(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this personal injury case and its proceedings.)
It is worth noting that situations similar to those described in this automobile accident case could just as easily involve any of the healthcare facilities in the area, such as Kaiser Permanente, U.C. Davis Medical Center, Mercy, or Sutter.
PUNITIVE DAMAGES ARE PERMISSIBLE IN THIS NEGLIGENCE ACTION
The California Supreme Court has determined there are circumstances under which punitive damages can be awarded in unintentional tort actions. Potter v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. (1993) 6 Cal.4th 965, 1004. In particular, the Supreme Court has upheld punitive damages in cases of negligent driving. See Peterson v. Superior Ct. (1982) 31 Cal.3d 147; Taylor v. Superior Ct. (1979) 24 Cal.3d 890, 894.
In Taylor, the Supreme Court explained the availability of punitive damages to plaintiffs in motor vehicles tort actions:
A conscious disregard of the safety of others may constitute malice within the meaning of Section 3294 of the Civil Code. In order to justify an award of punitive damages on this basis, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant was aware of the probable dangerous consequences of his conduct, and that he wilfully [sic] and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences. For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.
Id. at 895. (emphasis added.) Taylor and Peterson are directly applicable to this case. Plaintiff’s prayer for punitive damages, which is based on Dr. Black’s awareness of the probable dangerous consequences of operating a vehicle under fatigue and while asleep and her actions of deliberately failing to avoid the dangerous consequences by driving in a fatigued state, is undeniably supported by current California law.
Plaintiff has properly pled that defendant’s actions were malicious and oppressive. The allegations are sufficient. Plaintiff need not prove at this stage that defendant was malicious or oppressive at this pleading stage of the litigation. This is not a motion for summary judgment.
(See Part 11 of 11.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.