California Appeals Court Revives Injured Driver’s Case Against Tow Truck Company

A man who was seriously injured by a car that had hydroplaned received a favorable ruling recently from the California Court of Appeal that allowed him to resume pursuing his case against a tow truck company that moved his vehicle. The man’s case raised a possible dispute of fact regarding whether the tow truck driver violated a duty to the man by failing to remove him and his vehicle from a busy freeway during a rainstorm.

The case began with a series of unfortunate events on a rainy spring day in 2010. A man driving his pickup truck to work hydroplaned on Highway 87 in Santa Clara County and slammed into a median. A tow truck took the driver’s truck from the median to the right-hand shoulder of the freeway. After getting the truck onto the shoulder, the CHP and the first tow truck (which was assisting as part of the Freeway Safety Patrol program) both left.

A second tow truck (this one called by the driver) arrived 20 minutes later. As the second tow truck driver was responding to the call, another driver hydroplaned. This driver hit the driver of the damaged pickup. This collision resulted in serious injuries to the man, including severe damage to his pelvis, spleen, ribs, and lungs. He also lost part of his left leg, as well as losing his job.

In a case like this, there are several possible entities or people who might possibly have liability. In addition to the driver who slammed into the injured man, there were several others who were involved in the chain of events that preceded this man’s injuries. In this case, his lawsuit included the CHP and the owner of the first tow truck, who left him on the shoulder of the freeway, even though there was an exit only a short distance away.

The owner of the first tow truck asked the trial court to enter summary judgment in its favor. That company argued that it did not have the required legal duty necessary to make it liable. Any duty it might have had ended either when the damaged truck’s owner refused its service in favor of the tow truck he’d called or, alternatively, when the second tow truck company arrived and assumed control of the scene.

To be liable, your acts must also be the “proximate cause” of a plaintiff’s injuries. This truck company argued that it was not the proximate cause of this plaintiff’s injuries. The trial court agreed and issued summary judgment for the company.

On appeal, however, the decision was reversed. In this case, the plaintiff had evidence that purported to show that he asked the first tow truck driver to tow him off the freeway to the nearest exit, but the tow truck driver refused. Based upon this proof that the plaintiff had, the issue of whether or not the plaintiff refused additional services from the first tow truck was not undisputed. Given that the issue of the refusal of the first tow truck’s services was in dispute, that necessarily meant that the issue of the termination of the first tow truck’s duty to the plaintiff was also in dispute. Under these circumstances, the tow truck company wasn’t entitled to summary judgment, and the plaintiff was entitled to pursue his case.

The knowledgeable Oakland car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch have assisted injured people as they pursue their claims for damages. For more information regarding how our office can help you, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Suing a Negligent Driver’s Employer as Part of Your California Personal Injury Case, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Oct. 12, 2016

Immunity Statute Blocks Southern California Man’s Lawsuit Against County Over Dangerous Intersection, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, March 15, 2016

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