On 04/27/2018 JAMIE PRESTON filed a Personal Injury - Motor Vehicle lawsuit against VITHANGE PILANA. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is LAURA A. SEIGLE. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
LAURA A. SEIGLE
PILANA SURANGA SANJEEWA
GOLDSMAN GENE J. ESQ.
KOLAR ELIZABETH L. ESQ.
DELGADO JUAN C. ESQ.
1/13/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER RE: NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT) OF 01/13/2020
1/13/2020: Notice of Settlement
1/13/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER RE: NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT)
10/28/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY ADJUDICATION)
10/11/2019: Separate Statement
9/30/2019: Notice - NOTICE OF ENTRY OF ORDER RE MOTION TO CONTINUE TRIAL
9/18/2019: Notice - NOTICE OF NON-OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO CONTINUE TRIAL AND STIPULATION OF THE PARTIES TO CONTINUE TRIAL
9/25/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION TO CONTINUE TRIAL)
7/8/2019: Motion for Summary Adjudication
7/8/2019: Separate Statement
7/9/2018: DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
8/3/2018: CIVIL DEPOSIT -
8/3/2018: ANSWER TO COMPLAINT
8/9/2018: SUBSTITUTION OF ATTORNEY -
6/1/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS -
6/8/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS -
4/27/2018: SUMMONS -
4/27/2018: COMPLAINT-PERS. INJURY, PROP DAMAGE, WRONGFUL DEATH (2 PAGES) -
Hearing04/27/2021 at 08:30 AM in Department 27 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; : OSC RE DismissalRead MoreRead Less
Hearing05/14/2020 at 08:30 AM in Department 27 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Order to Show Cause Re: Dismissal (Settlement)Read MoreRead Less
Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 27, Laura A. Seigle, Presiding; Jury Trial - Not Held - Advanced and VacatedRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 10:00 AM in Department 27, Laura A. Seigle, Presiding; Final Status Conference - Not Held - Advanced and VacatedRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 2:38 PM in Department 27, Laura A. Seigle, Presiding; Court OrderRead MoreRead Less
DocketCertificate of Mailing for ((Court Order Re: Notice of Settlement) of 01/13/2020); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketMinute Order ( (Court Order Re: Notice of Settlement)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Settlement; Filed by Jamie Preston (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by Vithange Pilana (Defendant); Wi Simonson (Defendant); Suranga Sanjeewa Pilana (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 4B; Jury Trial - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by CourtRead MoreRead Less
DocketSONIC SANTA MONICA M INC. DBA W.I. SIMONSONS ANSWER TO COMPLAINTRead MoreRead Less
DocketReceipt-Depository; Filed by Wi Simonson (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketCIVIL DEPOSITRead MoreRead Less
DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
DocketProof-Service/Summons; Filed by Jamie Preston (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
DocketProof-Service/Summons; Filed by Jamie Preston (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketSUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
DocketComplaint; Filed by Jamie Preston (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketCOMPLAINT-PERS. INJURY, PROP DAMAGE, WRONGFUL DEATH (2 PAGES)Read MoreRead Less
Case Number: BC704159 Hearing Date: October 28, 2019 Dept: 4B
[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE: DEEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY ADJUDICATION
Defendant W.I. Simonson (“Defendant”) is an automobile dealership that loans vehicles it owns to customers having their cars serviced. (Undisputed Material Facts (“UMF”) Nos. 3-5.) On January 31, 2018, Defendant loaned Kalyani Priyadarshini Subasinge a vehicle while hers was being serviced. (UMF No. 5.) Ms. Subasinge’s husband, defendant Surange Sanjeewa Pilana Vithange (“Vithange”), drove the car and became involved in a car accident with plaintiff Jamie Preston (“Plaintiff”).
On April 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed this action for personal injury against Vithange and Defendant. The form complaint contains boilerplate allegation that each defendant was negligent in their use, operation, control, entrustment, management, maintenance, inspection and repair of the vehicle. The form complaint alleges more specifically that Defendant is liable because it “owned the motor vehicle which was operated with its permission” and “entrusted the motor vehicle” to the other defendant. The form complaint also alleges in boilerplate terms that every defendant was a principal, officer, director, employer, joint venture, co-conspirator, etc. of every other defendant and that therefore every act of a defendant is attributable to every other defendant. By means of this generic allegation, Plaintiff apparently contends Defendant was the employer of Vithange and is therefore liable for Vithange’s negligence under a theory of respondeat superior.
II. LEGAL STANDARDS
In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, courts must apply a three-step analysis: “(1) identify the issues framed by the pleadings; (2) determine whether the moving party has negated the opponent’s claims; and (3) determine whether the opposition has demonstrated the existence of a triable, material factual issue.” (Hinesley v. Oakshade Town Center (2005) 135 Cal.App.4th 289, 294.)
“[T]he initial burden is always on the moving party to make a prima facia showing that there are no triable issues of material fact.” (Scalf v. D. B. Log Homes, Inc. (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 1510, 1519.) A defendant moving for summary judgment or summary adjudication “has met his or her burden of showing that a cause of action has no merit if the party has shown that one or more elements of the cause of action . . . cannot be established, or that there is a complete defense to the cause of action.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (p)(2).) A moving defendant need not conclusively negate an element of plaintiff’s cause of action. (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 854.) “Once the defendant . . . has met that burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff . . . to show that a triable issue of one or more material facts exists as to the cause of action or a defense thereto.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (p)(2).) The plaintiff may not merely rely on allegations or denials of its pleadings to show that a triable issue of material fact exists, but instead, “shall set forth the specific facts showing that a triable issue of material fact exists as to the cause of action.” (Ibid.) “If the plaintiff cannot do so, summary judgment should be granted.” (Avivi v. Centro Medico Urgente Medical Center (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 463, 467.)
III. EVIDENTIARY OBJECTIONS
Plaintiff’s Objection Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 are OVERRULED.
Plaintiff’s Objection No. 6 is not ruled on because Exhibit C does not contain that statement.
Plaintiff’s Objection No. 8 is SUSTAINED.
A cause of action refers to the allegations of a complaint “reflecting a separate theory of liability.” (Lilienthal & Fowler v. Superior Court (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 1848, 1853.) Thus, even if allegations are pled in the complaint as one cause of action, if they reflect separate theories of liability, they are separate causes of action. (Id. at p. 1854.) A defendant may move for summary adjudication on a cause of action “even if not separately pleaded.” (Code Civ. Proc., §437c., subd. (p)(2).)
Plaintiff used the Judicial Council form complaint for alleging motor vehicle negligence, which allows a plaintiff to check boxes to assert different theories. First, Plaintiff inserted generic language that each defendant was negligent in it or his use, operation, control, entrustment, management, maintenance, inspection and repair of the vehicle. This is a theory of direct negligence, which overlaps somewhat with Plaintiff’s more specific entrustment claim described below. Second, Plaintiff checked the box stating Defendant is liable because Defendant was the owner of the vehicle operated with Defendant’s permission. Third, Plaintiff checked the box stating Defendant entrusted the vehicle to the other defendant. Fourth, Plaintiff added generic language alleging Defendant was liable as the employer of the driver, Vithange. These are separate theories of liability. The first and third are theories of direct liability; the second and fourth are theories of vicarious liability (i.e. Defendant liable as the owner of the car and employer of the driver). Defendant moves for summary adjudication of the first direct negligence claim, the third entrustment claim, and the fourth respondeat superior claim.
Defendant states that its liablity should be limited to the liability of an owner of a vehicle under Vehicle Code sections 17150 and 17151. Section 17150 states that the owner of a vehicle is liable for a person’s injury resuling from the negligent operation of the vehicle “by any person using or operating the same with the permission, express or implied, of the owner.” Section 17151 limits the amount of such liability. Defendant’s acknowledgement of its potential liability under these sections indicates that it is not moving for summary adjudication of the second claim – that Defendant is liable as the owner of the vehicle operated with Defendant’s permission. Indeed, Defendant’s notice of motion does not state it is moving for summary adjudication of that claim. But then Defendant and Plaintiff both argue in their briefs about whether Defendant permitted Vithange, or just his wife, to use the vehicle. These arguments are beside the point. Because Defendant did not move for summary adudication of the claim that it is liable as the owner of a vehicle operated with its permission, whether Defendant permitted Vithange to use the vehicle is irrelevant.
General Negligence Cause of Action
Defendant argues it cannot be liable under Plaintiff’s general claim that it was negligent in its use, operation, control, entrustment, management, maintenance, inspection and repair of the vehicle because it was not using or operating the vehicle when the accident occurred. Because a business is not a person, it cannot drive a car. Defendant presented evidence that at the time of the accident, it had leased the car to Ms. Subasinge as a loaner while her car was being serviced. Thus, Defendant has established a prima facie case that it was not using, operating or controlling the car because the car was not in its possession at the time of the accident.
Plaintiff argues Defendant did not present evidence about whether Defendant properly maintained, repaired, or inspected the vehicle. Plaintiff is correct that Defendant did not submit such evidence in its moving papers. Defendant did submit such evidence with its reply. In response to Form Interrogatory No. 20.8 asking how the accident occurred, Plaintiff responded the accident was caused by the other driver pulling out of an alley or parking lot in front of Plaintiff and Plaintiff striking the other car. (Lowell Decl., Exh. B, p. 14.) In response to Form Interrogatory No. 20.9 asking if Plaintiff had information that a malfunction or defect in a vehicle caused the accident, Plaintiff responded “No.” (Ibid.) Thus, Plaintiff’s own discovery responses establish that he cannot prove the accident was caused by Defendant’s negligence in not maintaining, inspecting, or repairing the vehicle. Because Defendant provided this evidence with the reply papers, the Court will continue the hearing, if Plaintiff so requests, to allow Plaintiff to file a response to this additional evidence. (Jacobs v. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Co. (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 438, 449-450.)
Negligent Entrustment Cause of Action
Defendant argues Plaintiff cannot prove negligent entrutment because it loaned the vehicle to Ms. Subasinge after verifying her valid license and proof of insurance, it had no other duty to investigate her competence or ability to safely use the car, and it did not know that she would allow Vithange to use the car. Under Vehicle Code section 14604, no owner of a vehicle may knowingly allow another person to drive the vehicle unless the owner determines the person possesses a valid driver’s license. A rental company is deemed to be in compliance with section 14604 if it rents the vehicle accordance with sections 14608 and 14609, which require the rental company to check the driver’s license. “As a matter of law, . . . a rental car agency is not liable for negligent entrustment where the agency has fully complied with the requirements of [checking the license status of the customer], and the customer does not appear impaired or otherwise unfit to drive at the time of the rental.” (Flores v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 1055, 1070.)
Defendant submitted evidence it checked its customer’s driver’s license before leaseing her the car, thus complying with the Vehicle Code. Defendant has established a prima facie case under Flores that it did not negligently entrust the vehicle.
Plaintiff argues Defendant should have assumed that Vithange, and not just Ms. Subasinge, would drive the car because his name was listed as an insured on her insurance policy and the lease agreement did not prohibit other drivers. But Plaintiff cites no law that to avoid a negligent entrustment claim, a rental car company has a duty to investigate who else might drive the car. The Vehicle Code statutes on rental companies reflect a specific policy decision, and “the Legislature is better suited to ‘weigh the competing consumer, business, and public safety consierations that present themselves in the rental car context,’ [citation].” (Flores, supra, 188 Cal.App.4th at p. 1069.) “[A]ny expansion of the duty of investigation imposed on rental car agencies is a matter for legislative, not judicial, anction.” (Ibid.)
Nor does Plaintiff submit evidence that, even assuming Defendant had reason to believe Vithange would drive the car, Defendant had actual or constructive knowledge that Vithange was unfit to drive. Negligent entrustment “requires demonstration of actual knowledge of facts showing or suggesting the driver’s incompetence – not merely his lack of a license. [Citations.]” (Dodge Center v. Superior Court (1988) 199 Cal.App.3d 332, 341.) Because Defendant complied with the Vehicle Code sections 14608 and 14609 in renting the car, and there is no evidence it had any reason to think Ms. Subasinge or Vithange were unfit to drive, summary adjudication of the negligent entrustment claim is GRANTED.
Respondeat Superior Cause of Action
Defendant argues it cannot be held liable for Vithange’s alleged negligenct on the basis of respondeat superior because there is no evidence that an employment or agency relationship existed between Vithange and itself. A plaintiff suing an employer under the doctrine of respondeat superior must prove the person who committed the tort was acting within the scope of his or her employment or agency. (Moreno v. Visser Ranch, Inc. (2019) 30 Cal. App. 5th 568, 576.) The rental agreement and Arroyo Declaration establish Ms. Subasinge obtained the vehicle under a lease while Defendant was servicing her car. As her husband, Vithange, therefore had access to the car. This evidence is sufficient to establish Defendant’s prima facie case that Vithange was driving the vehicle his wife had leased, and not because he had an employment or agency relationship Defendant. (In addition, in its reply, Defendant attaches Vithange’s discovery responses stating he worked as a bus driver for the Los Angeles MTA and was not acting as Defendant’s agent or employee at the time of the accident.)
In opposition, Plaintiff argues “Defendant cannot establish the identity of the driver of the Vehicle.” That is not correct. It is undisputed that Vithange was the driver at the time of the accident. Plaintiff presents no evidence Vithange was driving the vehicle in the course of an employment or agency relationship with Defendant. Accordingly, summary adjudication is GRANTED on the claim that Defendant is liable as Vithange’s employer or under another respondeat superior theory.
In light of the foregoing, the Motion for summary adjudication is GRANTED as to the causes of actions for Defendant’s direct general negligence, entrustment, and liability based on respondeat superior. Summary adjudication is not granted on the cause of action alleging Defendant’s liability as the owner of the motor vehicle operated with its permission.
Moving party to give notice.
Parties who intend to submit on this tentative must send an email to the Court at SSCDEPT4B@lacourt.org indicating intention to submit on the tentative as directed by the instructions provided on the court’s website at www.lacourt.org.