In a recent case before the California Court of Appeal, the court held that the lower court had appropriately ruled in favor of the defendant in a personal injury and property damage claim. In fact, the appellate court determined that the trial court had not erred in dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint for having committed misrepresentations to the court and for having attempted to commit fraud on the court by testifying falsely. The appellate court, in affirming this decision, noted the significance of the fact that on appeal, the plaintiff did not support his claims with legal evidence or authority.
The plaintiff in this case, a 73-year-old man, alleged that he suffered a bodily injury and property damage when a car driven by the defendant rear-ended his vehicle. The plaintiff represented himself in the trial court action. In summarizing the procedural history, the appellate court focused on the ways that the plaintiff had not cooperated fully with procedural requirements. For example, the court stated that the plaintiff had not provided expert witness information, nor had he truthfully testified as to his damages. While the facts indicated that a low-speed, minor rear-end collision had occurred, defense counsel stated that the injuries that the plaintiff claimed to suffer were not consistent with the facts of the collision.
In fact, the trial court advised the plaintiff to work to demonstrate that he in fact was harmed and provide an estimate of cost for his treatment, as well as estimated costs for future claims for treatment. The defense asked the plaintiff for a statement of his medical charges (allegedly totaling $63,000), but the plaintiff could not provide these, although he stated there may be over 100 different bills.
In this case, the issue of liability, or who was responsible for the accident, had been determined. The trial court made clear to the plaintiff that he would, in this damages-only case, not present evidence of how the accident took place.
Significantly, the court focused on the fact that the plaintiff had testified that he could not drive. Defense counsel presented evidence (photographs) of the plaintiff in fact driving out of the court parking lot after being in court. When questioned directly, the plaintiff could not give a straight answer to the court.
After detailing the facts of the underlying case, the appellate court stated that the plaintiff had forfeited his appellate claims. The reviewing court stated that on appeal, they presume the trial court has appropriately ruled, unless the plaintiff demonstrates an error. When there are “conclusory” claims of error, the court stated that those would fail. The court, in short, noted that an appellant (the individual seeking an appeal) must in fact set forth reasoned arguments.
In this case, the court made clear that the plaintiff had not discussed or cited any legal authority in support of his contention. In fact, the court stated, the plaintiff, on appeal, had not followed the briefing rules set forth by law. They claimed his brief was “rambling,” and his claims actually failed on the merits.
Stating that the plaintiff had lied to the court, specifically stating that he could not drive after the accident, for example, the appellate court held this was perjury. The defense argued that the plaintiff had purposefully abused the judicial process. They stated that he had refused to truthfully answer questions, failed to produce evidence of being harmed, and changed his position, among other things.
Turning to precedent, the court stated that it had not been an abuse of discretion for the trial court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, since courts recognize false testimony as “intolerable.” In this case, the court stated that substantial evidence supported a finding that the plaintiff intended to commit fraud on the court. His false testimony was litigation abuse, according to the court. The dismissal of the case was necessary, as determined by the trial court.
The appellate court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.
This case demonstrates the importance of understanding procedural requirements, both at the trial level as well as on appeal. At Sharifi Firm, our skilled car accident attorneys fight for the rights of injured individuals throughout Southern California as they pursue legal claims for compensation. We have decades of experience advocating for victims. To schedule a free consultation with a dedicated lawyer in our office, call 1-866-422-7222 or complete our online form.
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California Court Upholds Determination that Plaintiff Caused Collision when Trial Court Made Findings of Fault and Credibility Based on their Observation and Evaluation of Testimony, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog,
California Court Affirms Summary Judgment for Car Insurer When Insured Used “Non-Owned” Employer Vehicle Regularly, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, February 6, 2017