BWB&O Partner Tyler D. Offenhauser and Senior Associate Kevin B. Wheeler prevailed on their Motion for Summary Judgment (“MSJ”) on behalf of a public entity, the City of Murrieta Fire Department today!
As a matter of background, authorities were first called to a residence in Murrieta after a report of a gas line rupture. Firefighters and Southern California Gas Company responded to the call. As a crew from SoCalGas was trying to shut off the gas an explosion happened, leveling the home and killing 31-year-old SoCalGas employee Wade Kilpatrick. 30 surrounding homeowners have now alleged personal injuries, including TBI, as a result of the explosion. News agencies reported that Plaintiff Anthony Borel sustained a severe head injury and was placed in a coma. Plaintiff’s injuries included an epidural hematoma, subarachnoid hemorrhage, bilateral corneal abrasions, right orbital fracture, right temporal fracture, right maxillary fracture, frontal skull fracture, 18% partial-thickness burns to the face, abdomen, arms and legs, and a severe TBI with cognitive deficiencies. Plaintiff claimed damages in excess of $20,000,000.00.
Plaintiff alleged the City firefighters were grossly negligent by failing to set up a perimeter when they responded to the gas leak. Our team filed a MSJ based on Emergency Responder Immunity pursuant to Health & Safety Code § 1799.107. After a lengthy oral argument, the Court granted the MSJ holding that the City of Murrieta met its burden by demonstrating that the immunity applied and that Plaintiff Borel failed to rebut the statutory presumption against gross negligence.