Reply to Defense Counsels’ Assessment of California Supreme Court Decision in Cabral v. Ralphs

California Writs and Appeals Lawyer

Reply to Defense Counsels’ Assessment of California Supreme Court Decision in Cabral v. Ralphs

Ralphs LogoMay 2011 – 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