Johnson v. Raytheon Co., B281411

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtGRIMES, Acting P. J.
Citation245 Cal.Rptr.3d 282,33 Cal.App.5th 617
Parties Laurence JOHNSON, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. The RAYTHEON COMPANY, INC. et al., Defendants and Respondents.
Decision Date08 March 2019
Docket NumberB281411

33 Cal.App.5th 617
245 Cal.Rptr.3d 282

Laurence JOHNSON, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
The RAYTHEON COMPANY, INC. et al., Defendants and Respondents.

B281411

Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 8, California.

Filed March 8, 2019


Robinson Calcagnie, Mark P. Robinson, Kevin Calcagnie, Newport Beach, Genevieve Outlaw; Steinbrecher and Associates and Edward Steinbrecher for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Horvitz & Levy, Mitchell C. Tilner, Stephen E. Norris, Burbank; Burke, Williams & Sorensen, Mark J. Mulkerin, Santa Ana, and Brian Hamblet, Los Angeles, for Defendant and Respondent The Raytheon Company Inc.

Yukevich Cavanaugh, James J. Yukevich, Raymond H. Hua, Los Angeles, and Michael D. Johnson for Defendant and Respondent Systems XT, Inc.

GRIMES, Acting P. J.

33 Cal.App.5th 621

Plaintiff and appellant Laurence Johnson was seriously injured when he fell from a ladder at work. At the time, Johnson

245 Cal.Rptr.3d 285

was employed by an independent contractor which provided maintenance engineering staff for defendant and respondent The Raytheon Company, Inc. Raytheon was undergoing a renovation project of a water cooling tower on its premises. The prime contractor for the water cooling tower project was defendant and respondent Systems XT, Inc.

In the course of Johnson’s maintenance engineering work, he investigated a low water level alarm by looking over the water cooling tower wall. To do so, he used an unsafe partial extension ladder which had been left at the wall by one of Systems XT’s subcontractors, and he fell when the ladder slipped. Johnson sued multiple defendants, alleging they were all responsible for the unsafe conditions which led to his fall. Two of the defendants, Raytheon and Systems XT, obtained summary judgment, and Johnson appeals. We affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

1. The Parties

Before we discuss the facts in detail, it is useful to identify all of the entities involved and their contractual relationships.

Johnson was a maintenance engineer employed by ABM Facilities Services, Inc., an independent contractor which provided control room staff to Raytheon. ABM is not a defendant in this case; Johnson received workers' compensation benefits through ABM for the injuries he sustained in his fall.

Separate and apart from Raytheon’s contractual relationship with ABM was Raytheon’s contractual relationship with Systems XT. Systems XT is a

33 Cal.App.5th 622

mechanical contractor which Raytheon hired to remove and replace its water cooling towers. It was the prime contractor on the job.1

Two of Systems XT’s subcontractors are also defendants in this case, although they are not parties to this appeal. The first is Brownco Construction Company, Inc. which was the concrete subcontractor, and the entity which left the unsafe partial extension ladder at the cooling tower wall. The second is Power Edge Solutions, Inc. The water cooling tower required constant electronic monitoring of its water level. Power Edge Solutions was the subcontractor which installed electronic monitors as the water cooling tower renovation project progressed. This is relevant because Johnson alleges the alarm to which he was responding was a false alarm, which only occurred due to Power Edge Solutions' alleged faulty wiring of the water level monitor.

2. Johnson’s Accident2

Johnson worked the graveyard shift, monitoring various computers in the control room in Raytheon’s Building E5. At around 2:50 a.m. on February 20, 2013, he started receiving low water level alarms pertaining to the water cooling towers. He was unable to resolve the alarms, so he telephoned his ABM supervisor, Robert Whitney. Whitney told him to do whatever he thought he should do. Johnson chose to go to the cooling tower wall directly, and look over the wall to verify the water level.

245 Cal.Rptr.3d 286

Johnson saw a ladder leaning against the cooling tower wall. In the past, there had been a Raytheon-owned platform ladder at the wall.3 There was no platform ladder at the wall when Johnson approached. Instead, there was what appeared to be a straight ladder, which Brownco had left against the cooling tower wall. It turns out the ladder was not a straight ladder, but the upper half of an extension ladder. As it was intended for use only with the bottom half of the extension ladder, it did not have proper footing. In fact, the upper half of the extension ladder leaning against the wall had a caution label on it, stating, in all capital letters, "CAUTION" and "THIS LADDER SECTION IS NOT DESIGNED FOR SEPARATE USE." Johnson did not see the caution label, nor did he move or adjust the ladder to make certain it was secure prior to using it. This was so even though Johnson noticed that the ground was wet; it had rained earlier.

33 Cal.App.5th 623

Johnson ascended the ladder the few steps needed to look over the 8-foot wall. He looked over the wall and confirmed there was no problem with the water level. While he was climbing down the ladder, it slid out, causing him to fall on top of the ladder and sustain serious injuries. He was discovered some time later by a security guard who heard his screams in the distance.

Whitney later had Power Edge Solutions investigate the water level monitor. Power Edge Solutions reported to him that the connections on the sensor had corroded.4 When Power Edge Solutions replaced the wires, the false alarms stopped.

Whitney completed an incident report regarding Johnson’s accident. When asked why the unsafe conditions occurred, he responded, "Connections on the level sensor to sump level corroded, rain and tower runoff to wet concrete surface, lack of lighting and poor choice of ladder used."

3. Allegations of the Complaint

Johnson originally brought suit against Raytheon, which removed the case to federal court. The matter was subsequently remanded after Johnson added additional defendants whose presence defeated diversity jurisdiction. The operative complaint is the first amended complaint, which named as defendants Raytheon, Systems XT, Brownco, and Power Edge Solutions.

As against Raytheon, Johnson alleged causes of action for negligence and premises liability.5 Johnson alleged that Raytheon was negligent in the "retention of their control of the subject premises, including the water cooling tower, the worksite, the procedures, and the unsafe equipment including the subject ladder, and Defendant Raytheon Company affirmatively contributed to causing [his] severe and catastrophic injuries." Johnson’s complaint, however, did not specify any way in which Raytheon "affirmatively contributed" to his injuries.

As to Systems XT, Johnson alleged that it was the general contractor and therefore responsible for all of the work of its subcontractors, including Brownco and Power

245 Cal.Rptr.3d 287

Edge Solutions. Johnson alleged Systems XT was

33 Cal.App.5th 624

negligent in two specific ways: (1) in allowing the sensor wires to be hooked up in a manner in which they were exposed to the elements, such that a false alarm was generated; and (2) in failing to supervise the construction site and require Brownco to put its ladders away at the end of each day.6

Raytheon and Systems XT each moved for summary judgment. Although the briefing was virtually simultaneous, we discuss the proceedings on, and resolution of, each motion separately.

4. Raytheon’s Motion for Summary Judgment

In Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 689, 21 Cal.Rptr.2d 72, 854 P.2d 721 ( Privette ), our Supreme Court held that when an employee of an independent contractor hired to do dangerous work suffers a work-related injury, the employee cannot recover against the individual who retained the independent contractor. ( Id . at p. 692, 21 Cal.Rptr.2d 72, 854 P.2d 721.) As Johnson was injured during the course of his employment with ABM, an independent contractor retained by Raytheon, Raytheon sought summary judgment on the basis of Privette and its progeny.

In opposition, Johnson argued that Privette was inapplicable, because his theory of liability against Raytheon was not one of vicarious liability, but direct liability for Raytheon’s own breach of duties owed to Johnson. Specifically, the Privette doctrine allows for liability when the hirer of the independent contractor retained control over safety conditions at the worksite, and negligently exercised that retained control in a manner which affirmatively contributed to the employee’s injuries. ( Hooker v. Department of Transportation (2002) 27 Cal.4th 198, 202, 115 Cal.Rptr.2d 853, 38 P.3d 1081 ( Hooker ).) Johnson took the position that Raytheon had retained control over which ladders ABM employees could use to look over the water cooling tower wall. Johnson argued that Raytheon had retained that control by generally leaving a...

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12 practice notes
  • McHenry v. Asylum Entm't Del., LLC, B292457
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 12, 2020
    ...a special relationship by entering into a contract imposing a "contractual duty" to act. ( Johnson v. The Raytheon Co., Inc. (2019) 33 Cal.App.5th 617, 634, 245 Cal.Rptr.3d 282 ; Seo , at p. 1203, 119 Cal.Rptr.2d 160 ; Suarez v. Pacific Northstar Mechanical, Inc. (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 430,......
  • Gordon v. ARC Mfg., Inc., D075373
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 19, 2019
    ...contractor is not liable for on-the-job injuries to the independent contractor's employees. ( Johnson v. The Raytheon Co., Inc. (2019) 33 Cal.App.5th 617, 628, 245 Cal.Rptr.3d 282 ( Johnson ).)In Ruiz v. Herman Weissker, Inc. (2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 52, 29 Cal.Rptr.3d 641 ( Ruiz ), a power c......
  • Valdez v. Seidner-Miller, Inc., B281003
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 27, 2019
    ...233 Cal.App.4th 1036, 1049-1050, 182 Cal.Rptr.3d 691 ["Because of the undefined and subjective nature of the term that [the dealer] 245 Cal.Rptr.3d 282would repurchase the ‘undamaged’ car, we conclude the section 998 offer was at least ambiguous, and was therefore not valid."].)Seidner coul......
  • Zuniga v. Cherry Ave. Auction, Inc., F078402
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 16, 2021
    ...Group, Inc. (1998) 18 Cal.4th 253, 256–257 [74 Cal.Rptr.2d 878, 955 P.2d 504]." ( Johnson v The Raytheon Co., Inc. (2019) supra , 33 Cal.App.5th 617, 628, 245 Cal.Rptr.3d 282.) Second, Privette applies when the employee's theory of liability is that the hirer negligently hired the independe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • McHenry v. Asylum Entm't Del., LLC, B292457
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 12, 2020
    ...a special relationship by entering into a contract imposing a "contractual duty" to act. ( Johnson v. The Raytheon Co., Inc. (2019) 33 Cal.App.5th 617, 634, 245 Cal.Rptr.3d 282 ; Seo , at p. 1203, 119 Cal.Rptr.2d 160 ; Suarez v. Pacific Northstar Mechanical, Inc. (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 430,......
  • Gordon v. ARC Mfg., Inc., D075373
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 19, 2019
    ...contractor is not liable for on-the-job injuries to the independent contractor's employees. ( Johnson v. The Raytheon Co., Inc. (2019) 33 Cal.App.5th 617, 628, 245 Cal.Rptr.3d 282 ( Johnson ).)In Ruiz v. Herman Weissker, Inc. (2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 52, 29 Cal.Rptr.3d 641 ( Ruiz ), a power c......
  • Valdez v. Seidner-Miller, Inc., B281003
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 27, 2019
    ...233 Cal.App.4th 1036, 1049-1050, 182 Cal.Rptr.3d 691 ["Because of the undefined and subjective nature of the term that [the dealer] 245 Cal.Rptr.3d 282would repurchase the ‘undamaged’ car, we conclude the section 998 offer was at least ambiguous, and was therefore not valid."].)Seidner coul......
  • Zuniga v. Cherry Ave. Auction, Inc., F078402
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 16, 2021
    ...Group, Inc. (1998) 18 Cal.4th 253, 256–257 [74 Cal.Rptr.2d 878, 955 P.2d 504]." ( Johnson v The Raytheon Co., Inc. (2019) supra , 33 Cal.App.5th 617, 628, 245 Cal.Rptr.3d 282.) Second, Privette applies when the employee's theory of liability is that the hirer negligently hired the independe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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