$12,000,000 Wrongful Death Verdict Vacated

Santos v. Scott Villa Apartments, L.P., Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC355923. After a devastating adverse verdict in a case tried by another law firm, Haight initially helped to secure a favorable ruling on a motion for new trial, which was later upheld on appeal. On the eve of that retrial, Haight then secured summary judgment, which the Court of Appeals now reversed on narrow grounds. However, the Court favorably and substantially limited the scope of admissible evidence in the upcoming retrial.

Plaintiff mother had sued the owner and manager of the apartment building where her daughter resided at the time of her death. The daughter disappeared from the building in August of 2004, and her body was discovered two weeks later in the trunk of her abandoned car. Plaintiff alleged that defendants negligently hired a convicted sex offender as a maintenance porter, and that the porter was somehow connected with the daughter’s death. In granting summary judgment, the trial court ruled that there was no substantial evidence (physical or forensic) to support a causal nexus between the porter and the crime. In fact, to date no one has been charged in connection with the daughter’s death. However, the Court of Appeal ruled that certain inferences concerning the porter’s involvement were entitled to be drawn from bits of circumstantial evidence and that the inferences were enough to prevent summary judgment. On that narrow basis, the Court remanded the case for retrial.