At issue before the California Court of Appeal recently was whether there had been a settlement in a personal injury lawsuit, and if there had, whether the plaintiff showed good cause to prevent the dismissal of the case. The appellate court held the parties had not reached a settlement, and any unresolved dispute concerning the insurance policy was good cause to prevent dismissal. The court reversed the judgment, requiring the lower court to place the case on the civil active list.
The plaintiff in this case brought an action for injuries he suffered in a car accident with the defendants. After attending private mediation, the parties returned to court for a status conference. However, the court was advised there had been an issue concerning the insurance policy. The plaintiff’s counsel made clear that she wanted to file an underinsured motorist claim against the plaintiff’s insurance carrier. She understood that before making that claim, she needed to obtain the plaintiff’s insurance company’s permission to settle with the defendants. The matter was continued on the calendar, and potential insurance coverage issues remained, thwarting resolution.
At a hearing, the judge ordered the plaintiff’s counsel to appear, since a special appearance had been made on behalf of the plaintiff, requesting a jury trial. At the next hearing, the trial court dismissed the case on the grounds that the same issue was addressed at a prior hearing and that the plaintiff’s counsel had been ordered to appear but failed to do so.
In their analysis, the appellate court stated that a review of the trial court’s dismissal required assessing whether there had been an abuse of discretion. In this case, there had not been a settlement between the plaintiff and the defendants, and therefore the court did not have the authority to dismiss the case. While there had been a potential settlement, it was contingent upon resolving the insurance coverage issue. Early in the proceedings, the coverage issue arose, and according to the appellate court, the issue continued until the court determined the matter should be dismissed.
The court also stated that there had not been a signed settlement agreement, and without such a legal settlement, there was no basis to dismiss the case. Here, there had not been an agreement in open court, nor had there been a signed agreement. The plaintiff had shown good cause to restore the case to the civil active list.
Next, the court stated that the dismissal of the case due to the plaintiff’s counsel’s behavior and conduct, including failing to personally appear and failing to timely file a declaration, should not affect her client.
The car accident lawyers at Sharifi Firm provide personal attention and strong legal representation to accident victims throughout Southern California as they pursue personal injury claims for compensation. Contact our office today for a free consultation with a skilled attorney by calling 866-422-7222, or complete our online form.
More Blog Posts:
California Court of Appeal Finds in Favor of Plaintiff in Car Accident Lawsuit When Evidence Fails to Show Plaintiff’s Consent to Settlement Agreement, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, June 9, 2017
California Court of Appeals Holds Evidence of Pretrial Settlement Between Plaintiff and One of Two Defendants Should Have Been Admitted at Trial, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, August 27, 2015