California Supreme Court Reaffirms Duty of Care—Even When Parked
Although the jury in the case found that Cabral was 90 percent responsible for the accident and the driver for Ralph’s was only 10 percent responsible for parking where he did, under California’s comparative negligence rules, that still meant Cabral’s widow was entitled to 10 percent of the roughly $4.8 million in damages for economic and non-economic losses in her wrongful death lawsuit-just under half a million dollars.
Ralph’s objected to this award, arguing that a driver parked along the side of the road has no duty of ordinary care to the drivers passing by. This “duty of care” is the notion, enshrined in the California Civil Code, that each person must show, in their daily activities, a reasonable care for the safety of others.
The Supreme Court disagreed with Ralphs, saying that although there are some exceptions to the duty of care, this was not one of them, because the notion that a driver might slam into the truck wasn’t entirely unforeseeable, nor would it be good policy going forward to create such an exception, as it could lead to similar accidents.
This ruling makes it clear that while some juries may find that someone did not breach the duty of care in an accident of this type, no one may argue that they had no so such duty in the first place. Thus the Court reaffirmed the duty we all have as drivers to take care for the safety of others-even when parked alongside the road.