California Driver Forced to Pay Accident Victim’s Fees, Costs for Unreasonable Refusal to Admit Liability

Courtroom-317-If you’ve been injured in an accident, chances are the last thing you want to do is go to trial on issues that the other side has no reasonable ground for contesting. Contesting issues without a reasonable belief of victory can be costly to the side who does this, though. In one recent Southern California case, the California Court of Appeal ruled that an accident victim was entitled to receive additional compensation from the driver who injured him, since┬áthe other driver decided to fight liability in spite of overwhelming evidence he was at fault.

The case originated with an auto accident in Orange County. In that crash, Levik Mansourian’s vehicle collided with a car driven by Timothy Grace. Mansourian told an investigator that his traffic signal was yellow. An eyewitness, however, said Mansourian’s traffic light was red. Following the accident, Grace underwent both ankle surgery and back surgery.

Grace sued Mansourian for his injuries. As is routine in civil litigation disputes, Grace sent Mansourian what’s called “requests for admission.” The document asks the recipient to admit certain things as part of the case. In Grace’s case, he asked Mansourian to admit he negligently ran a red light, that his running the red light caused the accident, and that the accident caused Grace’s injuries.

Mansourian admitted only that the wreck caused Grace’s broken ankle, which required surgery to correct. He denied that he ran a red light and caused the crash. The case proceeded to trial, where the investigator and the eyewitness testified that Mansourian ran the red light. The jury found in favor of Grace and awarded him in excess of $800,000 in damages.

In some cases, this might be the end. Grace, however, asked for an award of an additional $200,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs. He argued that these amounts were expended by proving at trial elements of the case that Mansourian refused to admit but had no good reason for denying. The trial court rejected Grace’s request.

The appeals court reversed that decision. In order to be entitled to fees and costs of proving an issue (or issues), the injured party must show that his opponent had no reasonable ground for refusing to admit them. Mansourian claimed that he was not required to admit liability because he reasonably thought that he could win the case, based upon his testimony that he believed the light was yellow.

In this case, however, Grace offered testimony from the accident investigator, an eyewitness, and an accident reconstruction expert, all of whom agreed that Mansourian ran the red light and was at fault. Mansourian offered nothing but his own testimony that he recalled the light being yellow. Based upon this collection of evidence, it was clear that, no matter how strongly Mansourian may have believed the light was yellow, his belief in his chances at trial was not reasonable. As the appeals court pointed out, the correct “question is not whether defendant reasonably believed he did not run the red light but whether he reasonably believed he would prevail on that issue at trial.” Given the abundance of evidence on Grace’s side and the lack of evidence supporting Mansourian, it was not reasonable for Mansourian to believe he could win.

Recovering for the harm you’ve suffered in an auto accident is a puzzle that can involve many pieces. In this victim’s case, it was about not only obtaining compensation for his injuries but also getting compensation for litigating issues he never should have been forced to take to trial. For representation in your auto accident case, talk to the Oakland car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. Our injury attorneys have extensive experience helping accident victims recover everything to which the law entitles them. Contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-1073 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

California Court Rules that Medical Bills, Expert Testimony Enough to Prove Damages in Multi-Million Dollar Auto Accident Case, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, July 15, 2015

Be Wary of the Release Agreements You Sign as Part of Your California Personal Injury Case, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, May 29, 2015