GMSR: Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland LLP

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Court of Appeal holds that motorist stopped next to freeway owes no duty to avoid being struck by out-of-control driver
November 10, 2009

Cabral v. Ralphs Grocery Company (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 1 (California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two). Plaintiff's decedent lost control of his pickup truck on the freeway and ran into GMSR's client's big rig, which was stopped off the road just past the shoulder. Plaintiff sued for wrongful death, contending that the big rig driver's was negligent in stopping in an "Emergency Parking Only" area for a nonemergency. The jury returned a verdict for plaintiff. The Court of Appeal reversed and directed the trial court to enter judgment for GMSR's client. It held that the big rig driver owed no duty to the decedent because the accident was not reasonably foreseeable; the mere fact that it was "possible" for a motorist to leave the freeway and strike something situated off the shoulder did not create a duty on the defendant's part to ensure a "safe landing." The court also held that the big rig driver's alleged negligence did not proximately cause the collision. Finally, the court held that the trial court erred in admitting opinion testimony of plaintiff's expert, which was based on facts never established at trial.

Timothy T. Coates

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