California Court of Appeals Upholds Jury Decision in Car Accident Case

A recent Court of Appeals case, Duarte v. Kang, Cal. Ct. App, 2nd Div. (2014), demonstrates the importance of having an experienced trial lawyer when it comes to presenting a complete evidentiary record on appeal in a car accident personal injury case.

The plaintiffs appealed from a judgment following a jury trial in which the jury found in favor of the defendants.The plaintiffs’ argument on appeal was that there was no substantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs failed to bring up an adequate record in support of their claim of error.

The appeal arose out of a car accident, in which the plaintiffs sustained personal injuries. The plaintiffs alleged that they were involved in a two-car accident that took place in a signal-controlled intersection, and that the defendant Kang was the driver of the other car. The plaintiffs allege that the signal had turned red, and that they were lawfully exiting the intersection, when Kang unlawfully entered the intersection on a red light and crashed into them. At trial, the defendant driver claimed that she entered the intersection on a yellow light and that the plaintiffs illegally turned in front of her, failing to yield to her right of way.

The plaintiffs’ main argument for the purportedly unsupported verdict was that it doesn’t make sense that the jury  answered “yes” to the question that the defendant Kang was negligent but then answered “no” as to whether she was a substantial factor in causing any of the plaintiffs’ damages, even though in answering the final questions as to apportionment of fault, the jury attributed 10 percent responsibility to Kang.

The court of appeals found that at least part of the jury instructions were in error, in that the jury should not have been asked to apportion a percentage of responsibility to Kang if they found her negligence was not a substantial cause of the harm.

The main issue, however, was that the plaintiffs for some reason did not present an adequate record on appeal. They designated only two limited portions from the entire reporter’s transcript from the jury trial, which consisted only of medical expert testimony regarding damages the plaintiffs sustained in the accident, and other limited evidence.

Because of that limited record, the court of appeals held, “[t]he wholly inadequate record of the trial proceedings that plaintiffs provided makes it impossible for us to decide plaintiffs’ claim of error.” The rule is that the judgment of the lower court is presumed to be correct, and any claims to the contrary must be affirmatively shown, or proved by evidence. While the plaintiffs presented evidence that they were injured in the accident, they did not present sufficient evidence regarding the underlying liability for the collision, which is necessary in order to reach a determination of fault. Therefore, the decision was affirmed.

If you have been injured in a car accident, it is important to understand your rights so that you are not taken advantage of. The lawyers at Sharifi Firm, APC have significant experience in handling car accident cases throughout California.  Contact us today for a free consultation with a leading California car accident attorney. We can be reached through this website, or by calling (323) 848-9904.

More Blog Posts:
California Court of Appeals Issues Ruling in Multi-Car Collision Lawsuit, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published February 3, 2015

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