This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 06/08/2019 at 04:33:03 (UTC).

IRMA MOJARRO ET AL VS CITY OF WHITTIER

Case Summary

On 04/04/2017 IRMA MOJARRO filed a Personal Injury - Other Personal Injury lawsuit against CITY OF WHITTIER. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Norwalk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are LORI ANN FOURNIER, RAUL A. SAHAGUN, MARGARET MILLER BERNAL and MASTER CALENDAR. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****6449

  • Filing Date:

    04/04/2017

  • 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

LORI ANN FOURNIER

RAUL A. SAHAGUN

MARGARET MILLER BERNAL

MASTER CALENDAR

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs, Petitioners and Guardian Ad Litems

MOJARRO PATRICIA

MOJARRO IRMA

MARTINEZ PEDRO

MOJARRO SILVIA

MOJARRO FELICIANO

MARTINEZ PEDRO JR

STEFANIE OVIATT AN

GARCIA ASHLEY

CUEVAS RENE

CUEVAS SONIA

MARTINEZ PEDRO JR.

Defendants, Respondents and Cross Plaintiffs

WHITTIER CITY OF

DOES 1 THROUGH 50

WEST COAST ARBORISTS INC.

WEST COAST ARBORISTS INC

WEST COAST ARGORISTS INC

Defendants and Cross Defendants

WEST COAST ARBORISTS INC.

WEST COAST ARBORISTS INC

WEST COAST ARGORISTS INC

Minors

MARTINEZ P.

MARTINEZ I.

MARTINEZ J.

CUEVAS A

15 More Parties Available

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff, Petitioner and Minor Attorneys

LACK WALTER J. ESQ.

ENGSTROM LIPSCOMB & LACK A PROF CORP

LEINBACH BRIAN JOHN

ZULCH WILLIAM FREDRIC ESQ.

HEFFERNAN BRIAN JOSEPH

ZULCH WILLIAM FREDRIC

Defendant Attorneys

LAW OFFICES OF NANCY A. HALAS

KRANKER GARY S. ESQ.

JONES & MAYER

BORDIN SEMMER LLP

SPEARMAN JUSTIN F.

YOKA & SMITH LLP

MUHAR GEORGE ESQ.

Cross Defendant Attorney

MUHAR GARBER AV AND DUNCAN LAW OFFICES

Other Attorneys

SPEARMAN JUSTIN F. ESQ.

MENDOZA ANDRES

MCMAHAN MARTIN SCOT ESQ.

 

Court Documents

SUMMONS

4/14/2017: SUMMONS

DEFENDANT CITY OF WHITTIER'S OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES; REQUEST FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS IN THE AMOUNT OF $2,954.00 ACAINST PLAINTIFFS A

10/30/2017: DEFENDANT CITY OF WHITTIER'S OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES; REQUEST FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS IN THE AMOUNT OF $2,954.00 ACAINST PLAINTIFFS A

Minute Order

11/21/2017: Minute Order

Minute Order

11/22/2017: Minute Order

Unknown

12/6/2017: Unknown

Notice of Motion

6/5/2018: Notice of Motion

Minute Order

9/27/2018: Minute Order

Ex Parte Application

10/17/2018: Ex Parte Application

Notice

10/23/2018: Notice

Opposition

2/7/2019: Opposition

Request for Judicial Notice

2/7/2019: Request for Judicial Notice

Request for Judicial Notice

2/14/2019: Request for Judicial Notice

Reply

2/15/2019: Reply

Motion to Compel

3/13/2019: Motion to Compel

Minute Order

4/5/2019: Minute Order

Notice

5/2/2019: Notice

Reply

5/28/2019: Reply

Reply

5/28/2019: Reply

130 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 06/04/2019
  • at 1:30 PM in Department C; Hearing on Motion to Compel (DEFENDANT CITY OF WHITTIER?S NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO COMPEL DEPOSITION OF PLAINTIFF PABLO MARTINEZ) - Held - Taken under Submission

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  • 06/04/2019
  • at 1:30 PM in Department C; Hearing on Motion to Compel (DEFENDANT CITY OF WHITTIER?S NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO COMPEL DEPOSITION OF PLAINTIFF ISAAC CUEVAS) - Held - Taken under Submission

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  • 06/04/2019
  • at 1:30 PM in Department C; Hearing on Motion to Compel (DEFENDANT CITY OF WHITTIER?S NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO COMPEL DEPOSITION OF PLAINTIFF ANDRES CUEVAS) - Held - Taken under Submission

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  • 06/04/2019
  • at 1:30 PM in Department C; Hearing on Motion for Protective Order - Held - Taken under Submission

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  • 06/04/2019
  • Order (Court's order hearing 6/4/19); Filed by Clerk

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  • 06/04/2019
  • Certificate of Mailing for (Minute Order (Hearing on Motion to Compel DEFENDANT CITY OF WHITTIER?S NOTI...) of 06/04/2019); Filed by Clerk

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  • 06/04/2019
  • Minute Order ( (Hearing on Motion to Compel DEFENDANT CITY OF WHITTIER?S NOTI...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 06/03/2019
  • at 08:30 AM in Department C; Hearing on Ex Parte Application ( for an Order Shortening Time for Hearing Motion to Compel) - Held

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  • 06/03/2019
  • Minute Order ( (Hearing on Ex Parte Application for an Order Shortening Time...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 05/31/2019
  • Opposition (Defendant City of Whittier's Opposition to Plaintiffs' Ex Parte Application for an Order Shortening Time for Hearing of Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Compliance with Inspection Demand CCP 2031.010); Filed by WHITTIER, CITY OF (Legacy Party)

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305 More Docket Entries
  • 04/04/2017
  • APPLICATION AND ORDER FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM EX PARTE

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  • 04/04/2017
  • APPLICATION AND ORDER FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM EX PARTE

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  • 04/04/2017
  • Ord Apptng Guardian Ad Litem; Filed by IRMA MOJARRO (Plaintiff); I MARTINEZ (Legacy Party)

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  • 04/04/2017
  • Ord Apptng Guardian Ad Litem (AS TO IRMA MOJARRO FOR ISABEL MARTINEZ ); Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 04/04/2017
  • Ord Apptng Guardian Ad Litem (FOR SONIA CUEVAS FOR ANDRES CUEVAS ); Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 04/04/2017
  • Ord Apptng Guardian Ad Litem (PEDRO MARTINEZ, JR FOR PABLO MARTINEZ ); Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 04/04/2017
  • Ord Apptng Guardian Ad Litem (PEDRO MARTINEZ, JR FOR JESNSSINE AND JENSSINE MARTINEZ ); Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 04/04/2017
  • Ord Apptng Guardian Ad Litem; Filed by SONIA CUEVAS (Plaintiff)

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  • 04/04/2017
  • Complaint Filed-No Summons Issued (DANGEROUS CONDITION/WRONGFUL DEATH PERSONAL INJURY DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL 4/4/17 CCH243111078 $435.00); Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 04/04/2017
  • Ord Apptng Guardian Ad Litem (RE SONIA CUEVAS FOR ISAAC CUEVAS ); Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC656449    Hearing Date: July 08, 2020    Dept: SEF

On March 2, 2020, this Court issued a ruling on Defendant WEST COAST ARBORISTS, INC.’s Ex Parte Application to Transfer this Action to a Long Cause Courtroom. The Order states, “The parties are ORDERED to prepare the Long Cause Binders and submit them to Dept. 1…. Dept. 1 will rule if the case is appropriate for long cause trial court. [ ] This Court sets a Trial Setting Conference for Wednesday, April 15, 2020 at 8:30 a.m. in Dept. SE-F to determine if accepted as Long Cause Trial.” (Order, 03/02/2020.) Due to Covid-19, the Trial Setting Conference was CONTINUED to July 8, 2020.

The status of the parties’ submission(s) of Long Cause Binders to Dept. 1, as Ordered, is unclear. The Court is inclined to CONTINUE both the Trial Setting Conference and the Motion for Trial Preference until after the August 14, 2020 mediation date. The Court requests oral argument from all parties in order to provide the Court with a status update as to the submission of Long Cause Binders. Telephonic appearances are encouraged.

Case Number: BC656449    Hearing Date: February 20, 2020    Dept: SEC

MOJARRO v. CITY OF WHITTIER

CASE NO.:  BC656449

HEARING: 02/20/2020

JUDGE: OLIVIA ROSALES

#7

TENTATIVE ORDER

I. Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Further Responses to Request for Admissions (set one) is DENIED.

II. Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Further Responses to Form Interrogatories (set two) is DENIED.

III. Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Further Responses to Request for Production of Documents (set four) is DENIED.

IV. Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Further Responses to Request for Production of Documents (set five) is DENIED.

Opposing Party to give notice.

“Except as provided in (b), any motion involving the content of a discovery request or the responses to such a request must be accompanied by a separate statement. The motions that require a separate statement include a motion: (1) To Compel further responses to requests for admission; (2) To compel further responses to interrogatories…; (5) To compel or quash the production of documents or tangible things at a deposition…. (7) For issue or evidentiary sanctions.” (CRC Rule 3.1345(a).) “A separate statement is a separate document filed and served with the discovery motion that provides all the information necessary to understand each discovery request and all the response to it that are at issue. The separate statement must be full and complete so that no person is required to review any other document in order to determine the full request and the full response….” (CRC Rule 3.1345(c).)

Although not raised in the Opposition(s), Plaintiff has inexplicably failed to file/lodge any Separate Statements in support of the four Motions to Compel Further Responses currently pending before the Court. The provisions of CRC Rule 3.1345 are mandatory; compliance is not optional.

Moreover, the Court reminds counsels of the terms of the General Order Re Mandatory Electronic Filing for Civil issued by Judge Daniel J. Buckley on November 5, 2018. The Order states, in pertinent part: “Regardless of the time of electronic filing, a printed courtesy copy (along with proof of electronic submission) is required for the following documents… G. Motions to Compel Further Discovery” (Gen. Order (d)(4)(A -G).) To date, no Courtesy Copies of the Moving, Opposition, Reply, or Sur-Reply papers for the four Motions to Compel Further have been received by this Court.

Both parties’ requests for sanctions are denied.

Case Number: BC656449    Hearing Date: January 14, 2020    Dept: SEC

MOJARRO, et al. v. CITY OF WHITTER, et al.

CASE NO.:  BC656449

HEARING:  06/04/19

JUDGE: OLIVIA ROSALES

#5

TENTATIVE ORDER

Defendant City of Whittier’s motion to quash and for a protective order regarding the deposition of the City’s former handline attorney, Gary Kranker, and request for monetary sanctions is GRANTED.

Moving Party to give NOTICE.

Defendant City of Whittier moves for a protective order or to quash deposition subpoena pursuant to CCP 1987.1.

If a subpoena requires the attendance of a witness or the production of books, documents, electronically stored information, or other things before a court, or at the trial of an issue therein, or at the taking of a deposition, the court, upon motion reasonably made by any person described in subdivision (b), or upon the court’s own motion after giving counsel notice and an opportunity to be heard, may make an order quashing the subpoena entirely, modifying it, or directing compliance with it upon those terms or conditions as the court shall declare, including protective orders. In addition, the court may make any other order as may be appropriate to protect the person from unreasonable or oppressive demands, including unreasonable violations of the right of privacy of the person. (CCP 1987.1(a).)

The subpoena seeks to depose Gary Kranker, City’s former handling attorney to ascertain information relating to Kranker’s investigation of the incident and communications Kranker had with City employees. City contends the communications are protected by the attorney client privilege and attorney work product doctrine.

Plaintiffs Mojarro, et al., Stefanie Oviatt, and Defendant West Coast Arborists, Inc. oppose the motion.

Depositions of opposing counsel are presumptively improper. (Carehouse Convalescent Hosp. v. Sup.Ct. (2006) 143 Cal.App.4th 1558, 1562.) The practice of taking the deposition of opposing counsel should be severely restricted, and permitted only upon showing of extremely good cause… The circumstances under which opposing counsel may be deposed are limited to those where (1) no other means exist to obtain the information than to depose opposing counsel; (2) the information sought is relevant and not privileged; (3) the information is crucial to the preparation of the case. (Spectra-Physics, Inc. v. Superior court (1988) 198 Cal.App.3d 1487, 1496.)

Plaintiffs submit Park Manager Michael Montoya’s deposition testimony, attesting that the city attorneys made the determination of which parts of the trees to keep and which parts to discard. (Montoya Depo, 36:5-17, 71:72:2.) Plaintiffs contend that Kranker directed Montoya to discard the majority of the critical trunk area of the tree. (Id. at 41:12, 41:25.)

Plaintiffs failed to establish good cause to depose City’s former attorney. According to Montoya, the tree was segmented into “preserved” and “discarded” piles. Segments that were “discarded” were placed in a discard pile, and some were sent to the landfill. Although Plaintiffs allege that spoliation has occurred, Plaintiffs have proffered no evidence supporting the assertion that any part of the missing segments is necessary to the case. Looking at Exhibit P, segments of the over 107 feet tree were retained in increments leading up to the branches. This appears to be a reasonable method of preserving evidence of this massive size. There is no evidence before this court that requires the complete preservation of an over 107 feet tree (Terpstra Decl., ¶ 9), and more importantly, there is no evidence that the discarded parts are necessary to the case.

Plaintiff’s expert, Toby Terpstra, declares that there is an “important section” measuring 3 feet between Sections A and B that is missing, Terpstra does not explain why this section is crucial to the case. The parts that were preserved were segments that were located directly below and above this 3 feet section. It is unclear why this particular segment is “important.”

Further, even if the instruction came from Kranker, there is no evidence that Kranker has any other information that is crucial to the preparation of the case.

Accordingly, the motion is GRANTED.

Case Number: BC656449    Hearing Date: October 30, 2019    Dept: SEC

MOJARRO, et al. v. CITY OF WHITTIER

CASE NO.: BC656449

HEARING: 10/30/19

JUDGE: MARGARTE M. BERNAL

#16

TENTATIVE ORDER

Defendant City of Whittier’s motion for summary judgment is DENIED.

Plaintiffs to give NOTICE.

Defendant City of Whittier (“City”) moves for summary judgment pursuant to CCP 437c.

Objections

Plaintiff Oviatt’s evidentiary objections are overruled.

Defendant City’s evidentiary objections are also overruled.

Complaint

This case arises from an incident that occurred on or about 12/17/16, inside Penn Park in Whittier, California. Plaintiffs allege that City failed to maintain a large Blue Gum Eucalyptus tree. At the time of the incident, Plaintiffs were part of a wedding party, and had gathered in Penn Park to take photographs. As Plaintiffs posed for pictures near the base of the tree, it suddenly uprooted, and fell on Plaintiffs, killing Margarita Mojarro. The Complaint, filed on 4/4/17, was amended with leave. The FAC asserts causes of action for:

1. Dangerous Condition – Wrongful Death

2. Dangerous Condition – Personal Injury

3. Negligence (v. West Coast Arborists, Inc.)

Standard

A defendant moving for summary judgment/adjudication has met its burden of showing a cause of action has no merit if the defendant can show one or more elements of the plaintiff’s cause of action cannot be established. (CCP 437c(p)(2).)

Merits

City contends that it is immune from liability pursuant to the “natural condition immunity” provided by Gov. Code 831.2.

Gov. Code 831.2 provides, “Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury caused by a natural condition of any unimproved public property, including but not limited to any natural condition of any lake, stream, bay, river or beach.”

City submits the following evidence:

· Penn Park is owned and maintained by City. (Defense Separate Statement (DSS) 1.)

· Tree 142 is a eucalyptus, and situated on a hillside within Penn Park. (DSS 3.)

· The topography of the hillside on which Tree 142 was located has not been altered since 1925. (DSS 4.)

· There is no documentation that human activity created the hill. (DSS 5.)

· Tree 142 is located on a hillside separated by portions of improved public property within Penn Park by a chain link fence. (DSS 6.)

· Outside the chain link fence surrounding the unimproved hillside, the improved public property areas include paved pathways, stairs, picnic tables, garbage cans, and benches. (DSS 7.)

· Areas of the hillside from which the tree fell had been improved (i.e. a staircase across the hill); however, the location where the tree was located was unimproved and unaltered from its natural state. (DSS 8.)

· Plaintiffs were standing on improved property when the incident occurred, whereupon the tree fell from its location on the hillside onto improved public property. (DSS 10.)

City relies on Alana M. v. State of California and Meddock v. County of Yolo. In Alana M. v. State of Cal. (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 1482, 1487, the court held that the immunity applied where a tree that grew on unimproved public property fell onto improved public property (i.e. a campsite), injuring a three-year-old. In Meddock v. County of Yolo (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 170, 182, the immunity applied where decaying natural trees located on unimproved property fell onto improved property (i.e. a paved parking lot), injuring the Plaintiff.

City contends that Tree 142 grew on unimproved land, and fell onto Plaintiffs who were standing on improved property, and thus, Alana M. and Meddock are persuasive authorities.

In opposition, Plaintiffs contend that the court should instead apply County of San Mateo v. Superior Court (2017) 13 Cal.App.5th 724, 734. There, triable issues as to whether a campsite area in a campground within a vast public wilderness park was "unimproved public property" when a 72-foot diseased tree growing roughly 20 feet from where a tent was pitched fell on a child sleeping in the tent; there was evidence that the county had artificially altered the terrain by removing nutrient-rich mulch down to bare dirt, by installing a paved road, partially clearing the area of trees, and constructing rudimentary amenities to facilitate cooking, eating and overnight sleeping in the area.

Plaintiffs submit the following evidence:

· Both sides of the chain link fence are part of Penn Park. (Disputed DSS 7.)

· The area where the tree was rooted is part of the improved components of Penn Park. (Disputed DSS 8.)

· The area of Tree 142 included improvements such as fencing, irrigation, retaining wall, electrical, concrete steps with railing. (Plaintiff’s Separate Statement (PSS) 12.)

· The chain link fence that Whittier contends signifies a separation of “improved” vs. “unimproved” is also used throughout the park in improved areas such as a man-made waterfall nearby. (PSS 13.)

· Tree 142 was situated directly next to the entrance stairs and many other improvements. (PSS 16.)

· Penn Park is a developed and improved property in toto. (PSS 17-21.)

· City maintains and risk-manages the area of Tree 142. (PSS 22 -34.)

Based on the evidence submitted, the court finds that triable issues exist regarding whether Tree 142 was located in an “improved” versus “unimproved” area of public property.

In Alana M. v. State of California, there was no evidence before the court of any “artificial physical change in the condition… of the land within 24 feet of the tree” or “any evidence suggesting artificial improvements or human conduct contributed to the danger of the tree… There is no evidence, for example, that leveling the area of the campsites weakened the tree and made it more likely to fall.” (Alana M. v. State of Cal. (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 1482, 1491.)

Here, unlike Alana M. and analogous to County of San Mateo, Plaintiffs have adduced evidence that the area of Tree 142 included improvements such as fencing, irrigation, retaining wall, electrical, concrete steps with railing (PSS 12) and Tree 142 was situated directly next to the entrance stairs and many other improvements (PSS 16). Therefore, triable issues exist regarding whether City artificially altered the terrain and contributed to the danger of the tree.

Accordingly, the motion is DENIED.

Case Number: BC656449    Hearing Date: October 24, 2019    Dept: SEC

MOJARRO v. CITY OF WHITTIER

CASE NO.:  BC656449

HEARING: 10/24/19

#4

TENTATIVE ORDER

I. Defendant/Cross-Defendant WEST COAST ARBORISTS, INC.’s Motion Compel set for October 24, 2019 is OFF-CALENDAR as MOOT. This matter was advanced and heard on October 10, 2019.

II. Defendant/Cross-Defendant WEST COAST ARBORISTS, INC.’s Motion Compel set for October 24, 2019 is OFF-CALENDAR as MOOT. This matter was advanced and heard on October 10, 2019.

Moving Party to give notice.