Archive for the ‘California Decisions’ Category
On February 22, 2012, the California Supreme Court denied review in Gonzales v. Southern California Gas Co., but it also ordered that the decision not be published in the Official Appellate Reports of the state. Hence, the decision in Gonzales will not be citeable as authority in California courts. The appellate opinion in Gonzales held that the property owners were categorically exempt from liability for the placement of fixed objects on their property, even if the object was a natural-gas distribution facility that would cause a conflagration if struck by a car. Jeffrey I. Ehrlich filed a letter requesting depublication of the Gonzales decision on behalf of the Consumer Attorneys of California. It was the only depublication letter filed
Ehrlich Law Firm wins a published opinion allowing punitive-damage claim to proceed against Kaiser health plan
On February 15, 2012, the California Court of Appeal issued its opinion in Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. v. Superior Court (Rahm)(2012) __ Cal.App.4th __. The opinion holds that a health-care service plan like Kaiser is not subject to the protection of section 425.13 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which prohibits punitive-damages claims against health-care providers without prior court permission. The court held that section 425.13 did not apply to claims against health plans, which are not considered health-care providers under California law. The court also held that the allegations of the plaintiff’s complaint were sufficient to allege a bad-faith claim against Kaiser in its role as a health plan, and was not merely an attempt to hold the health plan vicariously liable for the medical negligence of the doctors it employed. In the Rahm case, Anna Rahm, then 17, was complaining to Kaiser doctors for months about unrelenting back pain. Her family repeatedly requested that Kaiser perform an MRI to determine the cause of the pain, but the Kaiser physicians delayed. As a result, they did not discovery that Anna was suffering from osteosarcoma, and she lost her leg, and part of her pelvis and spine.
On April 26, 2011, Division 8 of the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District certified for publication its opinion in Liberty National Enterprises, LP v. Chicago Title Ins. Co., no. B222455. In the underlying bad-faith action by Liberty against its title insurer, Chicago Title, Chicago moved to disqualify Liberty’s trial counsel after the second phase of a three-phase trial. Chicago Title argued that Liberty’s trial counsel had formerly represented other insureds to whom Chicago Title had issued coverage, and was improperly using his knowledge of Chicago Title’s claims practice to Chicago Title’s prejudice. The trial court denied the motion to disqualify, finding that it was not brought timely. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding that it was not timely, and that Chicago Title was unable to show any basis for disqualification.
Read the Decision: Liberty National Enterprises, LP v. Chicago Title Ins. (.pdf)
Counsel for Ralphs’ does not acknowledge that their position was that truck drivers and their employers should be immune from civil liability for the driver’s decision to illegally park a 40-ton obstacle on the freeway shoulder so he could eat a banana and have a cup of tea. Under Ralphs’ theory, truck drivers could park their trucks alongside California freeways anywhere they pleased, for any reason, and as long as they were not blocking a traffic lane there would be no recourse if a passing motorist momentarily swerved onto the shoulder and struck the illegally-parked truck.
In the Daily Journal article Ralphs’ lawyer is quoted as saying that, “after this decision there is no safe place to park in California.” At oral argument the Justices asked this same attorney whether it would be ok for a truck driver to park 3 inches from the travel lanes, and she said that would be fine. If Ralphs’ position had been adopted there would have been no safe place to drive in California, and the Supreme Court recognized this.
It is important to understand that the Cabral decision does not impose a new duty of care on truck drivers, or on anyone else. Rather, it holds that the duty to exercise ordinary care not to create unnecessary risks that is already imposed on everyone in California by Civil Code section 1714, applies to a decision to park a truck alongside a freeway. Ralphs was arguing that the decision to park next to a freeway should be exempt from any duty of care.
When Ralphs’ lawyer says that now, it’s not “safe” to park in California because if your vehicle is stuck a jury will decide whether you had a good enough reason to park, the answer is, that’s generally how the negligence system works. Negligence cases balance the utility of the conduct with the risks it creates. If there had been a valid emergency no one questions that the Ralphs’ truck could have pulled off the freeway. But as the Supreme Court acknowledged, whenever 40-ton big-rigs are parked alongside freeways they pose a risk to passing motorists. If there is a collision between a motorist and a parked truck, it makes sense that the jury would consider whether the truck was parked where it was for a valid reason, and not simply because the driver did not feel like paying to park in a rest area a mile away.
Time Line for Cabral Appeal
- California Supreme Court grants petition for review filed by Ehrlich Law Firm
- Jeffrey Ehrlich argues negligence case in California Supreme Court
- Ehrlich Law Firm wins landmark negligence ruling in California Supreme Court
- Read the California Supreme Decision for Cabral v. Ralphs (.pdf)
Ehrlich Law firm obtains reversal of order dismissing bad-faith and broker-negligence lawsuit. In Koch v. Markel Ins., No. B213610, the Second Appellate District, Division 7, reversed an order sustaining a demurrer to the plaintiff’s claims against his insurance broker and his business insurer for negligence, breach of contract, and bad faith.
Read the Decision (.pdf)