Hamilton v. Martinelli & Associates

Decision Date23 July 2003
Docket NumberNo. E031683.,E031683.
Citation2 Cal.Rptr.3d 168,110 Cal.App.4th 1012
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesBarbara Ann HAMILTON, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. MARTINELLI & ASSOCIATES et al. Defendants and Respondents.

Tomlinson, Nydam and Prince and Timothy P. Prince, San Bernardino, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Michael P. Stone, Pasadena, and Marc J. Berger, for Defendants and Respondents.



1. Introduction

Plaintiff appeals from a summary judgment entered in favor of defendants Ronald Martinelli (Martinelli) and Martinelli & Associates Justice Consultants, Inc. (Martinelli & Associates) (collectively defendants), on plaintiffs complaint for personal injuries based on negligence and intentional tort. We affirm.

Plaintiff was employed as a probation corrections officer and peace officer with the San Bernardino County Probation Department (the Department). As a condition of her employment, she was required to participate in an "Unarmed Defensive Tactics" (UDT) training course. Defendant Martinelli instructed the course on behalf of Martinelli & Associates. Plaintiff suffered injuries to her neck and back while performing a training maneuver. As a result, she is no longer able to work as a probation corrections officer or peace officer.

The trial court concluded that the doctrine of primary assumption of risk barred plaintiffs negligence and intentional tort claims, and that Civil Code section 1714.9,1 which sets forth specific exceptions to the firefighter's rule, did not apply. The trial court reasoned that "the undisputed facts establish that defendant[s] performed a training maneuver on plaintiff, and not an attack. Thus, the burden shifts to plaintiff to show that the maneuver was so violent or dangerous as to be outside the category of the training exercise. This she has failed to do. There is no evidence that defendants] exceeded the boundaries of the normal risks associated with this type of training. Plaintiffs assertions to the contrary do not rise to the level of creating a triable issue of fact."

Plaintiff contends that there are triable issues of fact concerning whether defendants increased the risk of harm associated with the UDT training maneuver, and intentionally caused her injuries. She further contends that there are triable issues of fact concerning whether the exceptions to the firefighter's rule set forth in section 1714.9, subdivision (a)(1) and (3) apply, and whether the common law "independent acts" exception also applies.

We conclude that plaintiff assumed the risk of her injuries by participating in the UDT training course. We find no triable issue of material fact that defendants increased the risk of harm to plaintiff in performing the training maneuver, or intentionally caused plaintiffs injuries. We further conclude that the firefighter's rule also bars plaintiffs claims, and that none of its exceptions apply.

Plaintiffs public employment duties included restraining some violent juvenile offenders. Her training in the use of unarmed defensive tactics enabled her to perform these employment duties. In this opinion, we hold that under the doctrine of primary assumption of risk and the firefighter's rule, no duty is owed to a peace officer who is engaged in training to meet an emergency situation. 2. Facts

A. Undisputed Facts

Plaintiff was employed as a probation corrections officer in a youth detention center. This is a peace officer position. (Pen.Code, § 830.5.)2 Plaintiffs employment duties included supervising and counseling children between the ages of 10 and 18, including violent offenders. She was required to wear a uniform and carry pepper spray. As a further condition of her employment, she was required to complete a UDT training course and pass a proficiency test.

In September 1999, plaintiff participated in a UDT training course that included instruction in "ground fighting maneuvers." Martinelli and one of his assistants instructed the course through Martinelli & Associates, under contract with the Department. In previous years, plaintiff participated in similar UDT training courses taught by Martinelli.

The UDT training course was certified by the California Board of Corrections Standards and Training Commission (the STC). The STC sets uniform training standards for probation corrections officers. Martinelli was an STC-certified instructor for the UDT training course.

Plaintiff was injured in the UDT training course while she performed a maneuver called "reversal on stomach and choking officer" or "officer on stomach with arm-bar choke." The maneuver was designed to teach plaintiff to extricate herself if she was attacked, landed on her stomach, and was being choked by an assailant straddling her back. Martinelli played the role of the attacker.

Before beginning physical training, class participants were asked to identify prior injuries and sensitive areas of their bodies by placing silver tape on the identified areas. The maneuvers were demonstrated to the class before participants were instructed to perform them.

Plaintiff was not provided with a written disclaimer, warning, or consent form. Before plaintiff was injured, 10 other persons were injured in Martinelli's UDT classes, but plaintiff was not informed of these injuries.

The first time plaintiff performed the maneuver, she succeeded in throwing Martinelli off her back. Martinelli then instructed plaintiff to perform the maneuver faster. Plaintiff again successfully performed the maneuver, but felt pain in her neck when she stood up. She suffered "disabling physical injuries to her back and neck, including a herniated disc of the cervical spine." She filed a workers' compensation claim for her injuries and received benefits.

Plaintiff began working for the Department in April 1988 as a "group counselor." Shortly after she began her employment, she received "`core training' on the administrative and physical requirements of her job and proper techniques for counseling and supervising the detainees, and in arrest and search and seizure techniques." In 1997, her job duties changed "from counseling and verbal skills into [emphasizing] physical restraint and superiority."

Plaintiff sued defendants for intentional tort and negligence. Defendants moved for summary judgment, based on the doctrine of primary assumption of risk and the firefighter's rule. The trial court granted the motion and entered judgment in favor of defendants.

B. Additional Evidence

Plaintiff claims that in performing the UDT training maneuver, Martinelli straddled her back, placed "a great deal of weight" on her back and spine, placed his arm around her neck and choked her, and "forced her to throw him off her back." She said Martinelli placed more weight on her than he had when she performed previous maneuvers.

Plaintiff also claims that "Martinelli's teaching techniques included intimidation, shame and yelling." She said Martinelli "harbored bitter feelings against [her] based on a prior dispute" and displayed "reckless and vindictive" indifference to her safety.

Plaintiff submitted a declaration by Patricia Lamb, a Department employee and certified police officer standards training instructor. Ms. Lamb opined that Martinelli's teaching methods "unnecessarily increase the risk of harm to trainees such as [plaintiff]." She also said "[t]he maneuvers Martinelli requires his trainees to perform ... are not mandated nor prescribed by STC." In Ms. Lamb's opinion, the maneuvers are "unnecessary and inappropriate in the context of mandatory training."

Plaintiff also submitted a declaration from Geoffrey Maline, another Department employee and peace officer. Mr. Maline suffered injuries to his back and neck after performing one of Martinelli's ground fighting maneuvers. He said that "[n]one of my training outside of Martinelli's course included `dynamic' ground fighting maneuvers with an instructor on the trainee's back."

Although not found in plaintiffs response to defendants' undisputed statement of facts, plaintiff testified in her deposition that training in UDT was, in her opinion, not necessary for the performance of the essential functions of her job. She admitted, however, that some degree of training in restraining juveniles was necessary for her safety on the job.

3. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

"The purpose of a motion for summary judgment is `to discover whether the parties possess evidence requiring the factweighing procedures of a trial. [Citations.]' [Citation.] Code of Civil Procedure section 437c, subdivision (c) provides that a motion for summary judgment must be granted `if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" (City of Oceanside v. Superior Court (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 269, 273, 96 Cal.Rptr.2d 621.)

A moving party defendant is entitled to summary judgment if it establishes a complete defense to the plaintiffs causes of action, or shows that one or more elements of each cause of action cannot be established. The defendant must support its motion with affidavits, declarations, admissions, answers to interrogatories, depositions, and matters of which judicial notice shall or may be taken. (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subds. (b) & (o)(2); Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 849, 107 Cal.Rptr.2d 841, 24 P.3d 493.)

Once the defendant has met its burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show a triable issue of one or more material facts, or a defense thereto. The plaintiff may not rely upon the mere allegations in its complaint, but must set forth "specific facts" showing that a triable issue exists. (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (p)(2).)

We review the trial court's decision de novo. (Merrill v. Navegar, Inc. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 465, 476, 110 Cal.Rptr.2d 370, 28 P.3d 116.) "Because a summary judgment denies the adversary party a trial, it...

To continue reading

Request your trial
23 cases
  • Nalwa v. Cedar Fair, LP, H034535
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • June 10, 2011
    ...following skateboarding exhibition]; (Saville, supra, 133 Cal.App.4th 857 [peace officer training class]; Hamilton v. Martinelli & Associates (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1012 [probation officer training course]; Herrle v. Estate of Marshall (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1761 [caregiver assaulted by hosp......
  • Gregory v. Cott
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • August 4, 2014
    ...of risk inapplicable to truck driving trainee injured loading freight on flatbed truck]; but see Hamilton v. Martinelli & Associates (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1012, 1016–1017, 2 Cal.Rptr.3d 168 [primary assumption of risk applies to probation officer injured during self-defense training].) Cou......
  • Gregory v. Cott
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • April 10, 2013
    ...v. Citrus Community College Dist. (2006) 38 Cal.4th 148, 166, 41 Cal.Rptr.3d 299, 131 P.3d 383; Hamilton v. Martinelli & Associates (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1012, 1024, 2 Cal.Rptr.3d 168.) In the recent case of Nalwa, supra, 55 Cal.4th at page 1156, 150 Cal.Rptr.3d 551, 290 P.3d 1158, the cou......
  • Nalwa v. Cedar Fair, LP
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • August 31, 2011
    ...exhibition]; ( Saville, supra, 133 Cal.App.4th 857, 36 Cal.Rptr.3d 515 [peace officer training class]; Hamilton v. Martinelli & Associates (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1012, 2 Cal.Rptr.3d 168 [probation officer training course]; Herrle v. Estate of Marshall (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1761, 53 Cal.Rptr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT