On 03/08/2018 a Personal Injury - Other Personal Injury case was filed by ROXANNA CASTRO against MONTEBELLO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT in the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California.
Pending - Other Pending
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
CHRISTOPHER K. LUI
CERVANTES ANGEL A.
MONTEBELLO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
DOES 1 TO 50
7/18/2018: FIRST AMENDED SUMMONS
7/30/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS
9/17/2018: NOTICE OF DEMURRER AND DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT; (PROPOSED) ORDER
10/25/2018: Minute Order
11/14/2018: Other -
12/10/2018: Stipulation and Order
4/3/2019: Ex Parte Application
4/3/2019: Minute Order
5/20/2019: Stipulation to Continue Trial/FSC [and Related Motion/Discovery Dates] Personal Injury Courts Only (Department 91, 92, 93, 97)
6/24/2019: Motion for Leave to File a Cross-Complaint
4/12/2018: APPLICATION AND ORDER FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM?CIVIL
3/27/2018: APPLICATION AND ORDER FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM-CIVIL EX PARTE
3/27/2018: NOTICE OF REJECTION - APPLICATION AND ORDER FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM
4/6/2018: COMPLAINT-PERS. INJURY, PROP DAMAGE, WRONGFUL DEATH (2 PAGES)
3/8/2018: COMPLAINT-PERS. INJURY, PROP DAMAGE, WRONGFUL DEATH (2 PAGES)
Motion for Leave to File a Cross-Complaint; Filed by Montebello Unified School District (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
at 1:30 PM in Department 4A, Christopher K. Lui, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Compel Discovery (not "Further Discovery")Read MoreRead Less
[Proposed Order] and Stipulation to Continue Trial, FSC (and Related Motion/Discovery Dates) Personal Injury Courts Only (Central District); Filed by Montebello Unified School District (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 4A, Christopher K. Lui, Presiding; Hearing on Ex Parte Application (To Compel the Depositions of Plaintiffs Roxanna Castro, a Minor and her her Guardian Ad Litem, Ana Torres) - Held - Motion DeniedRead MoreRead Less
Minute Order ( (Ex Parte Application of Defendant Montebello Unified School D...)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Ex Parte Application (TO COMPEL THE DEPOSITIONS OF PLAINTIFFS ROXANNA CASTRO A MINOR AND HER GUARDIAN AD LITEM ANA TORRES); Filed by Montebello Unified School District (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Notice of Deposit - Jury; Filed by Angel A. Cervantes (Plaintiff); Roxanna Castro (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Answer; Filed by Montebello Unified School District (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Stipulation and Order (re: Amending Complaint); Filed by Roxanna Castro (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Second Amended Complaint---Personal Injury, Property Damage, Wrongful Death; Filed by Roxanna Castro (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
FIRST AMENDED SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
Application ; Filed by Plaintiff/PetitionerRead MoreRead Less
APPLICATION AND ORDER FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM CIVILRead MoreRead Less
COMPLAINT-PERS. INJURY, PROP DAMAGE, WRONGFUL DEATH (2 PAGES)Read MoreRead Less
First Amended Complaint; Filed by Angel A. Cervantes (Plaintiff); Roxanna Castro (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
NOTICE OF REJECTION - APPLICATION AND ORDER FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEMRead MoreRead Less
Application ; Filed by Plaintiff/PetitionerRead MoreRead Less
APPLICATION AND ORDER FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM-CIVIL EX PARTERead MoreRead Less
COMPLAINT-PERS. INJURY, PROP DAMAGE, WRONGFUL DEATH (2 PAGES)Read MoreRead Less
Complaint; Filed by nullRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: BC696918 Hearing Date: February 19, 2020 Dept: 28
Motion for Summary Judgment, or in the alternative, Summary Adjudication
Having considered the moving and opposing papers, the Court rules as follows.
On March 8, 2018, Plaintiff Roxanna Castro, by and through her guardian ad litem Angel A. Cervantes, (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint against Defendant Montebello Unified School District. The complaint alleges premises liability and negligence for Plaintiff falling from a bar/railing at Suva Elementary School on May 19, 2017.
On April 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint.
On November 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint.
On August 1, 2019, Defendant/Cross-Complainant Montebello Unified School District filed a cross-complaint against Cross-Defendant Jose Morfin seeking indemnity, contribution, and declaratory relief.
On September 27, 2019, Defendant/Cross-Complainant Montebello Unified School District filed a motion for summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 437c.
On October 24, 2019, the Court continued the motion for summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication to February 19, 2020.
Trial is set for April 29, 2020.
Defendant asks the Court to grant summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication against Plaintiff on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff was adequately supervised, (2) Plaintiff’s fall was spontaneous, (3) no lack of supervision caused Plaintiff’s fall, (5) Plaintiff’s climbing on the handrail was unreasonable, and (6) Defendant did not have notice of the dangerous character of the handrail.
Plaintiff objects to paragraph six of Michael Weaver’s declaration submitted in support of Defendant’s motion as lacking foundation. This paragraph states “[t]he ramp slope where the handrail is located triggers the requirement to provide handrails that are between thirty-four (34) inches and thirty-eight (38) inches.” There is no evidence showing what the slope of the ramp is. As such, this is an improper conclusion without an adequate foundation. This objection is SUSTAINED.
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).)
“California law has long imposed on school authorities a duty to supervise at all times the conduct of the children on the school grounds and to enforce those rules and regulations necessary to their protection.” (Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist.¿(1970) 2 Cal.3d 741, 743, quotations and citations omitted.) Either a total lack of supervision or ineffective supervision may constitute a lack of ordinary care on the part of those responsible for student supervision. (Ibid.) “Under section 815.2, subdivision (a) of the Government Code, a school district is vicariously liable for injuries proximately caused by such negligence.” (Ibid. (footnote omitted).)
Defendant’s undisputed material facts establish the following. Plaintiff alleges she fell from an unprotected handrail at a school in Defendant’s district on May 19, 2017. (UMF Nos. 1-2, 4, 8.) Plaintiff was accompanied by her uncle when Plaintiff was injured. (UMF No. 14.) Plaintiff’s uncle was not watching Plaintiff as she climbed on the handrail. (UMF No. 16.) Plaintiff’s uncle allowed Plaintiff to climb on the handrail before. (UMF No. 18.) Plaintiff knew teachers at the school did not allow students to climb on the handrail. (UMF No. 19.) Students would be disciplined if observed climbing on the handrail by teachers or staff at the school. (UMF No. 20.) The school had a supervision plan in place when Plaintiff was injured. (UMF No. 21.)
The Court finds Defendant has not met its burden in showing Plaintiff was adequately supervised. The evidence underlying Defendant’s argument that Defendant had a supervision plan in place refers to a single sentence in program specialist Gabriela Aduvari’s declaration. Ms. Aduvari states “[t]he school had a supervision plan in place and there was supervision in the cafeteria, on various areas of the blacktop, restrooms, and a rover” between these areas. (Aduvari Decl., ¶ 6.) This statement is insufficient to show that Plaintiff was adequately supervised. There is no evidence showing Plaintiff was in one of those three areas or between one of those three areas while the rover was monitoring Plaintiff.
Further, it is immaterial that Plaintiff was accompanied by her uncle. Plaintiff does not submit evidence showing a school no long has to supervise a child while on school grounds when the child is accompanied by an adult. Even if so, Defendant’s own evidence shows Plaintiff’s uncle was merely in the same proximity as Plaintiff and not supervising Plaintiff because her uncle did not see Plaintiff climb on the handrail. As such, Defendant still had a duty to supervise Plaintiff.
The Court also finds Defendant’s argument that Defendant is not liable for Plaintiff’s negligent supervision claim because Plaintiff’s act was spontaneous is unpersuasive. Defendant cites Wright v. San Bernardino High School District (1953) 121 Cal.App.2d 342 for the proposition that Defendant is not liable for its student’s spontaneous acts. The decision in Wright does not stand for this proposition. Rather, that Court found that a teacher could not have been held liable for failing to supervise students who were playing handball during a physical education class with a tennis ball. (Wright, supra, 121 Cal.App.2d at pp. 345-347.) There was nothing about the spontaneous nature of the students’ actions in Wright that the court found to be dispositive in finding there was no failure to supervise.
The Court further finds Defendant has failed to meet its burden in showing its lack of supervision did not cause Plaintiff’s harm. Defendant alleges Plaintiff climbed the handrail with specific timing such that Plaintiff would not be detected. However, the evidence cited in support of this argument merely shows Plaintiff’s uncle did not see Plaintiff climb the handrail, Plaintiff’s uncle did not admonish Plaintiff for getting onto the handrail, and Plaintiff would have been subject to discipline by teachers or staff if caught in the act. This evidence does not show Plaintiff’s intent for climbing that particular handrail or the timing when Plaintiff began her ascent.
Additionally, Defendant’s do not explain why its supervision plan would have been fruitless had it succeeded in catching Plaintiff while she was scaling the handrail. There is no evidence showing, for example, that there would have been an insufficient amount of time for a supervisor to catch Plaintiff from the time Plaintiff started climbing the handrail to the time in which she fell. As such Defendant is not entitled to summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s negligent supervision cause of action.
Dangerous Condition of Public Property
“Except as otherwise provided by statute, a public entity is not liable for an injury, whether such injury arises out of an act or omission of the public entity or public employee or any other person.” (Gov. Code § 815.)
Government Code section 835 states: “Except as provided by statute, a public entity is liable for injury caused by a dangerous condition of its property if the plaintiff establishes that the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the injury, that the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition, that the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred, and either:
(a) A negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the public entity within the scope of his employment created the dangerous condition; or¿
(b) The public entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition under Section 835.2 a sufficient time prior to the injury to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition.”
The term “dangerous condition” means a “condition of property that creates a substantial (as distinguished from a minor,¿trivial¿or insignificant) risk of injury when such property or adjacent property is used with due care in a manner in which it is reasonably foreseeable that it¿will be used.” (Gov. Code § 830, subd. (a).) “The existence of a dangerous condition ordinarily is a question of fact, but the issue may be resolved as a matter of law if reasonable minds can come to only one conclusion.” (Peterson v. San Francisco Comm. College Dist.¿(1984) 36 Cal.3d 799, 810.) “A condition is not dangerous within the meaning of the statute ‘unless it creates a hazard to those who foreseeably will use the property . . . with due care. Thus, even though it is foreseeable that persons may use public property without due care, a public entity may not be held liable for failing to take precautions to protect such persons.” (Matthews v. City of Cerritos¿(1992) 2 Cal.App.4th 1380, 1384.) “The condition of the property involved should create a ‘substantial risk’ of injury, for an undue burden would be placed upon public entities if they were responsible for the repair of all conditions creating any possibility of injury however remote that possibility might be.” (Fredette¿v. City of Long Beach¿(1986) 187 Cal.App.3d 122, 130, fn.5.)
The Court initially finds Defendant’s argument that the handrail complies with the American’s with Disabilities Act to be unavailing. As stated above, Plaintiff successfully objects to Defendant’s sole evidence submitted allegedly showing the handrail is ADA compliant.
The Court finds Defendant has not met its burden in showing the handrail was not a dangerous condition. Defendant argues it was unforeseeable that Plaintiff would climb on the railing. The Court disagrees. Defendant admitted that it had rules prohibiting students from climbing on the handrail. This shows Defendant not only knew of the foreseeability of Plaintiff’s act, but also actively decided to forbid it and who would be the specific employees of Defendant’s administering punishment. (See UMF Nos. 19-20.) As such, Plaintiff’s climb was foreseeable to Defendant and, thus, the handrail presented a dangerous condition.
The Court further finds Defendant has not met its burden in showing it did not have actual or constructive notice of the dangerous character of the handrail. In support of this argument, Defendant submits evidence showing the school had no previous knowledge of “students sustaining injury” in the area where Plaintiff was injured. The Court is unpersuaded by this evidence for the following two reasons.
First, the specific language used in Ms. Nadudvari’s declaration refers to her lack of knowledge regarding “students” injury. This language leaves open the reasonable inference that a single student had sustained an injury from the handrail before Plaintiff.
Second, a reasonable inference stemming from Defendant’s rules surrounding the prohibition for climbing the handrail and the punishment that would follow for disobeying those rules is that they are in place to prevent students from hurting themselves. There is no contrary argument made. Defendant does not argue that these rules are, for example, in place to maintain the aesthetic of the school. More practically, the reasonable inference of the purpose of Defendant’s rules show that they had notice of the danger presented when a student would climb the handrail. As such, Defendant has not met its burden in showing it is entitled to summary judgment regarding Plaintiff’s dangerous condition of public property cause of action.
The motion for summary judgement, or in the alternative, summary adjudication is DENIED.
Plaintiff is ordered to give notice of this ruling.