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Reginald Soto et al v. County of San Joaquin

October 31, 2012

REGINALD SOTO ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
COUNTY OF SAN JOAQUIN, DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



(Super. Ct. No. 39-2009-00228668-CU-PO-STK)

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

Soto v. County of San Joaquin

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NOT TO BE PUBLISHED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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Spouses Reginald and Cindy Soto filed this action against defendant County of San Joaquin (County), seeking damages for personal injuries to Reginald Soto that occurred when he fell while dumping trash at a County-owned waste facility.*fn1 Soto contended the lack of adequate "fall protections" at the facility created a dangerous condition of public property. Defendant County successfully moved for summary judgment. The trial court denied a postjudgment motion for a new trial. The Sotos filed a timely appeal following the latter order in November 2010.*fn2

On appeal, Soto contends the trial court abused its discretion in excluding evidence he submitted related to the issues of dangerous condition and design immunity; there are triable issues of material fact as to whether a dangerous condition is present on the property; the evidence is insufficient to support a finding that the design of the waste facility was reasonable (and therefore the defense of design immunity is unavailable); and there are triable issues of material fact as to whether the County made changes to the approved design (and thus "lost" the defense of design immunity). He does not raise any issues in connection with the motion for new trial.

As we find it undisputed that a dangerous condition was not present at the waste facility, we do not need to address issues with respect to design immunity. The evidentiary rulings that are material were correct. We shall thus affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Standard of Review

Under the "historic paradigm" for our de novo review of a motion for summary judgment, we first identify the material issues as framed in the pleadings. (Rio Linda Unified School Dist. v. Superior Court (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 732, 734-735.) We then determine whether defendant's evidence entitles it prima facie to judgment in its behalf on these issues. Finally, we consider whether plaintiffs' evidence creates a factual conflict with respect to any of these issues that only a trier of fact can resolve. (Ibid.) In the present case, however, we can omit the latter two steps, because there are determinative material facts that are not disputed.

Pleadings

The record includes an amended complaint filed in March 2010. Its operative allegations are few.

At the County-owned waste facility, an unloading deck abutted an open pit "in an open and unguarded position and without appropriate fall protections" other than "drooping ropes," and did not provide ample spacing between parked vehicles and the pit for users to unload their debris safely. This created a risk of injury of the type that plaintiff Soto experienced when he was in the process of unloading debris from his vehicle. (The pleading otherwise does not provide any details about the injury.) Soto asserted theories of liability for a dangerous condition of public property, the negligent failure of County employees to remedy the dangerous condition or to warn facility users of the condition, the negligent design of the facility, ...


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