Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Court Orders Publication of Ruling on Coffee Spill
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Court of Appeal ruling applying Proposition 213 to an uninsured motorist who spilled hot coffee on herself after purchasing it at a fast food drive-up window is now binding precedent.
Div. Three Friday ordered publication of its May 21 ruling affirming a judgment in favor of Jack-in-the-Box, Inc. in a suit by Teckla Chude.
Proposition 213 bars an uninsured motorist from recovering non-economic damages in an “action to recover damages arising out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle.” Chude’s suit was dismissed after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David L. Minning granted summary adjudication applying the initiative, passed by voters in 1996 and codified as Civil Code Sec. 3333.4.
For purposes of the motion, it was undisputed that when Chude purchased the coffee at a Jack-in-the-Box on Cesar Chavez Blvd., the cup dropped from the lid and the coffee spilled on the seat. Chude, unable to free herself for two to three minutes because her car was too close to a wall, suffered burns that prevented her from sitting down for two weeks, causing her to miss school and lose out on an internship.
Justice Richard Aldrich, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the trial judge was correct. In doing so, he rejected the argument that there was no nexus between the injuries and the operation of the vehicle.
The drive-up, he noted, is for the exclusive use of customers driving motor vehicles. The initiative’s “arising out of” language, he added, has been given broad meaning by the courts, citing Cabral v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 907, where the motorist got out of a car and was hit by a bus, and Harris v. Lammers (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 1072, in which the plaintiff was injured while standing in a parking lot behind her uninsured vehicle and handing out balloons to her children inside.
Chude’s case was similar, Aldrich reasoned, because “[t]he vehicle was an indispensible condition precedent to the accident.”
Attorneys on appeal were Martin D. Gross for the plaintiff and Charles Peterson and Richard G. Berg for the defendant.
The case is Chude v. Jack-in-the-Box, Inc., 10 S.O.S. 2977.
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