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Dimitry K., Esq.
Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Category: Personal Injury Law
Satisfied Customers: 36753
Experience:  I provide basic personal injury advice to my clients in my own practice.
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I am the defendant of a small claims suit this week in the

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I am the defendant of a small claims suit this week in the state of California. It is a personal injury case. Two years ago, a man who attended a performance in our acting studio fell and was injured. He stated that he fell because there was no railing on the risers to prevent him from stepping off the side and the lighting was dim. He is suing me for $10,000, the maximum allowable in Calif. for a small claims suit. His medical bills were $8500. and paid for by his medicare and medical insurances so he has nothing out of pocket. The additional $1500 is for pain and suffering. It is listed in his filing in these amounts as medical bills and pain and suffering.

we feel there was enough safety precautions that met code to not be negligent. HIs accident report stated he was forced to re-climb the risers and exit off the side because it was too busy to exit properly. His original attorney dropped his case which I guess is why this landed in small claims court.

My question is twofold: 1) In California, if your medical bills are paid for for a personal injury claim, can you sure for that amount in court --for yourself or to sue to try to get the money reimbursed to your insurance company? and 2) Since this may boil down to perception, what documentation would be the most supportive to support or position that the lighting was adequate, railings are not mandated code for temporary seating, thousands of people attend events in this building in similar circumstances and none have decided to step off a side of a riser when they felt the lighting was dim. Is there an argument for contributory negligence and what would be needed to prove it?
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Personal Injury Law
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 10 months ago.

Thank you for your question. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns.

To answer both of your questions directly:
1) In California, if your medical bills are paid for a personal injury claim, can you sure for that amount in court --for yourself or to sue to try to get the money reimbursed to your insurance company? and
Yes, you can. Typically 'pain and suffering' is 3-5 times the medical bills, and suing for that amount can be done so as to reimburse the medical bills paid out of pocket. At times medical facilities place a lien against a judgment demanding that they be compensated first. In essence he can sue to try to get his medical bills and send those funds back to the facility.


2) Since this may boil down to perception, what documentation would be the most supportive to support or position that the lighting was adequate, railings are not mandated code for temporary seating, thousands of people attend events in this building in similar circumstances and none have decided to step off a side of a riser when they felt the lighting was dim. Is there an argument for contributory negligence and what would be needed to prove it?
This isn't a contributory negligence claim unless you can show that he was drunk or intoxicated, since that may indeed create a claim that he assumed the risk of going up the railings and subsequently injured himself. beyond that this isn't contributory at all because he was ultimately a business invitee onto your premises and was entitled to a safe railing and a safe means of being able to go up and down the stairs. What may help you is if you can obtain documentation that showed the premises to be up to code, that there were signs showing that individuals were barred from stepping on the side of the riser, or that there was valid support that he intentionally failed to utilize. This may be the better claim, and while I do see your argument for contributory negligence, if he claims that there was no other way to move back and forth, then it creates the perception that he had no other choice but to move as he did, which affects your claim and weakens your position.

Good luck.

Expert:  socrateaser replied 10 months ago.
Hello,

Different contributor here. I notice that you stated that the plaintiff's injury occurred two years ago. If the date of the injury was more than two years from the filing date of filing of the small claims action, then you can defend in small claims court that the statute of limitations has run out, and the plaintiff is not entitled to recover anything. See Code Civ. Proc 335.1

Hope this helps.
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 10 months ago.

Thank you for your follow-up. Your original contributor here.

I appreciate the new contributor pointing out that point. What would govern in that instance is the date when he filed, and while it is a valid point to evaluate, from your facts I gathered that he filed before the two year period expired. If that is not correct, please let me know and I will re-edit my answer. If not, then kindly disregard the comment placed by the other professional as it is not relevant or pertinent to your position.

Thank you!

Customer: replied 10 months ago.

Unfortunately for me he filed within 2 days of the expiration.

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 10 months ago.

Thank you for your follow-up.

I had a feeling that he did, especially when you mentioned that he had an attorney assisting him with this. What evidence, if any, do you have, that would show that the premises were up to code?

Customer: replied 10 months ago.

The statutes in the California municipal code do not require handrails for temporary audience/event seating.


 


We set up the house with at least 2 large aisle ways on either side of riser area.


 


The occupancy is 160; we set the seating to be at 100. The event box office indicated 50 seats were sold. So the house was 50% full. There should have been more than enough room to leave safely. Sometimes patrons talk or stall on their way down - I think the injured man was impatient so he found another way to exit quicker.


 


The lighting designer has indicated there was over 2,000 watts of light placed directly and indirectly above the seating area. This came from the light board and


 


The Stage Manager of the event confirmed the house management protocol was that the studio lights ( large flourescents) were turned on within 1 minute following the event conclusion. This would have flooded the building with light (built to city code) - the time lapse would have been the time took for the stage manager to exit the tech booth area and walk across the room to turn on the house lights. During this transition time, the same 2,000+ watts of pre-show lighting was on


 


The risers have a raised edge of 2" wood wrapped in yellow and black caution tape.


 


I do not find any other requirements in the California Municipal Building Code.


 


The House Manager on site assisted people exiting - the injury happened before he was even out on the floor to do so - so not much.


 


I can get statements from the lighting designer, stage manager and house manager ( none of whom were working in my employ) indicating the procedure in place to run the event safely. Would it help and what type of statement is allowable in small claims court?


 

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 10 months ago.

Thank you for your follow-up.

Those statements would help tremendously. If you can appear with you in court as witnesses, that would be ideal especially since they are not your employees. That would make them strong witnesses for your claim that he other party failed to utilize reasonable care on his own, and caused his own injuries. Small claims permits witnesses since the other party then has a chance to question and potentially cross-examine their comments and testimony. If you cannot get them to come, have them sign a notarized and witnessed sworn affidavit providing their opinion and information on the night in question, focusing specifically on operation and on how the premises were set up so as to ensure that the premises were as safe as possible for the use of the business invitees. Those are fairly strong witnesses so if you can convince them to come with you, it would really help your case.

Good luck.

Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Satisfied Customers: 36753
Experience: I provide basic personal injury advice to my clients in my own practice.
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