Medical Illness and Defective Construction: California Decision Illustrates that Causation is Still a Difficult Burden

Rift Valley fever
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At the South Carolina construction defect blog, we try to focus on decisions rendered within South Carolina and the Fourth Circuit. Sometimes, however, we like to spotlight decisions in other jurisdictions as these are often very relevant. Today we publishing a decision rendered in California which discusses alleged defective construction and medical damages claimed by a non-occupant. This case is easily distinguished from others which deal with construction related medical issues in that the Plaintiff was not the intended beneficiary of construction, although I think this case is most significant in that it shows courts and their continued reluctance to impose medical related liability on construction professionals.

Rudy Miranda worked as a locksmith at a university campus in Fullerton. His office was located next to a vacant lot, used in 2005 for stockpiling excess dirt from a large construction project. Miranda contracted the infectious fungal disease Coccidioidomycosis, commonly called ?Valley Fever.? He sued general contractor, Bomel Construction Co., Inc. (Bomel), and subcontractor, J/K Excavation & Grading Co., Inc., (J/K). Miranda?s general negligence complaint alleged Bomel and J/K ?negligently, carelessly and unlawfully allowed the excavated dirt to be in a dangerous, defective, and unlawful condition so as to cause [Miranda] to sustain severe injuries and damages when he breathed the injurious particles from the excavated dirt.? Miranda?s wife, Donna Miranda (Donna), sued for loss of consortium.

The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Bomel and J/K, concluding they did not owe a duty to protect Miranda from exposure to the fungus, and it could not be established they proximately caused Miranda?s or his wife?s injuries. We conclude the court was right and affirm the judgment.