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Smith v. Stratton – Court of Appeals Decision

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2004 | Results

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In Smith v. Stratton, a motion for summary judgement was granted in favor of Jim’s clients. The plaintiffs appealed the granting of the motion. The plaintiffs were the mother and father of a young man who died when he was the passenger in a vehicle that collided with a legally parked tow truck. Jim represented the tow truck operator and his employer.

The tow truck was parked in front of the tow truck operator’s home on a busy street in Sacramento. The truck was parked within two feet of the number two lane of the street in front of the tow truck operator’s home. The speed limit on the street was 45 miles per hour. The accident happened at approximately 5:00 a.m. At that time, the driver of the vehicle in which the decedent was a passenger either fell asleep or was dozing off when the impact occurred.

Jim argued that his client was entitled to judgement as a matter of law because his client owed no duty of care to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs argued that the tow truck was dangerous as designed and that special care needed to be taken by Jim’s clients. The plaintiffs relied on cases that held that it was foreseeable for a driver to fall asleep while driving and therefore an individual parking a tow truck owed a duty to assure that the parking of the truck did not contribute to an accident. Jim distinguished plaintiffs’ cases showing the Court of Appeal that in the cases cited by the plaintiffs the defendants owed the plaintiffs a special duty. The special duty was inferred because the defendants had caused plaintiffs to be placed in harm’s way. In the instant matter, Jim’s clients did nothing to bring the decedent to the scene of the accident.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the granting of the motion for summary judgment in an unpublished decision. The plaintiffs filed a petition for review to the Supreme Court of California. The petition was denied. The third-party administrator for Jim’s client was Claims Management Services.