Personal Injury - Motor Vehicle
Los Angeles, California
HOLLY E. KENDIG
WHITTIER CITY OF
GUARDADO CHRISTOPHER DANIEL
GUARDADO RUDY HEMBERT
FINETE JAMES PETER
PASAROW STEPHEN C. ESQ.
11/17/2021: Request for Dismissal
11/1/2021: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER RE: NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT)
11/1/2021: Notice of Settlement
11/1/2021: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER RE: NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT) OF 11/01/2021
6/16/2021: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (FINAL STATUS CONFERENCE)
5/21/2021: Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore - ORDER APPOINTING COURT APPROVED REPORTER AS OFFICIAL REPORTER PRO TEMPORE (ALEXANDER JOKO #12272)
5/21/2021: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY ADJUDICATION)
5/14/2021: Reply - REPLY TO PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO MOTION FOR SUMMARY ADJUDICATION
5/14/2021: Objection - OBJECTION TO EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO MOTION FOR SUMMARY ADJUDICATION
5/7/2021: Opposition - OPPOSITION PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY ADJUDICATION
3/4/2021: Request for Judicial Notice
3/4/2021: Motion for Summary Adjudication
3/4/2021: Separate Statement
11/24/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE)
4/29/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER RE TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE) OF 04/29/2020
4/29/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER RE TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE)
4/10/2020: Notice - NOTICE OF COURT'S OWN MOTION RE FSC, TRIAL DATE AND TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE
3/23/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (NON-APPEARANCE CASE REVIEW) OF 03/23/2020
DocketOn the Complaint filed by CITY OF WHITTIER on 01/02/2018, entered Request for Dismissal with prejudice filed by Whittier, City of as to the entire action[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Dismissal (Settlement) scheduled for 01/26/2022 at 08:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 31 Not Held - Vacated by Court on 11/29/2021[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketNotice of Settlement; Filed by: Whittier, City of (Plaintiff); Vacate Future Dates: No; Settlement Type: Unconditional; Set Hearing and Generate Notice?: No[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Dismissal (Settlement) scheduled for 01/26/2022 at 08:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 31[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketMinute Order (Court Order Re: Notice of Settlement)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketCertificate of Mailing for (Court Order Re: Notice of Settlement) of 11/01/2021; Filed by: Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOn the Court's own motion, Final Status Conference scheduled for 11/04/2021 at 10:00 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 31 Not Held - Advanced and Vacated on 11/01/2021[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOn the Court's own motion, Jury Trial scheduled for 11/18/2021 at 08:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 31 Not Held - Advanced and Vacated on 11/01/2021[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketFinal Status Conference scheduled for 11/04/2021 at 10:00 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 31[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketJury Trial scheduled for 11/18/2021 at 08:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 31[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketDocument:Request to Enter Default Filed by: Attorney for Pltf/Petnr[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketDocument:Statement of Damages Filed by: Attorney for Pltf/Petnr[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketDocument:Proof-Service/Summons Filed by: Attorney for Plaintiff/Petitioner[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketDocument:Proof-Service/Summons Filed by: Attorney for Plaintiff/Petitioner[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketCalendaring:OSC RE Dismissal 01/04/21 at 8:30 am Marc D. Gross[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketCalendaring:Jury Trial 07/02/19 at 8:30 am Marc D. Gross[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketCalendaring:Final Status Conference 06/18/19 at 10:00 am Marc D. Gross[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketDocument:Summons Issued Filed by: Attorney for Plaintiff/Petitioner[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketDocument:Complaint Filed by: N/A[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketCase Filed/Opened:Motor Vehicle - PI/PD/WD[+] Read More [-] Read Less
Case Number: ****8909 Hearing Date: May 21, 2021 Dept: 31
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES - CENTRAL DISTRICT
CITY OF WHITTIER,
CHRISTOPHER DANIEL GUARDADO, ET AL.,
CASE NO: ****8909
[TENTATIVE] ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY ADJUDICATION
May 21, 2021
Plaintiff, City of Whittier (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against Defendants Christopher Daniel Guardado (“Christopher”) and Hembert Rudy Guardado (“Hembert”) (collectively, “Defendants”), erroneously sued and served as Rudy Hembert Guardado, for damages arising from a motor vehicle accident. The complaint alleges Christopher negligently caused the accident with Plaintiff’s employee on February 29, 2016, and Hembert owned and entrusted the vehicle to Christopher.
Defendants now move for summary adjudication as to the claim for negligent entrustment against Hembert.
2. Motion for Summary Judgment
a. Moving Argument
Defendants argue there is no evidence showing that Hembert had actual or constructive knowledge of any facts that Christopher was an incompetent or incapable driver. Further, Defendants contend Hembert did not have reason to know that Christopher would get into an accident or drive while under the influence of alcohol. Defendants argue that while Christopher confessed to speeding tickets, that is not enough to make him an unfit driver.
b. Opposing Argument
Plaintiff argues that there is evidence to support an inference that Hembert, who is Christopher’s father, was negligent in entrusting his vehicle to Christopher. Plaintiff contends Hembert never inquired into Christopher’s driving record or had any understanding of such during the time he permitted his son operate the vehicle. Plaintiff asserts that had Hembert inquired about Christopher’s driving record he would have learned Christopher he would have learned Christopher had previously been sued and found at fault for a vehicle accident, and that in the five years before the accident Christopher had been cited for speeding tickets. Plaintiff argues a trier of fact may find Hembert should have known Christopher was incompetent or unfit to drive.
c. Request for Judicial Notice
Defendants request the court take judicial notice of Plaintiff’s complaint filed on January 2, 2018. The request is granted. (Evid. Code ; 452(d).)
d. Evidentiary Objections
Defendants, in their reply, submit an objection to the police report attached as Exhibit 1 to the opposition. The objection is sustained, as the report contains inadmissible hearsay. (See Vehicle Code ; 20013 [“No such accident report shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal, arising out of an accident….”]; Box v. California Date Growers Ass'n (1976) 57 Cal.App.3d 266, 270 [“it is well established that traffic accident reports are not admissible in evidence.”].)
e. Burdens on Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is proper “if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” (Code Civ. Proc. ;437c(c).) Where a defendant seeks summary judgment or adjudication, he must show that either “one or more elements of the cause of action, even if not separately pleaded, cannot be established, or that there is a complete defense to that cause of action.” (Id. at ;437c(o)(2).) A defendant may satisfy this burden by showing that the claim “cannot be established” because of the lack of evidence on some essential element of the claim. (Union Bank v. Superior Court (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 574, 590.) Once the defendant meets this burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that a “triable issue of one or more material facts exists as to that cause of action or defense thereto.” (Ibid.)
The moving party bears the initial burden of production to make a prima facie showing that there are no triable issues of material fact. (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 850.) A defendant moving for summary judgment must show either (1) that one or more elements of the cause of action cannot be established or (2) that there is a complete defense to that cause of action. (Id. at ;437c(p).) A defendant may discharge this burden by furnishing either (1) affirmative evidence of the required facts or (2) discovery responses conceding that the plaintiff lacks evidence to establish an essential element of the plaintiff's case. If a defendant chooses the latter option he or she must present evidence “and not simply point out that plaintiff does not possess and cannot reasonably obtain needed evidence….” Aguilar, supra, 25 Cal.4th at 865-66,
[A] defendant may simply show the plaintiff cannot establish an essential element of the cause of action “by showing that the plaintiff does not possess, and cannot reasonably obtain, needed evidence.” (Id. at p. 854.) Thus, rather than affirmatively disproving or negating an element (e.g., causation), a defendant moving for summary judgment has the option of presenting evidence reflecting the plaintiff does not possess evidence to prove that element. “The defendant may, but need not, present evidence that conclusively negates an element of the plaintiff's cause of action. The defendant may also present evidence that the plaintiff does not possess, and cannot reasonably obtain, needed evidence—as through admissions by the plaintiff following extensive discovery to the effect that he has discovered nothing” to support an essential element of his case. (Aguilar, supra, at p. 855.) Under the latter approach, a defendant's initial evidentiary showing may “consist of the deposition testimony of the plaintiff's witnesses, the plaintiff's factually devoid discovery responses, or admissions by the plaintiff in deposition or in response to requests for admission that he or she has not discovered anything that supports an essential element of the cause of action.” (Lona v. Citibank, N.A., supra, 202 Cal.App.4th at p. 110.) In other words, a defendant may show the plaintiff does not possess evidence to support an element of the cause of action by means of presenting the plaintiff's factually devoid discovery responses from which an absence of evidence may be reasonably inferred. (Scheiding v. Dinwiddie Construction Co. (1999) 69 Cal.App.4th 64, 83.)
Thus, a moving defendant has two means by which to shift the burden of proof under the summary judgment statute: “The defendant may rely upon factually insufficient discovery responses by the plaintiff to show that the plaintiff cannot establish an essential element of the cause of action sued upon. [Citation.] [Or a]lternatively, the defendant may utilize the tried and true technique of negating (‘disproving’) an essential element of the plaintiff's cause of action.” (Brantly v. Pisaro (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 1591, 1598.)
(Leyva v. Garcia (2018) 20 Cal.App.5th 1095, 1103.)
Until the moving defendant has discharged its burden of proof, the opposing plaintiff has no burden to come forward with any evidence. Once the moving defendant has discharged its burden as to a particular cause of action, however, the plaintiff may defeat the motion by producing evidence showing that a triable issue of one or more material facts exists as to that cause of action. (Id. at ;437c(p)(2).) On a motion for summary judgment, the moving party's supporting documents are strictly construed and those of his opponent liberally construed, and doubts as to the propriety of summary judgment should be resolved against granting the motion. (D’Amico v. Board of Medical Examiners (1974) 11 Cal.3d 1, 21.)
To prevail on an action for negligent entrustment, a plaintiff must prove as follows: (1) that the driver was negligent in operating the vehicle; (2) that the defendant was the owner, lessor, or possessor of the vehicle, (3) that the defendant knew or should have known that the driver was incompetent or unfit to drive the vehicle, (4) that the defendant permitted the driver to use the vehicle, and (5) that the driver's incompetence or unfitness to drive was a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff. (See Jeld-Wen, Inc. v. Superior Court (2005) 131 Cal.App.4th 853, 863–64, 864 fn. 8, citing CACI No. 724.)
“ ‘[I]t is generally recognized that one who places or entrusts his [or her] motor vehicle in the hands of one whom he [or she] knows, or from the circumstances is charged with knowing, is incompetent or unfit to drive, may be held liable for an injury inflicted by the use made thereof by that driver, provided the plaintiff can establish that the injury complained of was proximately caused by the driver's disqualification, incompetency, inexperience or recklessness.’ ” (Flores v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 1055, 1063, quoting Osborn v. Hertz Corp. (1988) 205 Cal.App.3d 703, 708.) In determining whether a defendant is negligent in entrusting a vehicle to a driver, the defendant's conduct is to be measured by what an ordinarily prudent person would do in similar circumstances. (Osborn, 205 Cal.App.3d at 709.) “[E]ntrustment of a vehicle to an intoxicated person is not negligence per se. A plaintiff must prove defendant had knowledge of plaintiff's incompetence when entrusting the vehicle.” (Blake v. Moore (1984) 162 Cal.App.3d 700, 706.)
Here, Defendants assert that Christopher had finished working and was headed home when the accident occurred at 4:35 a.m., and that Christopher was arrested at the scene for driving under the influence of alcohol. (UMF 2-3.) Christopher was driving a 1995 Honda Civic registered to Hembert, and Christopher has had a driver’s license since 2006 with no restrictions except that he wears contact lenses. (UMF 4-5.) At the time of the accident, Defendants lived at the same address, and Hembert never observed Christopher drive under the influence of alcohol or heard from anyone that Christopher drove under the influence. (UMF 6-8.) Christopher had not been in any accidents in the five years before the subject accident, and Hembert was unaware of Christopher’s driving record. (UMF 9-10.) Christopher was never arrested for driving under the influence prior to February 29, 2016, and while Christopher testified that he had gotten speeding tickets, there is no evidence Christopher had his licensed revoked for speeding, and speeding tickets were not a factor in his sentencing for drunk driving. (UMF 11-12.)
In opposition, Plaintiff avers the accident happened because Christopher was speeding and intoxicated at the time of the accident. Plaintiff contends a trier of fact can find Hembert should have known Christopher was incompetent or unfit to drive because Hembert did not concern himself with the whereabouts of his vehicle on the date of the accident and never inquired into Christopher’s driving record before the incident. Plaintiff argues Christopher’s predilection for speeding, history of speeding tickets, absence from the residence and intoxication made Christopher unfit to drive.
As to the arguments concerning Hembert not knowing Christopher’s whereabouts after the accident, Plaintiff fails to explain how Hembert not seeing his son after the accident made Christopher unfit or incompetent to drive at the time of the accident. Further, while Plaintiff contends Christopher was found at fault for a previous accident, Plaintiff does not dispute Christopher had not been involved in another accident for five years before the subject accident. (See UMF 9.)
During Christopher’s deposition, the following exchange occurred:
Q Prior to this incident what does your driving record look like? Had you any moving violations in the prior five years?
A I had lots of speeding tickets
Q Did those come up when you were appearing on the criminal matter regarding the incident?
(Opp. Exh. 3 at p. 19:10-16.) However, Plaintiff does not provide any evidence as to exactly when Christopher received any speeding tickets as to suggest Hembert knew or should have known Hembert was an unfit driver at the time of the accident. Furthermore, Plaintiff does not cite any authority to suggest that speeding tickets alone make a driver unfit or incompetent to drive. (See Osborn, 205 Cal.App.3d at 710-11 [“By its enactment of various provisions of the Vehicle Code, the Legislature has carefully delineated, according to the seriousness of the offenses, the disabilities that are to be suffered by those convicted of drunk driving… Under this statutory scheme, neither a prior record of drunk driving nor a past refusal of insurance nor a prior suspension or revocation of a driver's license disqualifies a citizen from owning or driving a vehicle provided the legal disability has been cured and the citizen holds a valid driver's license.”].)
Based on the foregoing, Defendants’ motion for summary adjudication is granted as to the claim for negligent entrustment against Hembert only.
Defendants further request an order establishing Hembert’s liability is limited to $15,000.
While it is clear Vehicle Code ; 17151(a) limits the liability of a vehicle owner “for the death or injury to one person in any one accident” to $15,000, a party may only move for summary adjudication of “a legal issue or a claim for damages other than punitive damages that does not completely dispose of a cause of action” if they submit to the court (1) a joint stipulation stating the issues to be adjudicated, and (2) a declaration from each stipulating party that the motion will further the interest of judicial economy. (Code Civ. Proc. ; 437c(t)(l)(A)(i)–(ii).) No such stipulation has been filed here.
Defendants’ motion for summary adjudication is granted as to the claim for negligent entrustment against Hembert only.
Moving Defendant is ordered to give notice.
Parties who intend to submit on this tentative must send an email to the court at email@example.com indicating intention to submit on the tentative as directed by the instructions provided on the court website at www.lacourt.org. If the department does not receive an email indicating the parties are submitting on the tentative and there are no appearances at the hearing, the motion may be placed off calendar. If a party submits on the tentative, the party’s email must include the case number and must identify the party submitting on the tentative. If the parties do not submit on the tentative, they should arrange to appear remotely.
Dated this 21st day of May, 2021
Hon. Thomas D. Long
Judge of the Superior Court