In a recent California Court of Appeals case, Cardiel v. Marquez, Cal. Ct. App. (2014), the court had before it a car accident case that was being challenged for a failure to move forward. The plaintiffs sued the defendants for a rear-end collision, including both the driver of the car and the owner of the car, a corporation, as parties to the action.
The court had before it a situation in which the plaintiffs filed a complaint but did not actually serve it on the defendant within the relevant two-year period. Furthermore, the case was not brought to trial within three years, as required by the California rules of Civil Procedure.
The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, based on the plaintiffs’ failure to be diligent, and argued that the defendant had been prejudiced by it. The plaintiffs opposed the motion on the grounds of excusable neglect. The plaintiffs’ attorney claimed that, unbeknownst to him, his legal secretary had been embezzling from him, hiding case files and documents, failing to calendar dates, and lying regarding the status of cases.
The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute and dismissed the case, some four years after the case was filed.
The court reviewed the record and found sufficient evidence that the failure to serve the defendant in a timely manner supported a credible claim of prejudice to defend.
The defendant had the burden of demonstrating that dismissal was warranted, which was satisfied by the showing of factors found in relevant California codes. The burden then shifts to the plaintiffs to support the delay.
The relevant factors to consider in rendering a decision as to whether the plaintiffs’ delay was warranted include the entire case file, such as any difficulty in serving the defendant, the plaintiffs’ diligence in attempting to serve the defendant, the plaintiffs’ diligence in pursuing discovery, the complexity of the case, and so forth.
In applying all of the relevant factors, the Court of Appeals found that the plaintiffs did not meet the standard to support that the delay was justified. It found that the plaintiffs were not diligent in attempting to serve the defendant, and that the plaintiffs did not participate in the court-ordered mediation. Regarding the problems with the plaintiffs’ lawyer’s legal secretary, the lawyer did not demonstrate any evidence that her alleged misconduct was to blame for the lengthy delay.
Therefore, the court did not find there was a justifiable reason for such a delay, and it upheld the trial court’s granting of the motion to dismiss.
This case demonstrates the high importance of ensuring that, when you hire a lawyer to represent you in your car accident case, you can rest assured your lawyer is going to file and serve everything in a timely manner.
Distracted driving can have devastating consequences to others on the road. A defendant’s decision to pay more attention to a phone call or text can lead to a dangerous result. If you were injured due to an auto crash in or near Riverside, our attorneys can bring a lawsuit to pursue damages on your behalf. Contact us at 1-866-422-7222 or via our online form for a free, no-obligation consultation. We also represent clients in Rancho Cucamonga, Temecula, and San Bernardino.
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Car Crashes into LAX Terminal, Hits Little Girl, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published June 2, 2015
Google Admits to Self-Driving Car Accidents in California, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published May 28, 2015