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Anthony Angelotti v. the Walt Disney Company et al

February 24, 2011

ANTHONY ANGELOTTI, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Randy Rhodes, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. PC041078)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Croskey, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Affirmed.

Anthony Angelotti was injured while rehearsing a stunt for a film. He filed a complaint against several parties associated with the film production. The trial court concluded that a production company, Second Mate Productions, Inc. (Second Mate), was Angelotti's special employer and that the workers' compensation exclusivity rule precluded any recovery against either Second Mate or its employee Jim Stephan. The court also concluded that The Walt Disney Company (Disney Company) and other defendants owed Angelotti no duty of care. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

Angelotti contends whether he was a special employee of Second Mate is a question of fact that cannot be resolved on summary judgment. He also contends Disney Company and other defendants assumed a duty to ensure that the production complied with occupational safety regulations, and those defendants retained control over the film production and affirmatively contributed to his injury by providing unsafe equipment and failing to ensure his safety.

We conclude that the evidence compels the conclusion that Angelotti was an employee of Second Mate and that the workers' compensation exclusivity rule precludes any recovery against Second Mate or Stephan. We also conclude that the undisputed evidence shows that Disney Company and other defendants did not provide the equipment used in the stunt and did not exercise their retained control in any manner that affirmatively contributed to Angelotti's injury. We will therefore affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

1. Factual Background

Second Mate entered into an agreement with Walt Disney Pictures in which Second Mate agreed to produce and Walt Disney Pictures agreed to finance two movies. Walt Disney Pictures is a subsidiary of Disney Company. Second Mate expressly agreed to comply with all applicable occupational health and safety laws.

Disney Company prepared a Production Safety Guidebook and provided it to Second Mate. The Production Safety Guidebook included an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (Safety Program). The Safety Program provided for Second Mate to designate a Production Safety Coordinator to act as a liaison to Disney Company's safety department. The Safety Program also stated that Disney Company's Safety Program Administrator could conduct audits to evaluate Second Mate's implementation of the Safety Program. Mark Elliot, Marj Quick, and Hugh Rose were employees in Disney Company's safety department who audited the implementation of the Safety Program.

Second Mate hired Angelotti as a stunt performer through his loan-out company, Skiddadle Inc. Under the terms of the loan-out agreement, Skiddadle Inc. agreed to lend the services of Angelotti to Second Mate, and Second Mate agreed to pay Skiddadle Inc. for those services. An "Inducement" attached to the loan-out agreement and signed by Angelotti stated:

"For purposes of any and all Workers' Compensation statutes, law or regulations ('Workers' Compensation'), I acknowledge that an employment relationship exists between Producer [Second Mate] and me, Producer being my special employer under the Agreement. Accordingly, I acknowledge that in the event of my injury, illness, disability or death falling within the purview of Workers' Compensation, my rights and remedies (and those of my heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns) against Producer or Producer's affiliated companies and their respective officers, agents and employees (including, without limitation, any other special employee and any corporation or other entity furnishing to Producer or an affiliate company the services of any such other special employee) shall be governed by and limited to those provided by Workers' Compensation."

Second Mate contracted with Cast & Crew Production Payroll, Inc. (Cast & Crew), to provide payroll services, including payment of wages and payroll taxes. Cast & Crew also agreed to become the "employer of record" (capitalization omitted) for these purposes and to obtain workers' compensation insurance naming Second Mate as an additional insured.

Jim Stephan is the owner of Stephan Sports, a sole proprietorship. Stephan provided stunt equipment for use in the film production, including a device known as a descender. Using an electric motor, the descender spools out cable from which a stunt performer can be suspended. The descender includes a braking device to slow or stop the descent. Stephan was operating the descender at the time of the incident.

Angelotti suffered injuries while rehearsing a stunt in July 2005. The stunt involved falling from a height of approximately 80-90 feet using the descender, turning five times in the air, and then hanging in the air with the appearance of being suspended by one ankle. The cable was attached to webbing that was wrapped five times around his body and attached to a body harness.*fn1 He descended in a free fall, then rolled five times in the air, and then was stopped by the cable before reaching the ground. His legs flew apart during the stunt. He suffered severe injuries to his pelvis and other parts of his body.

Angelotti filed a workers' compensation claim with Cast & Crew's insurer ...


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