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James Gill Wright, Individually Etc v. the Aerospace Museum of California

June 30, 2011

JAMES GILL WRIGHT, INDIVIDUALLY ETC., PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
THE AEROSPACE MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA, ETC. ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



(Super. Ct. No. 34200800021977CUPOGDS)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robie , Acting P. J.

Wright v. Aerospace Museum of California

CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Five-year-old Matteo Wright (Matteo) fell 12 to 15 feet to his death after his father, plaintiff James Gill Wright (Wright), suspended him by a homemade harness attached to a gantry crane for an "impromptu ride" and the crane's steel cable broke. The accident happened inside a hangar in McClellan Business Park, LLC (McClellan). The hangar was being subleased to the Aerospace Museum of California Foundation, Inc. (the museum) to restore airplanes for display and construct other exhibits for the museum. Wright was a volunteer at the museum who had taken Matteo to the hangar to work on an exhibit Wright had built. The crane did not have a lock preventing its use, and Wright did not need the crane for his exhibit.

Wright sued the museum and McClellan for negligence in allowing him access to the crane and negligence in failing to maintain the crane. He alleged causes of action for wrongful death, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and premises liability. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the museum and McClellan. The court reasoned Wright's conduct was "highly unusual" and "extraordinary," constituting a superseding cause of the injury. Wright appeals from the resulting judgment. Agreeing with the trial court, we affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On review of a summary judgment in the defendants' favor, we independently examine the record to determine whether triable issues of material fact exist. (Saelzler v. Advanced Group 400 (2001) 25 Cal.4th 763, 767.) In performing this de novo review, we must "view the evidence in a light favorable to plaintiff as the losing party [citation], liberally construing h[is] evidentiary submission while strictly scrutinizing defendants' own showing, and resolving any evidentiary doubts or ambiguities in plaintiff's favor." (Id. at p. 768.) Employing these standards, the following facts appear from the record:

Wright took Matteo to the hangar on December 3, 2006, and waited there until independent contractor Derrel Fleener, who had been granted key access to the hangar to work on his "'Bots in Space'" exhibit, unlocked the doors. Wright rolled his wooden aircraft carrier exhibit into the hangar and began working on it with Matteo.

Inside the hangar was a gantry crane. It was an electric crane equipped with a safety limit device designed to function as an emergency stop of the motor preventing upward travel of the hook/load block. The crane was for lifting equipment. The crane's manual "caution[ed]" the crane was "not designed for lifting, lowering or transporting people and must not be used so." An electrical lockout box had been installed in 2003 at the request of McClellan, but there was no lock placed on the box. Wright did not need the crane for his exhibit.

Matteo became interested in the crane. Fleener explained to Matteo how it worked. Fleener had Matteo interlock his hands and hold onto the hook of the crane and lifted Matteo "slightly off the ground." Matteo then used the crane to lift his father one to two inches off the ground.

Wanting Matteo to have "an experience," Wright decided to give his son an "impromptu" ride on the crane. Wright went to his car, retrieved some of his rock climbing equipment, and used it to make a harness for Matteo. Wright put the harness on Matteo and attached his son by the harness to the hook of the crane with some rope. Using the crane, Wright hoisted his son upward 12 to 15 feet. There was a loud pop. The safety limit device had ...


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