Articles Posted in California

A San Mateo County jury ordered the California Department of Transportation to pay a 17-year-old girl injured in a pedestrian accident $12 million. As is the case in too many pedestrian accident cases, the plaintiff’s injuries were catastrophic: she sustained a brain injury that put her in a permanent vegetative state. No matter what the facts are, it is just an unbelievable tragedy that happens far too often.

Plaintiff’s attorneys’ case rested on the premise that uncontrolled intersections with designated crosswalks are more dangerous than unmarked crosswalks because they give pedestrians a false sense of confidence that they can cross.

These pedestrian cases against state entities are tough and few accident lawyers will take them. Plaintiff’s lawyers, in this case, deserve a lot of credit.

State Farm has the highest market share among California car insurance companies at 12.9 percent, according to 2008 statistics released by the California Department of Insurance. The Automobile Clubs came in second at 8.9% of the California market. Together, these companies collect over $4 billion in insurance premiums in California alone.

The California State Automobile Association garnered third place with 6.8% of the market, followed by Mercury and Allstate. Interesting, GEICO, which is a powerhouse in so many jurisdictions, including Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., has just over 1 percent of the California market.

If you have been injured in a car accident in California and need an accident lawyer, call 800-553-8082 or get a free consultation on line.

The Los Angeles Times writes this morning about a tragic case in Los Angeles at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Medical Center where an official Los Angeles County assessment has acknowledged for the first time that a woman who died shortly after writhing in pain for nearly an hour on the hospital’s waiting room floor would not have died if she had received proper medical care.

The vast majority of medical malpractice cases in Los Angeles occur when doctors who are largely good doctors and good people with good intentions but medical mistakes were made. This is something very different. The only reason this woman’s family has a potential wrongful death medical malpractice case is that a security camera videotaped a janitor mopped around the victim while a triage nurse dismissed her complaints.

Sad but true: video cameras and phones are helping make more and more medical malpractice and nursing home claims.

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.

The Desert Sun has an editorial on “tort abuse” that provides the following statistic: “Tort (sic) costs amount to $865 billion nationally each year — or 6.5 percent of the gross domestic product. That’s a lot of lost economic output.”

Can we get a footnote? And while I don’t want to get too demanding, how about citing the actual study that supports this figure? It is absolutely outlandish. Does the Desert Sun have any criteria for what it will publish?

Here’s another great one: “California also ranks near the bottom when it comes to farm owners’ tort losses — that is, how much farm owners pay when an outside vendor sues them for an injury incurred on the farm owner’s property. These losses translate into higher food prices for consumers everywhere.”

The San Diego Injury Lawyer Blog (post since removed) reports that the California Court of Appeals has extended the protections given to doctors under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) to emergency medical technicians (EMTs) transporting patients because EMTs were “inextricably identified” with the health and medical care of their patients.

The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 was ostensibly enacted in California to provide for affordable medical malpractice insurance for doctors because, you know, doctors are so poor and all. MICRA limits medical malpractice jury awards $250,000 in noneconomic damages and staggers payment for verdicts over $50,000 future medicals and lost wages. Making matters worse, doctor defendants in medical malpractice cases can introduce collateral sources to show medical payments made by insurance companies.

I don’t question MICRA, including EMTs. I question the logic of MICRA itself.

Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Joseph Shidler told the media that he did not have evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brittany Spears was aware that the paparazzo foot she ran over had been struck by the car. In fact, Mr. Shidler said that the “only way the victim’s foot could have been where the video indicates it to be was by the victim placing it in that location.”

Is he suggesting that the victim intentionally caused his own injury? In a normal situation, I would scream that this is classic blame the victim nonsense. In this case, in the bizarro world that is Hollywood? Who knows?

On July 1st, California will ban drivers using a handheld wireless telephone while driving a motor vehicle. Of course, you can still text message while driving.

No, I cannot explain it. You could drive a truck through the flawed logic of the new California cell phone laws. There are no teeth to the new law either. Violators of the new law are subject to a fine of $20 for the first offense and not more than $50 for each subsequent offense. No points on your license either. But I still think California is making a step in the right direction.

A Los Angeles hospital has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a (sort of) medical malpractice case. The hospital dumped a paraplegic man in Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Incredibly, this Los Angeles hospital apparently left a paraplegic man crawling around a Los Angeles’ ghetto in a hospital gown and colostomy bag. Try to imagine someone actually doing this. I say “sort of” a medical malpractice case but this is not really malpractice: this is human beings doing something deliberately awful to another human being.

The hospital, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, sounds like it is trying to do the right thing, settling the case for what I expect is more than it was worth and amending its discharge policies for patients who are homeless and indigent patients. That’s all great. I just can’t imagine – on a human level – the hospital employees who saw fit to dump a paraplegic man and colostomy bag in the middle of the street with a hospital gown. Are these people still working for the hospital?

These are the kind of cases where medical malpractice lawyers are making a difference. A part of the settlement also requires the hospital to be monitored by a former U.S. attorney for up to five years. Why did the lawyers and clients insist on this? It has nothing to do with money. But it has everything to do with justice.

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