Articles Posted in California

In the insurance law class that I teach, we are often discussing the fine line between accidental acts covered by insurance and intentional acts that are generally not covered in most policies. The reality is that coverage in most states is interpreted very broadly and, as a result, acts that we all agree are intentional in the vernacular are not intentional in the insurance law context. The San Diego Injury Lawyer Blog has an excellent post about a recent California case where the insured’s son threw someone into the shallow end of a pool at their home and fractured the victim’s clavicle.

The son was charged and later pled nolo contendre to a misdemeanor so, obviously; it was a little more than negligence because battery – by definition – is an intentional tort. The court does an end-run around this – as most courts do – by finding that the son did not intend or expect the consequence. Obviously, in the world of torts, this does not negate an otherwise intentional act.

The classic case on this premise in the torts context is the one we all remember from law school: Garratt v. Dailey, 279 P.2d 1091 (Wash. 1955). In that case, a 5-year-old boy who pulled a chair out from under his aunt committed a tort if he knew that the likelihood of his action was that she would fall to the ground. Obviously, the insured in this case knew that the person he threw in the pool would land in the pool and that there was not consent for the act.

california injury verdictsCalifornia personal injury plaintiffs are among the best compensated injury victims in the country, but that California juries need convincing that the defendant is liable. California’s median compensatory award in personal injury cases is 149,000, dwarfing the national median of $34,550. But California juries only award damages in 44 percent of personal injury cases that go to verdict. Nationally, plaintiffs prevail in 52% of personal injury cases.

These California personal injury verdict numbers, not median or average settlements in personal injury cases. But settlement values largely reflect the median verdicts.  Why?  Because exceedingly high verdicts really distort the average.

general motors class actionYesterday, a California judge has granted preliminary approval to a class action settlement between General Motors. The settlement would entitle about 20 million plaintiffs throughout the country in the car litigation class action lawsuit to $50 to $800 per repair for performance problems in almost three dozen General Motors car lines.

The lawyers’ fees in this case where the claimants will at most recover $800 is $16.5 million. In mass tort cases, lawyers certainly get large fees as well. But from the standpoint of a personal injury lawyer, it is odd that lawyers would get such large fees in cases where the clients have such a small vested interest.

What About These “Lawyers Make All the Money” Lawsuits?

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