Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - May 24, 2011

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Garcia v. Becker Brothers Steel Company (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 474.  Plaintiff was injured by a piece of machinery and sued the original owner of the machinery on a number of tort theories.  The original owner had bought the machinery some 26 years previous and then sold it to another company, after which following failure to pay, the equipment was subject to repossession by a bank and then bought by plaintiff’s employer.  Defendant contended it owed plaintiff no duty, and both the trial court and the Court of Appeal agreed with that view.

The court found that under California law, the occasional seller of used equipment is not strictly liable for its sale of a defective product.  Its duty is owed only to an immediate purchaser, and that duty extends only to a duty to warn of the risk of using the equipment sold.

Kelly Sutherlin McLeod Architecture, Inc. v. Schneickert (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 519.  An arbitrator provided an award that required a client of an architectural firm to retract defamatory statements about the firm.  While the trial court held that this remedy was in excess of the arbitrator’s powers, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court, finding that the nature of arbitration was inherently flexible, and the nature of equitable remedies was also inherently flexible, and using some of the judicial maxims, including one found in Civil Code Section 3523, the court found that the arbitrator acted within his powers, even if the same relief might not have been available in a judicial action.  The court though did order a tailoring of the arbitrator’s award, finding that the order was overbroad in requiring the client to state that he retracted and apologize for defamatory statements, but deleting that provision did not effect the merits of the arbitrator’s decision.

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