Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., No. C013093

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtSIMS
Citation20 Cal.Rptr.2d 913,16 Cal.App.4th 1830
PartiesFrances Marie JACKSON, Individually and as Special Administrator, etc., et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. RYDER TRUCK RENTAL, INC., Defendant and Respondent.
Decision Date12 July 1993
Docket NumberNo. C013093

Page 913

20 Cal.Rptr.2d 913
16 Cal.App.4th 1830
Frances Marie JACKSON, Individually and as Special Administrator, etc., et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
RYDER TRUCK RENTAL, INC., Defendant and Respondent.
No. C013093.
Court of Appeal, Third District, California.
July 12, 1993.
Review Denied Oct. 21, 1993.

Page 915

[16 Cal.App.4th 1834] Bolling, Walter & Gawthrop, T.D. Bolling, Jr. and Marjorie E. Manning, Sacramento, for plaintiffs and appellants.

Matheny, Poidmore & Sears, Douglas A. Sears and Michael A. Bishop, Sacramento, for defendant and respondent.

SIMS, Acting Presiding Justice.

Plaintiffs Frances Marie Jackson, Individually and as Special Administrator, etc., et al. appeal from a summary judgment in favor [16 Cal.App.4th 1835] of defendant Ryder Truck Rental, Inc. (Ryder) in plaintiffs' lawsuit for wrongful death. We shall reverse the summary judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. Facts.

Stated most favorably to plaintiffs, evidence adduced upon the motion for summary judgment showed the following:

The decedent was an employee of S.B. Thomas Company (Thomas). On August 26, 1985, he was working as a relief driver servicing Thomas customers in Sacramento. Ryder had exclusive responsibility under contract with Thomas for inspection, preventive maintenance, service, and repair of Thomas vehicles in Sacramento. The Thomas employee who normally drove the truck used by the decedent had experienced many problems with the truck's electrical system and had reported those problems to Ryder, but electrical failures had persisted up to the date of the accident.

In the early morning hours of August 26, 1985, when it was still dark, the decedent pulled off eastbound Highway 50 onto the shoulder. After he got out of the truck, while standing on the shoulder about four feet south of the fog line, he was struck and seriously injured by a car driven by Valerie Ferra. Both decedent and Ferra were found unconscious when rescuers arrived at the accident scene. The California Highway Patrol officer who inspected the truck at the scene found its electrical system was completely inoperable.

The investigating officer found no evidence that Ferra had braked or attempted to take evasive action before the accident, indicating that she may have fallen asleep at the wheel. The officer opined that Ferra was speeding at the time of the accident.

The decedent died several months after the accident. Ferra survived, but suffered a complete memory loss as to the accident.

The history of repairs on the truck indicated the battery had been replaced five times in two years, during which time the vehicle had been driven only 30,000 miles. Plaintiffs' expert testified in deposition the vehicle was "eating batteries." The expert stated, "It appears to me that there was a longstanding electrical problem in this van which had not been adequately addressed.

Page 916

It seems like they were repairing or replacing parts, but not really fixing the problem, whatever it was."

[16 Cal.App.4th 1836] B. Procedure.

Plaintiffs filed this action for negligent wrongful death in February 1986.

In January 1992, Ryder moved for summary judgment on four separate grounds: (1) that the evidence showed no negligent maintenance of the truck; (2) that Ryder's duty to use due care did not extend to the risk encountered by the decedent because Ferra's conduct was not foreseeable; (3) that Ryder's conduct was not the proximate cause of the accident because it was Ferra's conduct which actually injured the decedent; and (4) that Ryder was not liable for the decedent's death because Ferra's conduct was an intervening, superseding cause of the collision.

At the hearing on the motion, the trial court stated, "We assume [Ryder is] negligent. I mean, that's a given." The trial court concluded Ryder's negligence was not a proximate cause of the accident. The trial court thereupon entered judgment dismissing plaintiffs complaint. This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION
I

Standard of Review

A motion for summary judgment is properly granted if 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. (Code Civ.Proc., § 437c, subd. (c).) If summary judgment was properly granted on any ground, we must affirm regardless of whether the court's reasoning was correct. (Troche v. Daley (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 403, 407-408, 266 Cal.Rptr. 34.)

We independently review the parties' papers supporting and opposing the motion, using the same method of analysis as the trial court. (AARTS Productions, Inc. v. Crocker National Bank (1986) 179 Cal.App.3d 1061, 1064-1065, 225 Cal.Rptr. 203.) The moving party bears the burden of proving that the claims of the adverse party are entirely without merit on any legal theory. (Mann v. Cracchiolo (1985) 38 Cal.3d 18, 35-36, 210 Cal.Rptr. 762, 694 P.2d 1134.) The opposition must demonstrate only the existence of at least one triable issue of fact ( AARTS, supra, 179 Cal.App.3d at p. 1065, 225 Cal.Rptr. 203), and all doubts as to the propriety of granting the motion must be resolved in favor of the party opposing the motion. (Molko v. Holy Spirit Assn. (1988) 46 Cal.3d 1092, 1107, 252 Cal.Rptr. 122, 762 P.2d 46.)

16 Cal.App.4th 1837

II

Negligent Maintenance of the Truck

At various points in its brief, Ryder asserts there was no evidence showing it negligently maintained the subject truck, or that the negligence caused the truck to pull off the freeway.

This argument is not well taken.

In determining the propriety of a motion for summary judgment, we are to consider "all inferences reasonably deducible from the evidence, except summary judgment shall not be granted by the court based on inferences reasonably deducible from the evidence, if contradicted by other inferences or evidence, which raise a triable issue as to any material fact." (Code Civ.Proc. § 437c, subd. (c).)

Here, the evidence recounted above indicated the truck had experienced repeated electrical problems that had not been adequately fixed. This evidence is sufficient to show Ryder negligently maintained the truck. Moreover, the history of electrical problems, plus the fact that the truck's electrical system was found totally inoperable at the scene of the accident, permit the reasonable inference that the truck pulled off the freeway because it was disabled by electrical failure. Ryder's contentions to the contrary are without merit.

III

Duty

We turn to the question of whether, in the circumstances, Ryder owed plaintiffs a duty of care.

Page 917

"Actionable negligence is traditionally regarded as involving the following: (a) a legal duty to use due care; (b) a breach of such legal duty; (c) the breach as the proximate or legal cause of the resulting injury." (6 Witkin, Summary of Cal.Law (9th ed. 1988) Torts, § 732, p. 60, and cases cited.) "Under the duty approach [to negligence], conduct is negligent when it creates an unreasonable risk of harm to some general class of persons. If the plaintiff is not within that class toward whom the defendant is negligent, the injury does not apply. (See Rest.2d, Torts § 281." (6 Witkin, op. cit. supra, § 733, p. 61.)

"... [E]very case is governed by the rule of general application that all persons are required to use ordinary care to prevent others from being [16 Cal.App.4th 1838] injured as the result of their conduct." (Weirum v. RKO General, Inc. (1975) 15 Cal.3d 40, 46, 123 Cal.Rptr. 468, 539 P.2d 36; Civ.Code, § 1714.) Exceptions to this rule may be justified only by clear public policy. (Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 112, 70 Cal.Rptr. 97, 443 P.2d 561.)

"While breach of duty and proximate cause normally present factual questions, the existence of a legal duty in a given factual situation is a question of law for the courts to determine. [Citation.]" (Andrews v. Wells (1988) 204 Cal.App.3d 533, 538, 251 Cal.Rptr. 344.)

"As Witkin notes, '[t]he "legal duty" of care may be of two general types: (a) the duty of a person to use ordinary care in activities from which harm might reasonably be anticipated[;] (b) [a]n affirmative duty where the person occupies a particular relationship to others. In the first situation, he is not liable unless he is actively careless; in the second, he may be liable for failure to act affirmatively to prevent harm.' (6 Witkin, [Summary of Cal.Law, op. cit. supra, Torts], § 732, p. 61; citations omitted.) Thus, in considering whether a person had a legal duty in a particular factual situation, a distinction must be made between claims of liability based upon misfeasance and those based upon nonfeasance. 'Misfeasance exists when the defendant is responsible for making the plaintiff's position worse, i.e., defendant has created a risk. Conversely, nonfeasance is found when the defendant has failed to aid plaintiff through beneficial intervention.... [L]iability for nonfeasance is largely limited to those circumstances in which some special relationship can be established. If, on the other hand, the act complained of is one of misfeasance, the question of duty is governed by the standards of ordinary care....' (Weirum, [supra,] 15 Cal.3d [at p.] 49 [123 Cal.Rptr. 468, 539 P.2d 36]; see also Clarke v. Hoek [1985] 174 Cal.App.3d [208,] 215-216 [219 Cal.Rptr. 845].)" (Andrews, supra, 204 Cal.App.3d at pp. 538-539, 251 Cal.Rptr. 344.)

Here, Ryder does not dispute that it owed a duty of ordinary care as an independent contractor to maintain Thomas's trucks in a condition reasonably safe for driving, and that the decedent, a Thomas employee who drove those trucks, belonged to the class of persons to whom Ryder owed that duty. (Rest.2d Torts, § 403; 6 Witkin, Summary of Cal.Law, op. cit. supra, Torts, § 949, p. 333, and cases cited.) However, Ryder denies that this duty extended so far as to render it liable to the decedent under these circumstances. In Ryder's view, it had no duty...

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  • Jackson v. Aeg Live, LLC, B252411
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 30, 2015
    ...( Andrews v. Wells (1988) 204 Cal.App.3d 533, 538, 251 Cal.Rptr. 344 [ ( Andrews ) ].)” ( Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc. (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1830, 1837–1838, 20 Cal.Rptr.2d 913.) “ ‘As Witkin notes, “[t]he ‘legal duty’ of care may be of two general types: (a) the duty of a person to ......
  • Cabral v. Ralphs Grocery Co., No. E044098.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 10, 2009
    ...safer. In support of the argument that Ralphs owed a duty to Decedent, Plaintiff relies on Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc. (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1830 [20 Cal.Rptr.2d 913] (Jackson) and Bigbee v. Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. (1983) 34 Cal.3d 49 [192 Cal.Rptr. 857, 665 P.2d 947] (Bigbee). In J......
  • Jackson v. AEG Live, LLC, B252411
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 30, 2015
    ...(Andrews v. Wells (1988) 204 Cal.App.3d 533, 538, 251 Cal.Rptr. 344 [ (Andrews ) ].)” (Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc . (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1830, 1837–1838, 20 Cal.Rptr.2d 913.) “ ‘As Witkin notes, “[t]he ‘legal duty’ of care may be of two general types: (a) the duty of a person to us......
  • Kesner v. Superior Court of Alameda Cnty., S219534
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 1, 2016
    ...Crown Disposal Co. (1997) 15 Cal.4th 456, 476, 63 Cal.Rptr.2d 291, 936 P.2d 70 (Parsons ); Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc. (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1830, 1839, 20 Cal.Rptr.2d 913.) For purposes of duty analysis, " ‘foreseeability is not to be measured by what is more probable than not, but......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
100 cases
  • Jackson v. Aeg Live, LLC, B252411
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 30, 2015
    ...( Andrews v. Wells (1988) 204 Cal.App.3d 533, 538, 251 Cal.Rptr. 344 [ ( Andrews ) ].)” ( Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc. (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1830, 1837–1838, 20 Cal.Rptr.2d 913.) “ ‘As Witkin notes, “[t]he ‘legal duty’ of care may be of two general types: (a) the duty of a person to ......
  • Cabral v. Ralphs Grocery Co., No. E044098.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 10, 2009
    ...safer. In support of the argument that Ralphs owed a duty to Decedent, Plaintiff relies on Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc. (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1830 [20 Cal.Rptr.2d 913] (Jackson) and Bigbee v. Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. (1983) 34 Cal.3d 49 [192 Cal.Rptr. 857, 665 P.2d 947] (Bigbee). In J......
  • Jackson v. AEG Live, LLC, B252411
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 30, 2015
    ...(Andrews v. Wells (1988) 204 Cal.App.3d 533, 538, 251 Cal.Rptr. 344 [ (Andrews ) ].)” (Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc . (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1830, 1837–1838, 20 Cal.Rptr.2d 913.) “ ‘As Witkin notes, “[t]he ‘legal duty’ of care may be of two general types: (a) the duty of a person to us......
  • Kesner v. Superior Court of Alameda Cnty., S219534
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 1, 2016
    ...Crown Disposal Co. (1997) 15 Cal.4th 456, 476, 63 Cal.Rptr.2d 291, 936 P.2d 70 (Parsons ); Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc. (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1830, 1839, 20 Cal.Rptr.2d 913.) For purposes of duty analysis, " ‘foreseeability is not to be measured by what is more probable than not, but......
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