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Motion of Summary Judgment Granted in Trip and Fall Case

January 24, 2023

A motion for summary judgment was granted by Judge James L. Crandall from the Orange County Superior court in favor of Defendant's Gym located in Fullerton, California in a premises liability case. Lisa D. Angelo, Scott J. Loeding, and Katie M. Trinh of Murchison & Cumming, LLP represented defendant.

Plaintiff was a member of a local gym in Fullerton, California. When she initially became a member, she signed an agreement which included a Waiver and Release of Liability as well as Indemnity Agreement. On October 16, 2019 at approximately 6:30 in the morning, plaintiff walked into the lobby of the gym and tripped over a yellow wet floor caution sign. The sign had been placed on the floor by a janitor after he mopped the floor in the morning. Plaintiff sustained personal injuries including a upper humerus fracture on the right side. Plaintiff claimed damages in the low six figure range. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on grounds the waiver and release of liability provision contained in the gym membership agreement barred her claims against the gym.

On August 3, 2022, Judge James L. Crandall from the Orange County Superior Court granted defendant's motion and found plaintiff waived her rights to sue for personal injuries when she signed her membership agreement, which included the liability waiver. The court further held that even though plaintiff spoke a different language, claimed to not understand the agreement or know what she was signing, that did not bar enforcement of the agreement.

On November 16, 2022, Plaintiff filed a Motion for New Trial pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 657 and on grounds the court's order granting summary judgment was improperly issued because the court did not have a tentative ruling or Order noting the basis for the court's ruling ahead of the hearing and/or because the ruling amounted to an error in law because a warning sign was excluded by the release as a known risk and because the evidence before the court on the MSJ was insufficient to justify the court's decision.

On January 24, 2023, Judge Martha K. Gooding from the Orange County Superior Court denied Plaintiff's motion on both grounds. First, the court found that a trial court need not have a detailed order reflecting his or her decision to grant an MSJ ahead of the hearing and there is nothing improper about adopting the reasoning recited in the moving party's proposed order. Second, the court found that Defendant has shown with undisputed evidence that it was not negligent as a matter of law by having the wet floor caution sign displayed when plaintiff tripped over it.

In denying plaintiff's motion for a new trial, the court effectively found in favor of Defendant for a second time and on a second ground—the merits. Thus, Defendant prevailed twice by way of moving papers, first based upon the waiver/release and second, based upon the fact that a wet floor sign does not constitute a dangerous condition.