Ehrlich Law Firm wins landmark negligence ruling in California Supreme Court

California Writs and Appeals Lawyer

Ehrlich Law Firm wins landmark negligence ruling in California Supreme Court

California Supreme Court SealIn a unanimous decision the California Supreme Court reversed a JNOV ordered by the Court of Appeal in Cabral v. Ralph’s Grocery Co. The decision reinstates a wrongful death judgment on behalf of the family of Adelmo Cabral, who was killed when his car veered off the freeway and collided with the back of a Ralph’s tractor-trailer rig that had been parked 16 feet from the freeway while its driver had a snack.

The jury held that Ralphs’ was 10% at fault for the crash, but the appellate court reversed, finding that the crash was “unforseeable” and that truck drivers therefore owed no duty to passing freeway motorists in the manner in which they parked their trucks as long as they were out of the travel lanes. The Supreme Court rejected all of the appellate court’s reasoning. The decision is important because it expressly curtails the practice used by trial and appellate courts with increasing frequency to decide negligence cases as a matter of law by finding that the defendant owed the plaintiff no duty of care on the particular facts of the case.

The Court held that the decision that no duty of care is owed — which is more accurately framed as a finding that an exception should be made to the general duty of care imposed on all persons by California law — “is to be made on a more general basis suitable to the formulation of a legal rule.” As a result, the Cabral decision will mean that more negligence cases in California will be decided by juries, based on the specific facts of the case, and not by courts based on a finding that no duty exists.

Read The Decision (.pdf)