SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) – The 1st Appellate District Court of California, Division Three affirmed a judgment in favor of the defendants Continental Tire North America and mechanic Chi Tai in a wrongful death case after finding no evidence to connect the defendants' actions and the cause of a deadly traffic accident years after a separate accident occurred.
Presiding Judge Stuart R. Pollak gave the opinion of the court on April 12. William R. McGuiness and Peter J. Siggins concurred. The case was on appeal from the Alameda County Superior Court.
The plaintiff, Paula Novak, argued that the defendants' alleged failure to warn about the dangers of rubber degradation in old tires caused her father's auto accident in 2005. She further alleged that the injuries he sustained from the accident impaired his mobility and necessitated his use of a motorized scooter with limited maneuverability.
Novak further alleged that the scooter's limited maneuverability caused the accident that took his life in 2011 when he collided with a car while he was in a crosswalk on Freemont Boulevard.
"Novak’s daughter Paula filed this wrongful death action against Continental and Tai, faulting them for the 2005 tire blowout and resulting collision and extending that fault to her father’s death years later following a different collision," according to the opinion.
The court argued that to sustain a claim of wrongful death, the plaintiff must establish negligence and "all the elements of actionable negligence" on the part of the defendants. This includes demonstrating "a legal duty to use due care, a breach of such legal duty, and the breach as the proximate or legal cause of the resulting injury."
As precedent, the court cited Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. In that case, a woman was struck by shrapnel from a fireworks explosion on the railroad tracks. The railroad was not held responsible for the action because the explosion was not a foreseeable consequence of a guard trying to help the passenger carrying the fireworks onto the train.
The court further argued that the causal links present in this case were "even more tenuous" than those presented in preceding cases.
Novak's father's car accident was not a foreseeable consequence of the defendant's failure to warn, the court argued. Therefore, the connection between the events is too attenuated to "show the later accident to be within the scope of the risk created by defendants’ conduct."