Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Baker-Smith v. Skolnick

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division

July 9, 2019

MACKENZIE BAKER-SMITH, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
DROR SKOLNICK et al., Defendants and Respondents.

          APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC587234 Michele E. Flurer, Judge.

          Effres & Associates, Justin Jacob Effres, Esner, Chang & Boyer, and Stuart B. Esner for Plaintiff and Appellant.

          Macdonald & Cody LLP, Scott L. Macdonald, and Douglas M. Carasso for Defendants and Respondents.

          WILEY, J.

         A flying mattress made Mackenzie Baker-Smith swerve on the freeway and crash at high speed. She sued a company for failing to secure the mattress. The jury ruled against her, but heard an incorrect jury instruction about negligence per se. This doctrine presumes defendants are negligent if they violate a law. A special exception excuses law violations if a defendant can prove it tried but could not comply with the law. Giving that excuse instruction here was error. We reverse and remand.

         I

         We summarize the case in the trial court. The first essential point is the Vehicle Code requires cargo to be secured to vehicles. We return to this secure-the-cargo law shortly.

         A

         Baker-Smith was driving on the freeway when a mattress suddenly flew at her car. She veered to avoid it and hit a barrier. Two eyewitnesses chased a truck to get the license number. One called 911 with the truck's description and plate. An officer stopped that pickup, which was towing a trailer. The driver was Dror Skolnick, the owner of G&L Design Building & Landscape, Inc. We refer to Skolnick and G&L collectively as G&L.

         Skolnick gave different accounts about a mattress in his trailer.

         When he was pulled over, Skolnick told police he was unaware of anything flying out of his truck but admitted there “may” have been a mattress in the back. Skolnick was pulling a four-wheel uncovered trailer with seven foot sides. Skolnick opened the trailer's back doors for the officer. There was no mattress. According to the officer, Skolnick added Skolnick “wasn't aware if for sure there was a mattress because the guys he says he works with or works for, do the loading of the vehicle.”

         At trial, Skolnick's equivocation changed to certainty: there was no mattress. Skolnick testified his trailer was “[e]mpty, for sure, ” that day. Skolnick told the jury he used the trailer to pick up trash a day or two before the crash. At the dump, Skolnick unloaded everything from the trailer and cleaned it with a broom. Then he took it and left it at a job site. A couple days before the crash, Skolnick directed his employee Juan Lopez to put tools in the trailer, but then Skolnick changed his mind and told Lopez to “make sure it's nothing in there.” Skolnick said Lopez told him the trailer was empty. Skolnick later retrieved the trailer from the job site because, the day after that, he planned to use the trailer to pick up plants from a nursery. G&L is a landscaping business and Skolnick was buying plants for a job. He towed the trailer to his house, parked it out front overnight, and left for the nursery from his house the next morning, which was the day of the crash.

         At trial, Skolnick admitted, on the day of the crash and after police pulled him over, Skolnick said “maybe” his trailer contained a mattress. Skolnick also admitted he did not check his trailer before leaving home that morning, but checking would have been “quick and easy.”

         Baker-Smith said the mattress came from a white dump truck, while the G&L truck was blue and the trailer was black.

         Lopez died before trial.

         B

         Baker-Smith sued G&L. The main theory at trial was negligence per se, which is the doctrine that a defendant breaking a law is presumptively negligent. Baker-Smith claimed G&L broke the secure-the-cargo law: Vehicle Code section 23114, subdivision (a) requires vehicles be loaded so contents stay put. Baker-Smith contended G&L broke this law because eyewitnesses saw the mattress leave G&L's vehicle. G&L claimed it did not break this law because the eyewitnesses were wrong: Skolnick never carried a mattress that day, and the eyewitnesses were untrustworthy, so the mattress came from elsewhere. Alternatively, even if the mattress did fly out of Skolnick's trailer, G&L maintained Skolnick was not ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.