(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this car accident case and its proceedings.)
Plaintiff here can only allege that defendant ran a red light and entered an intersection by driving into a lane that was not intended for through traffic. (Incidentally, these are factually disputed.) If true, such acts were negligent. But even grossly negligent or reckless acts do not suffice for punitive damages. Dawes, supra. Tacking on the words “willful and conscious disregard” does not create an action for punitive damages. Broussear v. Jarrett (1977) 73 Cal App 3d 864, 872.
Indeed, if plaintiff’s theory on punitive damages were allowed, then virtually every traffic collision case would result in punitive damages: in virtually every such case will be found a defendant who ran a red light, or entered a wrong lane, or drove excessively fast, or otherwise exhibited behavior that was less than admirable – but hardly the stuff of punitive damages. For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.
At the most, plaintiff’s allegations of defendant’s running a red light and entering an undesignated lane might be grossly negligent. But, as Dawes teaches, that is not enough. Indeed, Dawes was decided before the legislature amended the statute to add despicable conduct to the requirements for stating a cause of action for punitive damages. None of these allegations approach the Dawes threshold, let alone that of the revised statute.
For the reasons mentioned above, the punitive damages language should be stricken from the First Amended Complaint: the entire Exemplary Damages attachment and the portion of the Prayer for punitive damages should be stricken.
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.