not the standard in deciding a motion for summary judgment. Because Plaintiffs have not responded

Conclusion

Pro Circuit’s Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. Pro Circuit is to give notice and prepare a proposed judgment.

Case Number: BC611277    Hearing Date: November 12, 2019    Dept: 37

HEARING DATE: November 12, 2019

CASE NUMBER: BC611277

CASE NAME: Brandon Jones, et al. v. American Honda Motor Co. Inc., et al.

TRIAL DATE: April 2, 2021

MOTION: Motion to Compel Further Response Inspection Demand from Plaintiff

MOVING PARTIES: Plaintiff, Brandon Jones

OPPOSING PARTY: Defendant, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

PROOF OF SERVICE: OK

OPPOSITION: Timely filed October 29, 2019

REPLY: Timely filed November 4, 2019

TENTATIVE: The court therefore GRANTS Plaintiff Brandon Jones’ motion and ORDERS Defendant AHM to provide substantive, complete, verified responses to Plaintiff’s requests within 30 days of the date of this order, subject to the Protective Order previously entered in this matter.

Background

This action arises out of a motorcycle crash occurring on January 27, 2015 involving Plaintiff, Brandon Jones (“Plaintiff”) and his allegedly defective Honda motorcycle. Plaintiff brings suit against American Honda Motor Co. (“AHM”) and Honda Motor Co., LTD (“HLTD”) (together “Defendants”), alleging that Defendants negligently designed and constructed the motorcycle, including its stator, causing the engine to suddenly and unexpectedly stop on the day of Plaintiff’s crash. Plaintiff alleges (1) general negligence and (2) products liability against Defendants. Plaintiff Rebecca Jones also brings a loss of consortium cause of action in connection with Plaintiff’s crash.

Procedural History

On September 27, 2016, the court entered a Stipulation and Protective Order Regarding Confidentiality of Documents and Materials (“Protective Order”.) (Declaration of Ross J. Psyhogios (“Psyhogios Decl.”), ¶ 2, Exhibit 1.) On April 10, 2016, the court entered a second Stipulation and Protective Order Regarding Confidentiality of Documents and Materials. (Psyhogios Decl., ¶ 3, Exhibit 2.)

Both Stipulation and Protective Orders provide the following:

1. Confidential documents and materials are documents designated, in good faith, by Producing Party as such, which consist of engineering documents, engineering materials, research and development materials, testing, meeting minutes, confidential financial information and/or confidential commercial information, as well as any materials defined as trade secrets and/or confidential research . . . Confidential information also includes Personal Identifiable Information (“PII”) which includes addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth . . names of spouses and children, and social security numbers.”

3. The Producing Party will visibly mark all such Protected Documents and Protected Information as “Subject to Protective Order,” “Confidential,” “Produced Pursuant to Protective Order,” or in such manner so as to make it clear that the documents are being produced pursuant to the protective order in this case.

4. The Protected Documents and Protected Information, except upon the prior written consent of the Producing Party or upon final ruling of this Court or writ, may only be shown, disseminated or disclosed to: (a) counsel of record for the Parties, including other members of counsel’s law firms, and employees thereof, and any other counsel associated to assist in preparation of trial of this case. . .”

(Exhibits 1-2 (Stipulation and Protective Order Regarding Confidentiality of Documents and Materials), ¶¶ 1, 3, 4.)

On August 11, 2017, Plaintiff propounded Request for Production of Documents, Set One. (Psyhogios Decl., ¶ 5.) This set included a request for “All WRITINGS, in English, regarding the subject motorcycle’s STATOR, including, but not limited to prints, assembly practices, testing procedures, testing protocols, engineering drawings, test histories, and failure histories.” On February 1, 2018 and following a motion to compel, AHM produced pursuant to Protective Order various documents bates stamped AHM 000958-000977, which are at issue in this motion. The documents were stamped “PRODUCED PURSUANT TO PROTECTIVE ORDER.” (Psyhogios Decl., ¶ 6.) AHM served supplemental responses on March 9, 2018 and identified these documents as “documents regarding customer stators,.” (Psyhogios Decl., ¶ 7, Exhibit 3.)

On March 12, 2019, Plaintiff served Request for Production of Documents, Set Three by mail. On April 16, 2019, AHM served its responses by mail. (Psyhogios Decl., ¶¶ 8-10, Exhibits 4-5.) Plaintiff’s motion contends that AHM’s responses to Request for Production of Documents, Set Three, numbers 10-12 are insufficient despite multiple meet and confer efforts and an IDC conference. AHM contends that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that responses to these requests are relevant to his causes of action, or that Plaintiff can overcome the privacy concerns behind disclosing personally identifying information of the sellers, purchasers and riders which would be responsive.

The Parties’ Meet and Confer Efforts

A motion to compel further responses to interrogatories and inspection demands “shall be accompanied by a meet and confer declaration.” (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 2030.300, subd. (b); 2031.310, subd. (b)(2).) The declaration must state facts showing a reasonable and good faith attempt at an informal resolution of each issue presented in the motion. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2016.040.) “[A] reasonable and good faith attempt at informal resolution entails something more than bickering with [opposing] counsel…. Rather, the law requires that counsel attempt to talk the matter over, compare their views, consult, and deliberate.” (Clement v. Alegre (2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 1277, 1294.) “A determination of whether an attempt at informal resolution is adequate involves the exercise of discretion.” (Stewart v. Colonial W. Agency (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 1006, 1016, internal ellipses omitted.) Where a party fails to make any real effort at informal resolution, a particularly egregious failure may justify an immediate and outright denial of further discovery. (Obregon v. Superior Court (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 424, 433-34, citing Townsend v. Superior Court (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 1431, 1437.)

Plaintiffs submit the declaration of Ross J. Psyhogios (“Psyhogios”) as evidence of their efforts to meet and confer with AHM counsel regarding the subject motion. (Psyhogios Decl., ¶¶ 11-24, Exhibits 6-13.) According to Psyhogios, he first sent a meet and confer letter on April 25, 2019 to AHM counsel challenging AHM’s objections to requests 10-12. (Id. at ¶ 11, Exhibit 6.) AHM counsel, Jordan Tabak (“Tabak”) responded on Mary 6, 2019 and made the following arguments against responding to these requests: (1) the responses are not relevant because they concern motorcycle failures that are dissimilar to the one Plaintiff alleges to have suffered, (2) the requests are burdensome and oppressive, and (3) responding to the requests seeks to invade the privacy of third parties, including the privacy of citizens from foreign countries where the subject motorcycle failures took place. (Id. ¶ 12, Exhibit 7.)

On May 21, 2019, Plaintiff’s counsel sent a further meet and confer letter in response to Tabak’s May 6, 2019 letter. (Id. ¶ 13, Exhibit 8.) Psyhogios’ letter asserts that responses to requests 10-12 are relevant for Plaintiff to investigate the evidence behind AHM’s assertions that Plaintiff’s own modifications led to his alleged engine failure. (Id.) Further, Psyhogios asserts that AHM failed to successfully object on the basis of the requests being oppressive and burdensome, as well as on the basis that the requests seek to violate third party privacy. (Id.)

On May 28, 2019, Tabak responded to the May 28, 2019 meet and confer letter and reasserted AHM’s arguments from the May 6, 2019 letter. (Id. ¶ 14, Exhibit 9.)

On June 4, 2019, Psyhogios sent a further meet and confer letter. (Id., ¶ 15., Exhibit 10.) This letter requested that AHM serve a privilege log pursusant to Code of Civil Procedure section 2013.240, so that the court may examine the documents and objections in camera. (Id.) This letter also re-asserted Plaintiff’s previous arguments from prior meet and confer letters. (Id.)

On June 14, 2019, Tabak responded to Psyhogios’ June 4, 2019 letter and reiterated that AHM believed its responses were compliant by “identifying a category.” (Id., ¶ 17, Exhibit 12.)

On August 7, 2019, the parties attended an informal discovery conference (“IDC”) properly noticed before this court. After the IDC, the parties stipulated that “Defendant has thirty (30) days to provide Plaintiff with foreign law on privacy from an attorney from said foreign country. Plaintiff has thirty (30) days after that to file Motion to Compel or in the alternative to work with Defendant to resolve the discovery issues.” (Psyhogios Decl., ¶ 20, Exhibit 15.)

On September 6, 2019, AHM’s counsel emailed a copy of “Opinion Letter on the Transfer of Personal Data from the EU to the US in the context of Legal Proceedings.” (“Opinion Letter”) (Id., ¶ 21, Exhibit 16.) On September 10, 2019, Plaintiff’s counsel sent AHM’s counsel an email arguing that the letter AHM counsel provided did not support their claim that disclosing the contact information of third parties, including potential foreign cities, would subject Honda to violation of foreign law. (Id. ¶ 22, Exhibit 17.)

In response, Tabak sent an email on September 11, 2019 disputing Plaintiff’s counsel’s version of the IDC’s results. (Exhibit 17, p. 2-3.) Tabak’s email proposes an additional IDC and to provide the court with additional authority for AHM’s position that disclosing such information would violate foreign law. (Id.) Plaintiff’s counsel Steven Bell responded by email that day and indicated that his office would work on obtaining another IDC date. (Exhibit 17, p. 1.) Plaintiff’s counsel also suggested that the parties mention the issue to this court on their previously scheduled September 19, 2019 IDC for another issue.

On September 19, 2019, the parties met at an IDC on a separate issue, where they briefly discussed the issues in this motion and did not come to resolution. (Id., ¶ 23.) On October 4, 2019 the instant motion was filed.

Based on the foregoing, the court expresses concerns regarding whether Plaintiff has sufficiently demonstrated his meet and confer efforts with AHM’s counsel with regarding to filing this motion.

Plaintiff Brandon Jones’ Motion to Compel Defendant American Honda Motor Co. to Provide Further Responses to Request for Production, Set Three

I. Timeliness of Motions

Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure, sections 2030.300, subdivision (c) and 2031.310, subdivision (c), a motion to compel further responses to interrogatories or inspection demands must be filed within 45 days of service of the verified response, or on or before any specific later date to which the demanding party and the responding party have agreed in writing, with additional time allowed for the manner of service. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 1013, subd. (a); 2031.310, subd. (c).) The 45-day requirement of Code of Civil Procedure, section 2031.310, subdivision (c) is mandatory and jurisdictional in the sense that it renders the court without authority to rule on a motion to compel further responses to discovery other than to deny the motion. (Sexton v. Superior Court (1997) 58 Cal.App.4th 1403, 1410 (Sexton).)

Plaintiff presents evidence that the parties attended IDC before this court on August 7, 2019, wherein the parties stipulated for AHM’s counsel to provide evidence of AHM’s claim that responding to these requests potentially violates foreign law. (Psyhogios Decl., ¶ 20, Exhibit 15.) The parties also stipulated that Plaintiff shall have thirty days after that to file his motion or, alternatively, to keep working on the issue informally. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed the instant motion on October 4, 2019, less than thirty days after AHM sent its Opinion Letter. Accordingly, the motion is timely.

II. Discussion

Under the Discovery Act, “any party may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action or to the determination of any motion made in that action, if the matter either is itself admissible in evidence or appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 2017.010.)

On receipt of responses to interrogatories or inspection demands, the propounding party may move for an order compelling a further response if the propounding party deems that either the response is evasive or incomplete or an objection is without merit or too general. (See Code Civ. Proc., §§ 2031.310, subd. (a)(1)-(3).) The moving party must also include reasons why further answers should be ordered: legal or factual arguments why the answers given were incomplete or nonresponsive, or the objections invalid. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1345(c).) The responding party has the burden to justify objections in response to a motion filed to compel further responses. (Fairmont Ins. Co. v. Superior Court (2000) 22 Cal.4th 245, 255.)

Plaintiff presents evidence that he propounded Request for Production, Set Three on March 12, 2019 on AHM. (Psyhogios Decl., ¶ 8, Exhibit 4.) AHM responded to Plaintiff’s requests on April 16, 2019. (Id., ¶ 9, Exhibit 5.) AHM’s responses to requests 10-12 each object to the requests as demanding documents “not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” (Id.) The responses also object to the requests as burdensome and oppressive, and on the grounds that they call for “personally identifying information that is subject to a right of privacy pursuant to Article 1 of the California Constitution and the Constitution of the country of Sweden.” (Id.)

California Courts have recognized that privacy concerns are not absolute and must be balanced against other important interests. (E.g., Hill v. Nat. Collegiate Athletic Ass’n (1994) 7 Cal.4th 1, 37.) “When the right to discovery conflicts with a privileged right, the court is required to carefully balance the right of privacy with the need for discovery.” (Tylo v. Superior Court (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 1379, 1387 (Tylo).) “The burden is on the party seeking the constitutionally protected information to establish direct relevance.” (Davis v. Superior Court (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1008, 1017.) “Mere speculation as to the possibility that some portion of the records might be relevant to some substantive issue does not suffice.” (Ibid.)

In turn, the party asserting a privacy interest bears the burden to establish its extent and the seriousness of the prospective invasion, and the court must weigh against that showing the countervailing interests the requesting party identifies. (Williams v. Superior Court (2017) 3 Cal.5th 531, 557 (Williams).)

Here, requests 10-12 ask for all WRITINGS that IDENTIFY the PERSONS who bought or sold motorcycles, or who were involved in the incidents in previously produced documents AGM 000958-000977. (Pshyogios Decl., Exhibit 5, pp. 6-7.) Plaintiff contends that the requested information is relevant because Plaintiff is entitled to contact these individuals as potential witnesses to other stator failures. (Motion, 8.) AHM contends that the requested information is not relevant because the motorcycles did not fail in a substantially similar fashion. (Id., Exhibit 7, p. 2.)

After reviewing both parties’ evidence, the court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently established a need for the requested information. The court disagrees with AHM that the circumstances of each motorcycle’s failure has to be substantially similar to that which Plaintiff alleges, or that Plaintiff has to make a specific showing of what testimony he could expect from each potential witness. “Doubts as to relevance should generally be resolved in favor of permitting discovery.” (Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Superior Court (1982) 31 Cal.3d 785, 790.)

Further, it is not overly burdensome or oppressive to require AHM to respond to this discovery given the protective orders in effect in this matter. Any concerns that contact information for AHM’s sellers or buyers is confidential may be resolved through the protective order, which provides that information properly marked shall only be disclosed for purposes of this matter. (see, Protective Order, ¶¶ 1, 3, 4.)

Accordingly, the court hereby GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion.

III. Conclusion

The court therefore GRANTS Plaintiff Brandon Jones’ motion and ORDERS Defendant AHM to provide substantive, complete, verified responses to Plaintiff’s requests within 30 days of the date of this order, subject to the Protective Order previously entered in this matter.

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