This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 07/14/2019 at 01:14:09 (UTC).

JAHMAL FORTE VS JAMES E WOLF ET AL

Case Summary

On 01/12/2018 a Personal Injury - Other Personal Injury case was filed by JAHMAL FORTE against JAMES E WOLF in the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****0172

  • Filing Date:

    01/12/2018

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Personal Injury - Other Personal Injury

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

CHRISTOPHER K. LUI

 

Party Details

Petitioner and Plaintiff

FORTE JAHMAL

Defendants and Respondents

WOLF JAMES E.

KERRWOOD MANOR APARTMENTS

DOES 1 TO 25

ARGENTX PROPERTIES LLC

ARGENTX MANAGEMENT SERVICES LLC

 

Court Documents

AMENDMENT TO COMPLAINT

5/18/2018: AMENDMENT TO COMPLAINT

AMENDMENT TO COMPLAINT

5/18/2018: AMENDMENT TO COMPLAINT

PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

6/21/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

6/22/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

SUMMONS

8/2/2018: SUMMONS

FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGRES

8/2/2018: FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGRES

ANSWER TO UNVERIFIED COMPLAINT

8/22/2018: ANSWER TO UNVERIFIED COMPLAINT

DEMANDA FOR JURY TRIAL

8/22/2018: DEMANDA FOR JURY TRIAL

SUMMONS

1/12/2018: SUMMONS

COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGRES 1. NEGLIGENCE 2. PREMISES LIABILITY

1/12/2018: COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGRES 1. NEGLIGENCE 2. PREMISES LIABILITY

 

Docket Entries

  • 07/12/2019
  • at 08:30 AM in Department 4A, Christopher K. Lui, Presiding; Jury Trial - Not Held - Continued - Stipulation

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  • 06/28/2019
  • at 10:00 AM in Department 4A, Christopher K. Lui, Presiding; Final Status Conference - Not Held - Continued - Stipulation

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  • 06/28/2019
  • [Proposed Order] and Stipulation to Continue Trial, FSC (and Related Motion/Discovery Dates) Personal Injury Courts Only (Central District); Filed by Jahmal Forte (Plaintiff)

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  • 04/08/2019
  • [Proposed Order] and Stipulation to Continue Trial, FSC (and Related Motion/Discovery Dates) Personal Injury Courts Only (Central District); Filed by Jahmal Forte (Plaintiff)

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  • 03/13/2019
  • at 1:30 PM in Department 4A, Christopher K. Lui, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Compel Discovery (not "Further Discovery") - Not Held - Taken Off Calendar by Party

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  • 03/07/2019
  • Notice (OF TAKING MOTION TO COMPEL PLAINTIFF, JAMAL FORTE'S ANSWERS TO SPECIAL INTERROGATORIES, SET NO. ONE OFF CALENDAR); Filed by James E. Wolf (Defendant)

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  • 02/07/2019
  • Motion to Compel (NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION FOR ORDER COMPELLING PLAINTIFF, JAMAL FORTE TO ANSWER SPECIAL INTERROGATORIES, SET NO. ONE AND REQUEST FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS IN THE AMOUNT OF $800; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES; DECLARATION OF GARY H. KLEIN); Filed by James E. Wolf (Defendant)

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  • 01/31/2019
  • Request for Dismissal; Filed by Jahmal Forte (Plaintiff)

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  • 01/07/2019
  • Request for Dismissal; Filed by Jahmal Forte (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/12/2018
  • Substitution of Attorney; Filed by Joy, Mahlstedt, Esq. (Attorney)

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12 More Docket Entries
  • 06/22/2018
  • Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by Jahmal Forte (Plaintiff)

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  • 06/21/2018
  • Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by Jahmal Forte (Plaintiff)

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  • 06/21/2018
  • PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 05/18/2018
  • AMENDMENT TO COMPLAINT

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  • 05/18/2018
  • AMENDMENT TO COMPLAINT

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  • 05/18/2018
  • Amendment to Complaint; Filed by Jahmal Forte (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/18/2018
  • Amendment to Complaint; Filed by Jahmal Forte (Plaintiff)

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  • 01/12/2018
  • SUMMONS

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  • 01/12/2018
  • Complaint; Filed by Jahmal Forte (Plaintiff)

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  • 01/12/2018
  • COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGRES 1. NEGLIGENCE 2. PREMISES LIABILITY

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC690172    Hearing Date: February 20, 2020    Dept: 28

Motion for Summary Judgement, or in the Alternative, Summary Adjudication

Having considered the moving, opposing, and reply papers, the Court rules as follows.

BACKGROUND

On January 12, 2018, Plaintiff Jahmal Forte (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint against Defendants James E. Wolf and Kerrwood Manor Apartments.  The complaint alleges negligence and premises liability for falling from a staircase that was missing a piece on January 12, 2018.

May 18, 2018, Plaintiff renamed Doe 1 as Defendant Argentx Management Services, LLC and Doe 2 as Argentx Properties, LLC.

On January 10, 2019, the Court dismissed Defendant Argentx Management Services, LLC without prejudice.

On February 4, 2019, the Court dismissed Defendants Kerrwood Manor Apartments and Argentx Properties, LLC without prejudice.

On September 12, 2019, Defendant James E. Wolf filed a motion for summary judgement, or in the alternative, summary adjudication against Plaintiff pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 437c.

On October 10, 2019, the Court continued the hearing on Defendant James E. Wolf’s motion for summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication to February 20, 2020.

On January 24, 2020, Plaintiff renamed Doe 3 as Defendant Daniel Wayne.

Trial is set for April 24, 2020.

PARTYS REQUEST

Defendant James E. Wolf (“Moving Defendant”) asks the Court to grant summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication against Plaintiff and in Moving Defendant’s favor.  Moving Defendant argues (1) the missing stair does not constitute a dangerous condition, (2) Moving Defendant did not have notice of the dangerous condition, and (3) Moving Defendant did not owe a duty to Plaintiff because Plaintiff’s harm was unforeseeable.

LEGAL STANDARD

The purpose of a motion for 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. Atl. Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 843.) “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.)

“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 “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.” (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.” (Id.) “If the plaintiff cannot do so, summary judgment should be granted.” (Avivi v. Centro Medico Urgente Med. Ctr. (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 463, 467.)

“When deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the court must consider all of the evidence set forth in the papers (except evidence to which the court has sustained an objection), as well as all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from that evidence, in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.” (Avivi, supra, 159 Cal.App.4th at p. 467; see also Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (c).)

DISCUSSION

Premises Liability

The elements of a cause of action for premises liability are the same as those for negligence: duty, breach, causation, and damages. (Castellon v. U.S. Bancorp (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 994, 998.) Those who own, possess, or control property generally have a duty to exercise ordinary care in managing the property to avoid exposing others to an unreasonable risk of harm. (Annocki v. Peterson Enterprises, LLC (2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 32, 37.) If a dangerous condition exists, the property owner is “under a duty to exercise ordinary care either to make the condition reasonably safe for [customers’] their use or to give a warning adequate to enable them to avoid the harm.”  (Bridgman v. Safeway Stores, Inc. (1960) 53 Cal.2d 443, 446.) The existence and scope of a property owner’s duty are legal questions for the court. (Annocki, supra, 232 Cal.App.4th at p. 36.)

Moving Defendant argues it is entitled to summary judgement, or in the alternative, summary adjudication regarding Plaintiff’s premises liability cause of action because: (1) the missing stair does not constitute a dangerous condition and (2) Moving Defendant did not have notice of the dangerous condition.

Existence of a Dangerous Condition

Summary judgment cannot be granted on a mere statement that the party against whom summary judgment is sought does not have evidence regarding an essential element of a cause of action.  (See Zoran Corp. v. Chen (2010) 185 Cal.App.4th 799, 808; see also Gaggero v. Yura (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 884, 889-891.)  Rather, the moving party must produce evidence showing the party against whom summary judgment is sought cannot reasonably obtain such evidence.  (Ibid.)

A moving party can show a party does not have evidence of an essential element of a cause of action through admissions (see Villa v. McFerren (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 733, 749), deposition testimony of an opposing party’s witness (see Leslie G. v. Perry & Assocs. (1996) 43 Cal.App.4th 472, 482), factually-devoid discovery responses (see Union Bank v. Superior Court (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 573, 590), and inadmissible discovery responses (see Rio Linda Unified School Dist. v. Superior Court (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 732, 741).

Moving Defendant’s undisputed material facts establishes the following.  Plaintiff alleges he was injured on January 12, 2016 when he stepped down a stairway at Defendant’s property when a stair broke, causing Plaintiff to fall.  (UMF Nos. 1, 11.)  Plaintiff never had issues with the steps on the stairway prior to the incident.  (UMF No.  6.)  Plaintiff lived at the property for approximately 14 to 15 years.  (UMF No. 2.)

Moving Defendant argues Plaintiff’s lack having issues with the steps on the stairway prior to the incident shows Plaintiff does not have evidence showing the step Plaintiff fell from was a dangerous condition.  The Court disagrees.  Plaintiff’s knowledge of whether the stairs were structurally sound is more properly an issue regarding Plaintiff’s comparative fault.  (See Knight v. Jewett (1992) 3 Cal.4th 296, 315 ([i]n cases involving ‘secondary assumption of risk’ – where the defendant does owe a duty of care to the plaintiff, but the plaintiff proceeds to encounter a known risk imposed by the defendant’s breach of the duty – the doctrine is merged into the comparative fault scheme. . . .)  However, this fact does not show Plaintiff does not have evidence of the key element that a dangerous condition existed on the property.

Rather, Plaintiff’s deposition testimony that Plaintiff never had a problem with the staircase before the accident merely precludes Plaintiff from showing there is a triable issue of fact based on Plaintiff’s previous problems with the staircase.  This does not negate, for example, that a reasonable inspection would not have revealed that there was a problem with the step.  

Moving Defendant submitted the declaration of Daniel Wayne, the property manager of the property where Plaintiff was injured.  Mr. Wayne declared that in 21 years as the property manager, no one sustained injuries from the stairway that he knows of.  (Wayne Decl., ¶ 8.)

The Court also notes that the evidence underlying Moving Defendant’s material fact numbers 8 and 9 do not support the stated facts.  The material facts state there were no prior or subsequent incidents involving the stair case and Plaintiff created the unsafe condition, respectivelyThe evidence cited in support of material fact number 8 is Mr. Wayne’s entire declaration, which does not state this fact definitively.  The evidence cited ins support of material fact number 9 is Plaintiff’s deposition testimony stating a piece of Moving Defendant’s step broke as Plaintiff was walking down the stairs.  The alleged dangerous condition is not the broken step, but rather a weakened or unmaintained step that broke once Plaintiff stepped on it.

Mr. Wayne declared that he was responsible for the upkeep of the stairway.  (Wayne Decl., ¶ 6.)  Mr. Wayne also declared that regular cleaning and upkeep were performed on the stairway and there were never any issues with the stairway in his 21 years as the property manager.  (Wayne Decl., ¶¶ 6-7.)  But Mr. Wayne’s declaration does not negate the fact that no one inspected the stairs for degradation for at least a year prior to the incident.  

Plaintiff’s undisputed material facts establish the following.  Mr. Wayne recalls going up or down the staircase sometime since 1998.  (PUMF No. 14.)  Mr. Wayne cannot recall the last time he saw a report regarding an inspection of the staircase.  (PUMF No. 15.)  Mr. Wayne did not instruct anyone to inspect the staircase in the year before Plaintiff’s fall.  (PUMF No. 18.)  Moving Defendant is not aware of any inspection of the staircase in the six months before Plaintiff’s fall.  (PUMF No. 16.)  Moving Defendant did not direct any one to inspect the staircase in the three months before Plaintiff’s fall.  (PUMF No. 17.) Other steps in the apartment complex previously had pieces break off similarly to the stop that broke when Plaintiff stepped on it.  (PUMF No. 11.) Plaintiff’s engineering expert, Brad Avrit, declared the deteriorated and dilapidated condition of the stairway where Plaintiff fell was not a new condition, but rather one which had developed over a period of time.  (PUMF No. 19.)

The Court finds Plaintiff has met his burden.  Plaintiff’s evidence shows there is a triable issue of material fact regarding whether Moving Defendant and his agents properly maintained the property.  The lack of documented inspections and procedures used to inspect the stair shows the inspections were deficient.  As such, a triable issue of material fact exists and summary judgment is not proper on the ground that there was no dangerous condition.

Notice

Mr. Wayne declared that no one complained about the staircase to him, Moving Defendant, or other agents that he knows of in his 21 years as the property manager.  (Wayne Decl., ¶ 5.) 

The Court finds Moving Defendant has not met his burden.  Mr. Wayne’s knowledge of whether Moving Defendant had actual or constructive notice of the alleged dangerous condition is insufficient.  The test is whether Moving Defendant had actual or constructive notice of the alleged dangerous condition.

Further, even if Moving Defendant met his burden, Plaintiff has met his burden.  As stated above, the lack of documented inspections and procedures used to inspect the stair shows the inspections were deficient.  The lack of document inspections and procedures, when combined with the fact that other stairs had collapsed in the complex, put Moving Defendant on notice that the stair here may be structurally unsound.  As such, the Court finds Moving Defendant had constructive notice of the alleged dangerous condition.

Negligence

Moving Defendant argues he is entitled to summary judgment, or summary adjudication as to Plaintiff’s negligence cause of action because the fall was unforeseeable and, thus, Moving Defendant did not owe a duty to Plaintiff.  The Court disagrees.  Moving Defendant owed a duty to Plaintiff by virtue of owning the property that Plaintiff was injured on.  (See Annocki, supra, 232 Cal.App.4th 32, 37.)  Therefore, the Court cannot grant summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s negligence cause of action.

CONCLUSION

The motion for summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication is DENIED.

Plaintiff is ordered to give notice of this ruling.