This Stanislaus Superior Court matter arose following a motor vehicle collision that resulted in the death of both drivers, and significant injuries to a passenger. In this case, James represented the brother and sister-in-law of the deceased defendant who was killed in the accident. During the collision, a husband and wife were driving home when the deceased defendant, coming from the opposite direction of travel, crossed over the center divide resulting in a head on collision. In the subsequent wrongful death action the plaintiffs’ contended that the deceased defendant intentionally crossed the center divide based upon communications obtained via her cell phone. Plaintiffs further alleged that a special relationship existed between the deceased defendant and James’ clients – her family – that imposed a legal duty that required them to prevent the deceased defendant from driving or causing harm.
After completing significant discovery, James Schaefers filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of his clients. In the motion James asserted a special relationship did not exist between the family and the decedent defendant sufficient to support that the family had a legal duty. After opposition and oral arguments by the parties, the Court agreed that the plaintiffs could not establish that there was a special relationship, imposing a duty of the family of the deceased defense to stop her from causing any harm.
As a result of the motion, James’ clients were dismissed from the case and were able to recover their costs of defense to date. This saved his clients from significant exposure, while also personally vindicating their conduct.