Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case requiring the court to discuss whether the lower court was proper to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim in a pre-trial motion for summary judgment. The lower court based its decision to dismiss the case on its finding that the defendant did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care. Ultimately, on appeal, the court concluded that the defendant may have owed the plaintiff a duty of care, and therefore it reversed the lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured in a car accident when the vehicle in which she was traveling entered an intersection during a power outage and was struck by another motorist. At the time of the collision, the traffic light was not illuminated despite the fact that the traffic light had a back-up battery power source.
The defendant was a private company that was contracted by the city to perform the necessary maintenance on the back-up battery systems in all of the city’s traffic lights. Evidently, earlier in the year, the back-up battery system in the traffic light at the intersection where the accident occurred was failing to hold a charge. The defendant eventually installed a new battery pack in the light in August. However, a new battery was not placed in the unit, so the light was left without a functioning back-up power source.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, claiming that the defendant’s negligence in failing to install a new battery resulted in her injuries. The defendant filed a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, claiming that it did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care and that its actions were not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The trial court agreed and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.
The Plaintiff Prevails on Appeal
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision and reinstated the plaintiff’s case. The court looked at a 1958 case discussing when a third party can be held liable to a plaintiff with whom the company has not directly dealt. That case involved economic damages only, but the court determined that the underlying principles applied equally in a case with actual physical damages.
That case enumerated several factors that a court should consider when determining if the defendant can be held liable. For example, the foreseeability of harm, the moral blame of the defendant, the closeness of the connection between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injuries, and the policy of preventing future harm are all considerations that the court will weigh. Here, the court weighed each of the factors and determined that the lower court erred when it concluded as a matter of law that the defendant did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care. The court did not go as far as to say that a duty existed, only that the issue is one that the jury should consider.
Have You Been Injured in a California Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a California car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled California personal injury attorneys at Sharifi Firm have extensive experience handling California car accident cases and know what it takes to be successful on behalf of their clients. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated California personal injury attorney about your case, call 666-422-7222 to schedule a free consultation today.
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Off-Duty Los Angeles Police Officer Arrested after Fatal DUI Accident, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 5, 2017
California Car Accident Plaintiff Misses Out on Opportunity to Cross-Examine Defense Medical Expert, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2017