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This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 06/01/2019 at 06:48:50 (UTC).

DANIEL SANCHEZ ET AL VS HOLLIDAY TRUCKING COMPANY INC ET AL

Case Summary

On 10/19/2017 DANIEL SANCHEZ filed a Personal Injury - Other Personal Injury lawsuit against HOLLIDAY TRUCKING COMPANY INC. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Norwalk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are KRISTIN S. ESCALANTE, MARGARET MILLER BERNAL and PATRICK T. MEYERS. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****0215

  • Filing Date:

    10/19/2017

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Personal Injury - Other Personal Injury

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Norwalk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

KRISTIN S. ESCALANTE

MARGARET MILLER BERNAL

PATRICK T. MEYERS

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs and Petitioners

SANCHEZ MICHAEL

SANCHEZ DANIEL

PURNELL AMANDA

DANIEL SANCHEZ

Defendants, Respondents and Cross Defendants

HOLLIDAY TRUCKING INC

HOLLIDAY TRUCKING COMPANY INC

JONES ROBERT ALLEN

DOES 1 TO 20

C.E.G. DESIGN & ENGINEERING GROUP INC

C.E.G. CONSTRUCTION

HOLLIDAY ROCK COMPANY INC. ERRONEOSLY SU

C.E.G. DESIGN & ENGINEERING GROUP INC.

CHALMERS CORPORATION

ROBERT ALLEN JONES

CHALMERS CORPORATION DBA C.E.G. CONSTRUCT

HOLLIDAY TRUCKING COMPANY INC.

HOLLIDAY ROCK COMPANY INC.

HOLLIDAY TRUCKING INC.

CHALMERS CORPORATION DBA CEG CONSTRUCTION

Defendants and Cross Plaintiffs

C.E.G. DESIGN & ENGINEERING GROUP INC.

CHALMERS CORPORATION DBA C.E.G. CONSTRUCT

CHALMERS CORPORATION DBA CEG CONSTRUCTION

3 More Parties Available

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorneys

LEVENTHAL STAN ESQ.

LEVENTHAL STANLEY R. ESQ.

DORDICK GARY A. ESQ.

Defendant Attorneys

CLAPP MORONEY VUCINICH BEEMAN & SCHELE

LASCOLA MARK PHILIP

BEHAR JEFFREY S. ESQ.

GANDHI SHARUKH SEAN ESQ.

STEPHAN PAUL E.

Cross Defendant Attorneys

MANNING & KASS ELLROD RAMIREZ TRESTER

LIAO KAREN ESQ.

 

Court Documents

Minute Order

5/29/2018: Minute Order

Case Management Statement

6/14/2018: Case Management Statement

Notice

10/29/2018: Notice

Order

11/6/2018: Order

Motion in Limine

3/14/2019: Motion in Limine

Motion in Limine

3/14/2019: Motion in Limine

Motion in Limine

3/14/2019: Motion in Limine

Motion in Limine

3/14/2019: Motion in Limine

Motion in Limine

3/14/2019: Motion in Limine

Ex Parte Application

4/17/2019: Ex Parte Application

Minute Order

4/18/2019: Minute Order

Objection

5/28/2019: Objection

SUBSTITUTION OF ATTORNEY

2/1/2018: SUBSTITUTION OF ATTORNEY

Minute Order

11/6/2018: Minute Order

Notice of Ruling

11/9/2018: Notice of Ruling

PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

11/17/2017: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

11/17/2017: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

SUMMONS

10/19/2017: SUMMONS

59 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 05/28/2019
  • Opposition (DEFENDANT HOLLIDAY ROCK COMPANY, INC.'S OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR LEA VE TO FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT); Filed by Holliday Rock Company, Inc. (Defendant)

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  • 05/28/2019
  • Objection ( to Declaration of John M. Upton Filed in Support of Oppostion to Plaintiffs' Motion For an Order Granting Plaintifs Leave to File First Amended Complaint); Filed by C.E.G. Design & Engineering Group, Inc. (Defendant); Chalmers Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 05/28/2019
  • Opposition ( to Motion For Order Granting Plaintiffs Leave to File First Amended Complaint); Filed by C.E.G. Design & Engineering Group, Inc. (Cross-Complainant); Chalmers Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 05/23/2019
  • Association of Attorney; Filed by C.E.G. DESIGN & ENGINEERING GROUP, INC (Defendant); CHALMERS CORPORATION (Defendant)

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  • 05/16/2019
  • Notice of Motion; Filed by Daniel Sanchez (Plaintiff); Amanda Purnell (Plaintiff); Michael Sanchez (Plaintiff)

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  • 04/23/2019
  • Notice of Ruling; Filed by C.E.G. Design & Engineering Group, Inc. (Defendant); CHALMERS CORPORATION (Defendant)

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  • 04/19/2019
  • at 09:30 AM in Department W, Kristin S. Escalante, Presiding; Jury Trial ((time estimate for trial is 7/10 days)) - Not Held - Continued - Party's Motion

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  • 04/19/2019
  • at 09:30 AM in Department F, Margaret Miller Bernal, Presiding; Jury Trial - Not Held - Advanced and Vacated

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  • 04/18/2019
  • at 10:30 AM in Department C; Ex-Parte Proceedings (on Defendants Chalmers Corporation dba CEG Consruction; CEG Design & Engineering Group, Inc.) - Held

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  • 04/18/2019
  • at 08:30 AM in Department F, Margaret Miller Bernal, Presiding; Ex-Parte Proceedings

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117 More Docket Entries
  • 11/17/2017
  • Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

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  • 11/17/2017
  • Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

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  • 11/17/2017
  • PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 10/19/2017
  • Summons; Filed by Plaintiff

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  • 10/19/2017
  • Complaint; Filed by Daniel Sanchez (Plaintiff); Amanda Purnell (Plaintiff); Michael Sanchez (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 10/19/2017
  • Complaint Filed; Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 10/19/2017
  • SUMMONS

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 10/19/2017
  • Complaint; Filed by Daniel Sanchez (Plaintiff); Amanda Purnell (Plaintiff); Michael Sanchez (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 10/19/2017
  • Summons Filed; Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 10/19/2017
  • COMPLAINT-PERS. INJURY, PROP DAMAGE, WRONGFUL DEATH (2 PAGES)

    Read MoreRead Less

Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC680215    Hearing Date: March 30, 2021    Dept: C

SANCHEZ, et al. v. HOLLIDAY TRUCKING COMPANY, INC., et al.

CASE NO.:  BC680215

HEARING 3/30/21 @ 9:30 AM

[Remote appearances are encouraged and will be given priority.]

#4

TENTATIVE ORDER

Defendants Holliday Trucking Company, Inc. and Jones’s motion to bifurcate the issue of liability and damages at time of trial is DENIED without prejudice.

Moving Parties to give NOTICE.

Defendants Holliday Trucking Company, Inc. and Jones move to bifurcate the issue of liability and damages at time of trial.

The determination regarding bifurcation is best reserved for the trial judge in this matter. Defendants may renew their request at the time of trial.

Accordingly, Defendants’ motion to bifurcate is DENIED without prejudice.

Case Number: BC680215    Hearing Date: August 06, 2020    Dept: C

DANIEL SANCHEZ et al. v. HOLLIDAY TRUCKING COMPANY INC. et al.

CASE NO.: BC680215

HEARING: 08/06/2020

JUDGE: JOHN A. TORRIBIO

#6

TENATIVE ORDER

Defendants Holliday Rock Company, Inc. and Robert Allen Jones’ Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

Defendant Holliday Rock Company, Inc.’s Motion for in the alternative Summary Adjudication is GRANTED. Plaintiffs’ prayer for punitive damages against them are dismissed.

Moving Parties to give notice.

Background

This is a personal injury action arising from a motor vehicle accident allegedly caused by a failure to protect the public and warn motorists of dangerous conditions relating to a commercial construction project, specifically that commercial vehicles would be entering and exiting the project in the early morning at dark.

On August 17, 2017 at approximately 5:30 a.m., Decedent Dominque Sanchez (“Decedent”) was driving his motorcycle on a street adjacent to an ongoing commercial construction project when he crashed into the side of a concrete mixing truck operated by Robert Allen Jones (“Jones”), who was operating the truck for Holliday Rock Company, Inc. erroneously sued as Holliday Trucking Company, Inc. and Holliday Trucking, Inc. (“Holliday”). Holliday was the cement supplier for the construction project. Chalmers Corporation dba C.E.G. Construction (“Chalmers”) and C.E.G. Design & Engineering Group, Inc. (“CEG Design”) were the general contractors for the construction project and are allegedly responsible for the supervision and management of the job site.

On October 19, 2017, Plaintiffs Daniel Sanchez, Amanda Purnell, and Michael Sanchez (collectively “Plaintiffs”), who are Decedents’ heirs, filed their initial complaint.

On November 6, 2018, Chalmers and CEG Design filed their cross-complaint against Holliday, Jones, and Roes 1 through 100 for implied and express indemnity, equitable contribution, and declaratory relief.

On June 11, 2018, Plaintiffs filed the operative first amended complaint (“FAC”) against Holliday, Chalmers, CEG Design, Jones, and Does 1 to 20. Plaintiffs assert three causes of action: (1) motor vehicle; (2) general negligence; and (3) general negligence. Plaintiffs prayed for punitive damages for all three of their claims.

On September 12, 2019,[1] the Court (Judge Kristin S. Escalante) ruled on motions to strike involving the FAC. The Court struck the prayers for punitive damages and corresponding allegations in connection with the first and second causes of action because they are wrongful death actions, which cannot support punitive damages. The Court denied the request to strike the prayer for punitive damages and corresponding allegations in connection with the third cause of action, which the Court ruled was pled confusingly but did adequately state a survival claim. (See September 12, 2019 order 3:26-4:9.)

On February 19, 2020, Holliday and Jones (collectively “Movant Defendants”) filed a motion for: (1) summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ claims; and (2) in the alternative summary adjudication on (a) Plaintiffs’ claims because Plaintiffs cannot show any duty or breach of duty on Movant Defendants’ behalf that caused Plaintiffs’ damages and (b) Plaintiffs’ prayer for punitive damages against Holliday (notably, Plaintiffs do not pray for punitive damages against Jones). The original hearing date was scheduled for May 21, 2020.

On April 24, 2020, the Court continued the original hearing date from May 21, 2020 to August 6, 2020 because of Covid-19.

On July 23, 2020, Plaintiffs opposed.

On July 23, 2020, Chalmers and CEG Design opposed.

On July 30, 2020, Movant Defendants filed a reply.

Although not subject to this ruling, the Court notes that Defendants Chalmers and CEG Design filed a separate motion[2] for summary judgment or in the alternative summary adjudication and this motion also involves similar issues, i.e., the prayer for punitive damages. That motion is scheduled for a hearing on August 6, 2020 as well.

Request for judicial notice

Plaintiffs request the Court to take judicial notice of: (Exhibit 1) the Court’s September 12, 2019 minute order in this action the motions to strike.

Movant Defendants oppose the request for judicial notice, arguing it is not relevant because it involved a different standard of proof.

“Judicial notice may not be taken of any matter unless authorized or required by law.” (Evid. Code, § 450.) Evidence Code sections 451 and 452 list matters that are subject to judicial notice.

In regard to the documents for which the court grants judicial notice, the court is not mandated to accept the truth of its their contents or the parties’ interpretation of those contents. (Joslin v. H.A.S. Ins. Brokerage (1986) 184 Cal.App.3d 369, 374.)

The Court grants the opposed request for judicial notice. Whether the document is relevant or not does not mean it is not subject to judicial notice, and instead Movant Defendants are free to argue that the Court should not consider its analysis because it has little value to this instant matter.

Evidentiary objections

Only Plaintiffs object to portions of the other parties’ evidence.

Plaintiffs object to the Declaration of Karen Liao (Movant Defendants’ counsel).

The Court rules on the objection as follows:

(1 – referring to Exhibit 7 and Undisputed Material Facts (“UMF”) ¶¶ 14, 48, 82, 116, 150) sustained as to causation and overruled as to balance.

Legal authority

The purpose of a motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication “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 (Aguilar).) “Code of Civil Procedure section 437c, subdivision (c), requires the trial judge to grant summary judgment if all the evidence submitted, and ‘all inferences reasonably deducible from the evidence’ and uncontradicted by other inferences or evidence, show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” (Adler v. Manor Healthcare Corp. (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1110, 1119.)

“In ruling on the motion, the court must consider all of the evidence and all of the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom [citation] and must view such evidence [citations] and such inferences [citations] in the light most favorable to the opposing party.” (Aguilar, supra, 25 Cal.4th at pp. 844-845, quotation marks omitted.)

“On a motion for summary judgment, the initial burden is always on the moving party to make a prima facie showing that there are no triable issues of material fact.” (Scalf v. D. B. Log Homes, Inc. (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 1510, 1519.)

A defendant moving for summary judgment or summary adjudication “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 . . . cannot be established, or that there is a complete defense to the cause of action.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (p)(2).) “Once the defendant . . . has met that burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff . . . to show that a triable issue of one or more material facts exists as to the cause of action or a defense thereto.” (Ibid.) “If the plaintiff cannot do so, summary judgment should be granted.” (Avivi v. Centro Medico Urgente Medical Center (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 463, 467.)

Discussion

Summary judgment – breach of duty

Movant Defendants argue that the Court should grant summary judgment because there is no triable issue of fact whether Movant Defendants breached a duty.

The essential elements of a cause of action for negligence are: (1) the defendant’s legal duty of care toward the plaintiff, (2) the defendant’s breach of duty—the negligent act or omission; (3) injury to the plaintiff as a result of the breach—proximate or legal cause; and (4) damage to the plaintiff. (Leyva v. Garcia (2018) 20 Cal.App.5th 1095, 1103.)

Specifically, Movant Defendants contend that they meet their initial burden showing there was no breach of duty two reasons: (1) Jones exercised ordinary care while reversing the truck; and alternatively (2) Movant Defendants had no duty associated with the operation of the construction site and adjacent roadway.

Whether ordinary care was used in reversing the truck

Movant Defendants proffer evidence, mostly through Jones’ testimony, showing that Holliday was simply delivering concrete to the construction site using a truck operated by Jones, who had approximately 15 years of experience driving for Holliday and had Class A license since approximately 2002. This was Jones sixth delivery of the night. Jones followed the instruction by Chalmers’ flagman to reverse into the job site after being told the area was clear. Additionally, there was no visible oncoming traffic. Jones testified that his truck was illuminated with marker lights on fenders, taillights, hopper lights, rear running lights, and blinking emergency lights. There was also additional street lights and flood lights providing additional light. Jones testified that he checked both of his mirrors while reversing. Unfortunately, Decedent crashed into the driver side door of Jones’ truck.

Movant Defendants meet their initial burden on this basis.

Before addressing Plaintiffs’ arguments that they rebut the shifted burden, the Court notes that Movant Defendants do not also meet their initial burden because an investigating police officer concluded that Decedent caused the accident and did not cite Jones for any illegal conduct. This argument improperly relies on a police officer’s opinion regarding the cause of the accident when he did not observe the accident, but only inspected the scene and spoke to a few witnesses, and there is inadequate foundation in the supplied deposition testimony[3] of his training and experience other than being on patrol in the City of Santa Fe Springs. (See Stickel v. San Diego Elec. Ry. Co. (1948) 32 Cal.2d 157, 165; Crooks v. Pirrone (1964) 228 Cal.App.2d 549, 553.) Finally, citations for criminal conduct can be evidence of culpable conduct to support a breach. However, Movant Defendants do not provide any authority that there is no breach of duty simply because there was no criminal citation issued.

Plaintiffs argue that they rebut the shifted burden. Specifically, Plaintiffs cite the opinion testimony of Paul Herbert who opined that Jones breached his duty off care for several reasons: (1) Jones failed to adequately assess and evaluate the likely rate of speed the vehicles were approaching; (2) Jones believed the speed limit was 10 miles per hour slower than it actually was; (3) Jones violated the industry standard of care by backing his truck into an active travel lane without assuring it was safe to do so; (4) Jones should not have turned off his headlights when backing his truck; and (5) Jones should not have relied on the flagmen’s assistance because they were not paying attention to eastbound traffic.

There is a triable issue of fact because a fact-finder examining these facts could find that Jones did breach his standard of care. Movant Defendants insist that Jones when backing up his vehicle could not have seen Decedent coming. While this fact certainly does have merit, it is improper for the Court to weigh this fact in the instant motion. A fact-finder could find that Jones acted unreasonably by backing a large commercial truck into the construction site instead of going front first, regardless of whether Jones saw anyone coming when he started backing the truck. The Court also notes that there is evidence that Jones drove front first on several other occasions at the same site a week before, but drove back first during the accident. Additionally, whether Decedent had enough time to see or should have seen Jones backing into the space is an issue of fact that improperly asks the Court to weigh the evidence when a fact-finder could still find that Jones and Decedent both breached their duties in that scenario. Similarly, Movant Defendants insist that Jones relied on Chalmers’ flagmen that gave him the instruction that it was clear to back up. However, again, while this fact certainly does have merit, it is improper for the Court to weigh this fact in the instant motion. A fact-finder could find that Jones acted unreasonably by trusting this instruction given the circumstances, including the poor lighting and the position of the construction site around the bend of the road made it unreasonable to follow this instruction. A fact-finder might ultimately apportion more fault on Chalmers’ flagmen instead of Jones especially considering their poor training and lack of warnings for incoming motorists, but there is still evidence that shows a reasonable inference that Jones breached his duty.

Plaintiffs rebut the shifted burden on this basis. It is unnecessary to examine whether Plaintiffs rebut the shifted burden regarding the issue of the “reflective tape” and therefore the Court does not address that issue (opposition 20:8-19, reply 4:13-5:13), though the Court notes that Movant Defendants’ wrongly equate a lack of legal requirement for this tape to an automatic no breach of duty.

The Court denies summary judgment on this basis.

Whether Movant Defendants had no duty associated with the operation of the construction site and adjacent roadway.

Movant Defendants argue that Holiday had no duty associated with the operation of the construction site and adjacent roadway.

Movant Defendants proffer evidence showing that Holliday had no involvement other than supplying the supply ready mix concrete to the job site and had no involvement with the management of the construction site, including placing lights, hiring and positioning of flagmen to direct Jones, deciding (and not deciding) to place warning signs for incoming motorists, or not obtaining a traffic or special conditions permit.

Nevertheless, this argument overlooks the fact that there is a triable issue of fact whether Jones breached his duty as discussed above and Holliday as Jones’ employer is liable under a respondeat superior theory. Therefore, whether Movant Defendants did not breach a different duty is immaterial for the purposes of the instant motion. The Court notes that this could be a relevant issue at trial because it could relate to the apportionment of fault, but it is unnecessary to discuss further here.

The Court denies summary judgment on this basis. Because of this ruling, it is unnecessary to examine Chalmers and CEG Design’s opposition[4] arguing that Holliday had a duty as a concrete supplier because Holliday entered into a purchase order where it agreed to be responsible for a safe delivery of the concrete.

Punitive damages

Movant Defendants make two arguments why the Court should grant their motion involving the prayer for punitive damages as to Holliday:[5] (1) there are insufficient facts to support a prayer for punitive damages; and/or (2) Civil Code section 3294 requires corporate authorization or ratification of oppression, fraud, or malice and this did not occur.

Whether there are insufficient facts to support a prayer for punitive damages

Civil Code section 3294, subdivision (a) authorizes punitive damages when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence of malice, fraud, or oppression, which are defined as follows:

(1) “Malice” means conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.

(2) “Oppression” means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights.

(3) “Fraud” means an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of a material fact known to the defendant with the intention on the part of the defendant of thereby depriving a person of property or legal rights or otherwise causing injury.

(Civ. Code, § 3294, subd. (c).)

To defeat summary judgment on a claim for punitive damages, the burden, if the initial burden is shifted, is on plaintiff to produce “clear and convincing evidence” of malice, fraud or oppression. (Basich v. Allstate Ins. Co. (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 1112, 1121.)

This involves a heavier burden than what normally applies:

Under the clear and convincing standard, the evidence must be so clear as to leave no substantial doubt and sufficiently strong to command the unhesitating assent of every reasonable mind. Although the clear and convincing evidentiary standard is a stringent one, it does not impose on a plaintiff the obligation to prove a case for punitive damages at summary judgment [or summary adjudication]. . . . Summary judgment or summary adjudication on the issue of punitive damages is proper only when no reasonable jury could find the plaintiff’s evidence to be clear and convincing proof of malice, fraud or oppression.

(Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Superior Court (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 1150, 1158-1159, citations and internal quotation marks omitted.)

As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that its previous ruling on the motion to strike punitive damages is largely irrelevant to the instant motion. The previous ruling involved a different standard, examining whether Plaintiffs stated sufficient facts assumed to be true to support a prayer for punitive damages. Instead, in the instant motion, the Court now examines whether Movant Defendants introduce sufficient evidence to shift the initial burden to Plaintiffs. To the extent that Plaintiffs seek to rely on that ruling (see opposition 20:20-21:4), that issue is irrelevant.

Movant Defendants argue that they meet their initial burden because this is a case where the evidence does not support a prayer for punitive damages.

Movant Defendants proffer sufficient evidence to show that they did not expect the situation to occur in the abstract of a vehicle backing up into a construction site. Notably, Jones backed into the site five separate times that night without an incident. It cannot be said that Jones had special awareness of an immediate risk, e.g., a near-collision on an earlier attempt, whereby the fatal attempt with Decedent was an act in conscious disregard of Decedent on the road. Simply put, while the evidence shows a triable issue of fact whether Movant Defendants were negligent, the evidence shows that Movant Defendants were at most reckless when Jones decided to back up a large commercial truck on a road around a curve following the instruction of flagmen who were not in the best position to advise the area was clear.

Movant Defendants meet their initial burden on this basis.

Before addressing Plaintiffs’ arguments that they rebut the shifted burden, the Court notes that Movant Defendants do not also meet their initial burden because an investigating police officer concluded that Decedent caused the accident and did not cite Jones for any illegal conduct. The Court adopts its earlier analysis for this point here. Additionally, Movant Defendants do not meet their initial burden simply because Plaintiffs do not cite any law that they violated. Knowledge of an applicable ordinance and a violation of that ordinance despite knowledge can be evidence of culpable conduct to support punitive damages, depending on the extent of knowledge and the type and purpose of the ordinance. However, Movant Defendants do not provide any authority that this scenario is required to seek punitive damages.

In attempting to rebut the shifted burden, Plaintiffs proffer sufficient evidence to show there are triable issues of fact, including that Jones could have driven more safely by driving front first especially considering the lighting issues. Additionally, Plaintiffs proffer evidence that the reflective tape had no effect and Holliday should have visited the construction site to ensure its truck operators could act safely. Nevertheless, the evidence of this sort is insufficient to show the requisite culpable conduct necessary for punitive damages. While the conduct alleged unchallenged is certainly reckless, there is nothing to show willful or intent to cause the injury in an ordinary, routine negligence case. (Lackner v. North (2006) 135 Cal.App.4th 1188, 1212-1213.) Plaintiffs are unable to otherwise show by sufficient clear and convincing evidence that this conduct is more than reckless.

The Court grants summary adjudication on this basis.

Corporate knowledge, conscious disregard, authorization or ratification of conduct

Movant Defendants also argue that Holiday as a corporate defendant it cannot be held liable for punitive damages in the evidence of this case based on the conduct of Jones in operating his vehicle.

Civil Code section 3294, subdivision (b) provides that if the principal sought to be reached for punitive damages is a corporation, the advance knowledge and conscious disregard, authorization or ratification, or act of oppression, fraud or malice must be shown to have been on the part of an officer, director or managing agent acting in a corporate or employment capacity.

Here, Movant Defendants proffer sufficient evidence showing that Holliday had no advance knowledge of Jones’ unfitness to drive, instead that he was a responsible truck driver for over 15 years.

Holliday meets its initial burden on this basis.

In response to the shifted burden, Plaintiffs argue that Holliday engaged in substandard behavior and there is evidence that Holliday’s person most knowledgeable about the situation did not contact Chalmers before planning the delivery of the concrete. However, as discussed already above, this provides evidence, assuming it is true, of recklessness and not ratification of an act of oppression, fraud, or malice.

The Court grants summary adjudication on this basis.

Conclusion

Defendants Holliday Rock Company, Inc. and Robert Allen Jones’ Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

Defendant Holliday Rock Company, Inc.’s Motion for in the alternative Summary Adjudication is GRANTED. Plaintiffs’ prayer for punitive damages against them are dismissed.

Moving Parties to give notice.

#6

TENATIVE ORDER

Defendants Chalmers Corporation dba C.E.G. Construction and Design & Engineering Group, Inc.’s Motion for Summary Adjudication is GRANTED. Plaintiffs’ prayer for punitive damages against them are dismissed.

Defendant Design & Engineering Group, Inc.’s Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

Moving Parties to give notice.

Background

This is a personal injury action arising from a motor vehicle accident allegedly caused by a failure to protect the public and warn motorists of dangerous conditions relating to a commercial construction project, specifically that commercial vehicles would be entering and exiting the project in the early morning at dark.

On August 17, 2017 at approximately 5:30 a.m., Decedent Dominque Sanchez (“Decedent”) was driving his motorcycle on a street adjacent to an ongoing commercial construction project when he crashed into the side of a concrete mixing truck operated by Robert Allen Jones (“Jones”), who was operating the truck for Holliday Rock Company, Inc. erroneously sued as Holliday Trucking Company, Inc. and Holliday Trucking, Inc. (“Holliday”). Holliday was the cement supplier for the construction project. Chalmers Corporation dba C.E.G. Construction (“Chalmers”) and C.E.G. Design & Engineering Group, Inc. (“CEG Design”) were the general contractors for the construction project and are allegedly responsible for the supervision and management of the job site.

On October 19, 2017, Plaintiffs Daniel Sanchez, Amanda Purnell, and Michael Sanchez (collectively “Plaintiffs”), who are Decedents’ heirs, filed their initial complaint.

On November 6, 2018, Chalmers and CEG Design filed their cross-complaint against Holliday, Jones, and Roes 1 through 100 for implied and express indemnity, equitable contribution, and declaratory relief.

On June 11, 2018, Plaintiffs filed the operative first amended complaint (“FAC”) against Holliday, Chalmers, CEG Design, Jones, and Does 1 to 20. Plaintiffs assert three causes of action: (1) motor vehicle; (2) general negligence; and (3) general negligence. Plaintiffs prayed for punitive damages for all three of their claims.

On September 12, 2019,[6] the Court (Judge Kristin S. Escalante) ruled on motions to strike involving the FAC. The Court struck the prayers for punitive damages and corresponding allegations in connection with the first and second causes of action because they are wrongful death actions, which cannot support punitive damages. The Court denied the request to strike the prayer for punitive damages and corresponding allegations in connection with the third cause of action, which the Court ruled was pled confusingly but did adequately state a survival claim. (See September 12, 2019 order 3:26-4:9.)

On February 14, 2020, Chalmers and CEG Design (collectively “Movant Defendants”) filed a motion[7] for: (1) summary adjudication on Plaintiffs’ prayer for punitive damages against Movant Defendants; and (2) summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ FAC against CEG Design. The original hearing date was scheduled for April 30, 2020.

On April 10, 2020, the Court continued the original hearing date from April 30, 2020 to May 21, 2020 because of Covid-19.

On April 24, 2020, the Court continued the hearing from May 21, 2020 to August 6, 2020 because of Covid-19.

On July 23, 2020, Plaintiffs opposed.

On July 30, 2020, Movant Defendants filed a reply.

Although not subject to this ruling, the Court notes that Defendants Holliday and Jones filed a separate motion for summary judgment or in the alternative summary adjudication and this motion also involves similar issues, i.e., the prayer for punitive damages. That motion is scheduled for a hearing on August 6, 2020 as well.

Request for judicial notice

Both parties request the Court to take judicial notice of documents.

Movant Defendants request the Court to take judicial notice of: (Exhibit 1) City of Santa Fe Springs Code of Ordinances sections 96.040 and 96.106.

Plaintiffs request the Court to take judicial notice of: (Exhibit 1) the Court’s August 12, 2019 order in this action involving the motion to strike; (Exhibit 2) City of Santa Fe Springs Code of Ordinances sections 96.001, 96.008, and 96.040; (Exhibit 3) general ordinances of Los Angeles Count sections 12.08.090, 12.08.440, and 12.12.030.

The parties do not oppose the other parties’ requests.

“Judicial notice may not be taken of any matter unless authorized or required by law.” (Evid. Code, § 450.) Evidence Code sections 451 and 452 list matters that are subject to judicial notice.

In regard to the documents for which the court grants judicial notice, the court is not mandated to accept the truth of its their contents or the parties’ interpretation of those contents. (Joslin v. H.A.S. Ins. Brokerage (1986) 184 Cal.App.3d 369, 374.)

The Court grants the unopposed requests for judicial notice.

Evidentiary objections

The parties object to portions of the other parties’ evidence.

Plaintiffs’ objections to Movant Defendants’ evidence

Plaintiffs object to the Declaration of Ryan M. Sellers (Movant Defendants’ counsel) and James Delving (Chalmers’ chief financial officer and chief operating officer).

The Court rules on the objections to the Declaration of Ryan M. Sellers as follows:

(1 – referring to Exhibit 7 and Undisputed Material Facts (“UMF”) ¶ 15) sustained as to causation and overruled as to balance;

(2 – referring to Exhibit 7 and UMF ¶ 16) sustained as to causation and overruled as to balance;

(3 – referring to Exhibit 2 and UMF ¶¶ 35-36) overruled; and

(4 – referring to Exhibit 10) sustained.

The Court rules on the objections to the Declaration of James Devling as follows:

(1) overruled;

(2) overruled;

(3) overruled;

(4) overruled;

(5) overruled;

(6) overruled;

(7) overruled;

(8) overruled;

(9) overruled;

(10) overruled;

(11) overruled; and

(12) overruled.

Movant Defendants’ objections to Plaintiffs’ evidence

Movant Defendants object to portions of the submitted evidence, specifically deposition testimony annexed as exhibits to the Declaration of John M. Upton (Plaintiffs’ counsel).

The Court rules on the objections as follows:

(1 – referring to Exhibit 1) overruled;

(2 – referring to Exhibit 2) overruled;

(3 – referring to Exhibit 3) overruled; and

(4 – referring to Exhibit 4) sustained.

Legal authority

The purpose of a motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication “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 (Aguilar).) “Code of Civil Procedure section 437c, subdivision (c), requires the trial judge to grant summary judgment if all the evidence submitted, and ‘all inferences reasonably deducible from the evidence’ and uncontradicted by other inferences or evidence, show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” (Adler v. Manor Healthcare Corp. (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1110, 1119.)

“In ruling on the motion, the court must consider all of the evidence and all of the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom [citation] and must view such evidence [citations] and such inferences [citations] in the light most favorable to the opposing party.” (Aguilar, supra, 25 Cal.4th at pp. 844-845, quotation marks omitted.)

“On a motion for summary judgment, the initial burden is always on the moving party to make a prima facie showing that there are no triable issues of material fact.” (Scalf v. D. B. Log Homes, Inc. (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 1510, 1519.)

A defendant moving for summary judgment or summary adjudication “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 . . . cannot be established, or that there is a complete defense to the cause of action.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (p)(2).) “Once the defendant . . . has met that burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff . . . to show that a triable issue of one or more material facts exists as to the cause of action or a defense thereto.” (Ibid.) “If the plaintiff cannot do so, summary judgment should be granted.” (Avivi v. Centro Medico Urgente Medical Center (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 463, 467.)

Discussion

Punitive damages

Movant Defendants make two arguments why the Court should grant their motion involving the prayer for punitive damages: (1) there are insufficient facts to support a prayer for punitive damages; and/or (2) Civil Code section 3294 requires corporate authorization or ratification of oppression, fraud, or malice and this did not occur.

Whether there are insufficient facts to support a prayer for punitive damages

Civil Code section 3294, subdivision (a) authorizes punitive damages when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence of malice, fraud, or oppression, which are defined as follows:

(1) “Malice” means conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.

(4) “Oppression” means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights.

(5) “Fraud” means an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of a material fact known to the defendant with the intention on the part of the defendant of thereby depriving a person of property or legal rights or otherwise causing injury.

(Civ. Code, § 3294, subd. (c).)

To defeat summary judgment on a claim for punitive damages, the burden, if the initial burden is shifted, is on plaintiff to produce “clear and convincing evidence” of malice, fraud or oppression. (Basich v. Allstate Ins. Co. (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 1112, 1121.)

This involves a heavier burden than what normally applies:

Under the clear and convincing standard, the evidence must be so clear as to leave no substantial doubt and sufficiently strong to command the unhesitating assent of every reasonable mind. Although the clear and convincing evidentiary standard is a stringent one, it does not impose on a plaintiff the obligation to prove a case for punitive damages at summary judgment [or summary adjudication]. . . . Summary judgment or summary adjudication on the issue of punitive damages is proper only when no reasonable jury could find the plaintiff’s evidence to be clear and convincing proof of malice, fraud or oppression.

(Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Superior Court (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 1150, 1158-1159, citations and internal quotation marks omitted.)

As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that its previous ruling on the motion to strike punitive damages is largely irrelevant to the instant motion. The previous ruling involved a different standard, examining whether Plaintiffs stated sufficient facts assumed to be true to support a prayer for punitive damages. Instead, in the instant motion, the Court now examines whether Movant Defendants introduce sufficient evidence to shift the initial burden to Plaintiffs. To the extent that Movant Defendants attack the sufficiency of the pleadings (see motion 9:8-12, 10:13-11:6), that issue is irrelevant.

Movant Defendants argue that they meet their initial burden for several different reasons.

First, Movant Defendants argue that Plaintiffs allege that Chalmers impeded the flow of traffic and failed to obtain a permit from the City of Santa Fe Springs, but do not cite any ordinances that Movant Defendants allegedly violated. (Motion 9:8-12.) Movant Defendants argue that Plaintiffs cannot rely on violations of City of Santa Fe Springs Code of Ordinances sections 96.040 and 96.106 because the construction was adjacent to the public roadway and there was no excavation or construction on the public right of way or debris left behind on the public roadway from the construction work. (Motion 9:13-10:3.)

Movant Defendants do not cite any supporting authority why Plaintiffs must specify any violations of ordinances in their FAC to support a prayer for punitive damages. Knowledge of an applicable ordinance and a violation of that ordinance despite knowledge can be evidence of culpable conduct to support punitive damages, depending on the extent of knowledge and the type and purpose of the ordinance. However, Movant Defendants do not provide any authority that this scenario is required to seek punitive damages.

Movant Defendants do not meet their initial burden on this basis. The Court declines to examine whether Movant Defendants’ conduct violates certain ordinances, including through overnight work done without a special permit violates General Ordinances of Los Angeles County sections 12.08.440 and 12.12.030 and flagmen positioned in the roadways stopping vehicles and placing delineator cones violate Santa Fe Springs Code of Ordinances sections 96.002, 96.040, and 96.106. (See opposition 19:14-20:27 and reply 5:4-6:28.)

Second, Movant Defendants argue that Santa Fe Springs’ investigating police officer (Officer Fernando Sanchez) concluded that Decedent caused the subject collision and testified that there was no requirement to provide flagmen because the construction occurred on private property. (Motion 10:4-7.) Related to this argument, Movant Defendants argue that no one was cited for any criminal conduct. (Motion 10:7.)

Movant Defendants improperly rely on a police officer’s opinion regarding the cause of the accident when he did not observe the accident, but only inspected the scene and spoke to a few witnesses, and there is inadequate foundation in the supplied deposition testimony[8] of his training and experience other than being on patrol in the City of Santa Fe Springs. (See Stickel v. San Diego Elec. Ry. Co. (1948) 32 Cal.2d 157, 165; Crooks v. Pirrone (1964) 228 Cal.App.2d 549, 553.) Similarly, Movant Defendants improperly rely on the officer’s legal conclusion of whether there was a requirement to provide flagmen in this scenario. Finally, citations for criminal conduct can be evidence of culpable conduct to support punitive damages. However, Movant Defendants do not provide any authority that this scenario is required to seek punitive damages. Additionally, the Court notes that there are several scenarios when a defendant commits egregious conduct that is sufficient to support a prayer for punitive damages in a civil action, though the defendant might not be criminally charged or prosecuted for several reasons, e.g., suppression of evidence, exercise of discretion, and so forth.

Movant Defendants do not meet their initial burden on this basis.

Third, Movant Defendants argue that Plaintiffs’ FAC is pled too generally and there is insufficient evidence regarding their misconduct that is willful that supports punitive damages. (Motion 10:13-11:26.) Specifically, Movant Defendants argue that there are no facts suggesting that a cement truck backing into a driveway creates a probable risk of injuries to others, especially considering there is no evidence about advance notice, Chalmers’ subjectively believed that concrete trucks’ delivery was safe, and Chalmers had been involved with thousands of construction projects with similar truck deliveries without requesting or submitting a traffic plan to a public entity and did not cause accidents in similar manner.

Movant Defendants proffer sufficient evidence to show that they did not expect the situation to occur in the abstract of a vehicle backing up into a construction site. The fact that Chalmers had operated in similar situations without similar accidents is not greatly persuasive (considering that does not necessarily mean earlier occurrences were not problematic), but is sufficient to shift at least the initial burden. Additionally, Movant Defendants proffer deposition testimony by Jones showing there was no visible oncoming traffic when he reversed the concrete truck and the flagmen were assisting Jones.

Movant Defendants meet their initial burden on this basis.

However, Plaintiffs proffer sufficient evidence to show there are triable issues of fact, including that Jones did not have some lights on his truck, some of the street lights were not lit well, some flood lights were too bright affecting incoming motorists, and the flagmen had poor training had other responsibilities that got in the way of their ability to assist the concrete trucks in entering the construction site.

Nevertheless, the evidence of this sort is insufficient to show the requisite culpable conduct necessary for punitive damages. While the conduct alleged unchallenged is certainly reckless, there is nothing to show willful or intent to cause the injury in an ordinary, routine negligence case. (Lackner v. North (2006) 135 Cal.App.4th 1188, 1212-1213.) Plaintiffs are unable to otherwise show by sufficient clear and convincing evidence that this conduct is more than reckless.

The Court grants summary adjudication on this basis.

Fourth, Movant Defendants argue that the allegations of improperly configured lighting and inadequately trained flagmen to direct traffic are insufficient to show intent to cause injury or despicable conduct to support a prayer for punitive damages. (Motion 12:9-14.)

This argument does not require the Court to examine the evidence, notwithstanding Movant Defendants do proffer sufficient evidence to show that there were flood lights and some street lights and the flagmen had some experience in assisting concrete trucks in entering the private construction site. (Plaintiffs proffer evidence to create triable issues of fact on these issues as already discussed above.) Instead, the focus is whether Plaintiffs cannot support a claim for punitive damages even if there were inadequate lighting and inadequate safeguards. Allegations of this sort are insufficient to show the requisite culpable conduct necessary for punitive damages. As discussed above, while the conduct alleged unchallenged is certainly reckless, there is nothing to show willful or intent to cause the injury in an ordinary, routine negligence case.

The Court grants summary adjudication on this basis.

Finally, Movant Defendants argue that the alleged failure to apply for a City permit and/or traffic plan does not rise to the level of malice. (Motion 13:4-5.) Movant Defendants argue that there is no evidence to show that they deliberately disregarded City permit and traffic control requirements, and instead the evidence shows that doing so was unnecessary. (Motion 13:6-13.)

Similar to the above, it is unnecessary to examine the evidence here because the failure to obtain permits, even if done with conscious disregard of the law requiring them, is insufficient by itself to support a prayer for punitive damages. This type of evidence, assuming it is true, shows that Movant Defendants circumvented the administrative process, and that in itself does not increase the risk of harm. What is important is the actual conduct occurring that day.

The Court grants summary adjudication on this basis. Plaintiffs cannot otherwise rely on Noe Negrete’s deposition testimony to suggest otherwise. Moreover, the Court notes that Plaintiffs improperly rely on this deposition testimony for the same reasons that the Court sustains the objection.

The Court grants summary adjudication on this basis.

Corporate knowledge, conscious disregard, authorization or ratification of conduct

Movant Defendants also argue that as corporate defendants they cannot be held liable for punitive damages in the evidence of this case based on the conduct of their employees in managing the constructing site.

Civil Code section 3294, subdivision (b) provides that if the principal sought to be reached for punitive damages is a corporation, the advance knowledge and conscious disregard, authorization or ratification, or act of oppression, fraud or malice must be shown to have been on the part of an officer, director or managing agent acting in a corporate or employment capacity.

Here, Movant Defendants proffer sufficient evidence showing that Chalmers’[9] officers, directors, and managing agents were not aware of the alleged dangers that gave rise to the subject incident. (See UMF ¶¶ 26-32.)

Chalmers meets its initial burden on this basis. However, because CEG Design proffers no facts about its conduct relevant here, CEG Design does not meet its initial burden.

In response to Chalmers’ shifted burden, Plaintiffs argue that this evidence does not deny the placement of flagmen at the scene of the incident and Chalmers ratified this conduct based on their existing knowledge of legal prohibitions against this and experience running other construction projects. However, as discussed already above, this provides evidence, assuming it is true, of recklessness and not ratification of an act of oppression, fraud, or malice.

The Court grants summary adjudication on this basis only to Chalmers and denies it as to CEG Design.

CEG Design’s summary judgment

CEG Design seeks summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs’ claims (i.e., first, second, and third causes of action) on the basis that CEG Design is a separate entity that had no involvement with the management of the construction site, purchase or delivery of concrete, or any civil work performed at the project.

CEG Design proffers evidence in the form of deposition testimony by James Devling, Chalmers’ chief financial officer and chief operating officer, that CEG Design and Chalmers are separate and distinct entities and CEG Design was not otherwise involved in the management of the construction site. (UMF ¶¶ 35-36.) Therefore, CEG Design is not liable for any of Plaintiffs’ claims.

Movant Defendants meet their initial burden on this basis.

In response, Plaintiffs proffer evidence in the form of responses to special interrogatories that show that CEG Design was involved with the temporary lighting. (See opposition Ex. 6.) Notably, in response to the interrogatory, both Movant Defendants including CEG Design admitted as “Responding Party” that they owned the temporary lighting (Interrogatory No. 1), installed the temporary lighting (Interrogatory No. 2), and were responsible in aiming the temporary lighting (Interrogatory No. 3). Because this lighting blinded some incoming motorists (UMF response ¶ 10, Plaintiffs’ additional material facts ¶¶ 42, 44, 57), Plaintiffs correctly argue that CEG Design’s conduct “likely played a role in Decedent not seeing the Holliday truck crossing in front of him.” (Opposition 27:12-13.) This creates a triable issue of fact concerning CEG Design’s involvement in the management of the construction site and the exercise of that management (here, the installation and use of lights) is a possible cause of the accident that gives rise to Plaintiffs’ claims. CEG Design cannot otherwise claim that it had no involvement in the management of the construction site, notwithstanding the evidence seems to show this was its only involvement.

Plaintiffs rebut the shifted burden.

The Court denies summary judgment on this basis. Additionally, the Court notes that CEG Design argues in reply that the Court should defer to the deposition testimony over the discovery responses. (Reply 9:14-18.) However, doing so is improper in the context of the summary judgment motion standards (i.e., weighing evidence) and CEG Design also fails to otherwise amend CEG Design’s discovery responses to show there is no issue of fact.

The Court denies summary judgment on this basis.

Conclusion

Defendants Chalmers Corporation dba C.E.G. Construction and Design & Engineering Group, Inc.’s Motion for Summary Adjudication is GRANTED. Plaintiffs’ prayer for punitive damages against them are dismissed.

Defendant Design & Engineering Group, Inc.’s Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

Moving Parties to give notice.


[1] On August 12, 2019, the Court issued a minute order regarding this hearing, though the hearing was continued to September 12, 2019 when the Court held the ultimate hearing on the issue.

[2] Chalmers and CEG Design filed a motion for: (1) summary adjudication on Plaintiffs’ prayer for punitive damages against both Chalmers and CEG Design; and (2) summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ FAC against CEG Design only.

[3] For example, there is no testimony on his training of investigating accidents including courses, experiments, and so forth.

[4] Movant Defendants seek an order on Plaintiffs’ claims, not on Chalmers and CEG Design’s cross-claims. Therefore, the Court is unaware of any authority that allows Chalmers and CEG Design to file an opposition to this motion.

[5] The Court again notes that Plaintiffs do not pray for punitive damages against Jones.

[6] On August 12, 2019, the Court issued a minute order regarding this hearing, though the hearing was continued to September 12, 2019 when the Court held the ultimate hearing on the issue.

[7] This is filed as a single motion.

[8] For example, there is no testimony on his training of investigating accidents including courses, experiments, and so forth.

[9] There is no proffered evidence regarding CEG Design.

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