Horvitz & Levy obtained reversal of a personal injury judgment against a citrus grower due to the trial court’s failure to instruct the jury based on the Privette doctrine.
A citrus grower hired farm-labor contractors to harvest its oranges. Plaintiff, an employee of one of these contractors, was injured when a different contractor’s employee ran into him with a forklift.
Plaintiff and his wife sued several defendants, including the grower. Under California’s longstanding Privette doctrine, a hirer—like the grower here—is generally not liable for injuries to a contractor’s employees. Yet the trial court failed to instruct the jury on this rule of nonliability and its possible exceptions. The jury found the grower liable for more than $1.3 million of plaintiffs’ damages.
The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the trial court’s failure to give a Privette instruction was prejudicial error requiring a new trial on liability. The Court of Appeal also held that the grower was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on one of plaintiffs’ claims and that the trial court should have given a jury instruction on mitigation of damages.