On 02/13/2018 MARIA CERVANTES filed a Personal Injury - Motor Vehicle lawsuit against LOS ANGELES COUNTY METRO TRANS AUTHORITY. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
DOES 1 TO 10
LOS ANGELES COUNTY METROPOLITAN
IBARRA STEVEN ESQ.
MATTHEWS EULANDA L. ESQ.
7/5/2019: [Proposed Order] and Stipulation to Continue Trial, FSC (and Related Motion/Discovery Dates) Person
4/9/2018: ANSWER TO COMPLAINT
4/9/2018: DEFENDANT LACMTA'S DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
3/6/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS
2/13/2018: COMPLAINT-PERS. INJURY, PROP DAMAGE, WRONGFUL DEATH (2 PAGES)
[Proposed Order] and Stipulation to Continue Trial, FSC (and Related Motion/Discovery Dates) Personal Injury Courts Only (Central District); Filed by Maria Cervantes (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DEFENDANT LACMTA'S DEMAND FOR JURY TRIALRead MoreRead Less
ANSWER TO COMPLAINTRead MoreRead Less
Demand for Jury Trial; Filed by Los Angeles County Metropolitan (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Answer; Filed by Los Angeles County Metropolitan (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
Proof-Service/Summons; Filed by Maria Cervantes (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Complaint; Filed by Maria Cervantes (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
COMPLAINT-PERS. INJURY, PROP DAMAGE, WRONGFUL DEATH (2 PAGES)Read MoreRead Less
Summons; Filed by Maria Cervantes (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Case Number: BC693846 Hearing Date: June 29, 2020 Dept: 29
Cervantes v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, BC693846
Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Responses at Deposition and Documents Requested to Be Produced at Deposition is GRANTED. Defendant is ordered to produce Ms. Turner for an additional session of her deposition to answer the questions at issue, and the requested documents must be produced. The deposition is to proceed at a mutually agreeable date and time and must be conducted in accordance with COVID-19 safety in mind. The requests for sanctions is DENIED.
In this action, Plaintiff alleges she was injured as the result of the negligence of a bus driver employed by Defendant. Plaintiff seeks discovery of documents and information related to a hearing by Defendant’s Accident Review Board, regarding Defendant’s internal investigation of the incident. Defendant objected to the production of the documents and instructed a witness not to answer questions regarding the proceeding, claiming that the information was privileged under the official information privilege set forth in Evidence Code section 1040. Defendant also objected on privacy grounds. Plaintiff has moved to compel further responses to the discovery.
As an initial matter, the Court notes that Plaintiff did not comply with the requirement that an informal discovery conference be held prior to the motion being heard. (See First Amended Standing Order re: Personal Injury Procedures at the Spring Street Courthouse, filed 2/24/20, paragraph 13.) This is a motion to comply further responses, not initial responses, and thus the IDC requirements apply. However, in this case, given the congestion on the Court’s calendar due to the COVID-19 crisis and the nature of this particular dispute, the Court exercises its discretion to excuse compliance with this requirement for this motion only. The Court expressly finds that an IDC in this case would have been futile. Counsel are admonished that they are to comply with the rules in future motions.
The official information privilege is contained in Evidence Code section 1040. This section “represents the exclusive means by which a public entity may assert a claim of governmental privilege based on the necessity for secrecy” other than attorney client privilege and attorney work product. (Marylander v. Superior Court (2000) 81 Cal. App. 4th 1119.) California law does not recognize a common law deliberative process privilege or self-critical analysis privilege.
Section 1040 applies to “official information,” which is defined as “information acquired in confidence by a public employee in the course of his or her duty and not open, or officially disclosed, to the public prior to the time the claim of privilege is made.” Section 1040 establishes a conditional privilege that allows the public entity to refuse to disclose such information if either “(1) Disclosure is forbidden by an act of the Congress of the United States or a statute of this state” or “(2) Disclosure of the information is against the public interest because there is a necessity for preserving the confidentiality of the information that outweighs the necessity for disclosure in the interest of justice.” (Evid. Code § 1040, subd. (b).)
Here, Defendant has not identified any state or federal statute that would prohibit disclosure of the information. Thus, the only issue is whether “the need for confidentiality outweighs the necessity for disclosure in the interests of justice.” Defendant bears the burden of proof on that issue. (Marylander, supra, 81 Cal. App. 4th at 1129.)
Here, the information in the APB process is highly relevant to the litigation. As the declarations submitted by LACMTA explain, the ARB panel consists of three LACMTA supervisory personnel who review the accident investigation and determine whether a bus operator involved in an accident acted reasonably and followed LACMTA rules and operating procedures at the time of the accident in question. The ARB reviews bus accidents to determine whether or not accidents will be deemed “avoidable” or “unavoidable.” Thus, by LACMTA’s own admission, the ARB process directly explores the cause of the accident and factors contributing to it, including whether the driver’s actions violate LACMTA rules or regulations. These issues are “at the heart” of Plaintiff’s personal injury action and the Court concludes that disclosure is in the interests of justice. (Granger v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation (1987) 116 F.R.D. 507, 510 (analyzing similar issues under the self-critical analysis privilege that applies under federal law, and concluding that an injured litigant has a strong interest in the production of documents related to a similar committee process to the extent the process involves the cause and contributing factors of the accident); see also Robinson v. United States (2001) 205 F.R.D. 104, 108-10).
Thus, to avoid discovery, Defendant must prove that the need for confidentiality outweighs the need for discovery of the information. Defendant has failed to meet that burden. Defendant claims that having to disclose its findings in discovery would have a chilling effect on the candid assessment of the cause of accidents. The Court does not find this argument persuasive. As the Ninth Circuit explained in similar circumstances: “[Internal safety] reviews will rarely, if ever, be curtailed simply because they may be subject to discovery. Organizations have many incentives to conduct such reviews that outweigh the harm that might result from disclosure.” (Dowling v. American Hawaiian Cruises, Inc. (9th Cir. 1992) 971 F.2d 423, 426; see also see also Robinson v. United States (2001) 205 F.R.D. 104, 108-10). LACMTA has a strong incentive in keeping buses safe for its riders; the Court does not find it credible that requiring production of ARB reports or allowing questions regarding the hearings would materially affect LACMTA’s incentive to maintain safety.
Similarly, the Court concludes that any interest that the driver has in the privacy of information in his personnel file regarding the accident is outweighed by the need for discovery.
The Court emphasizes that it is not making any ruling regarding the admissibility of the information at trial; this order concerns discovery only.
The Court denies the request for sanctions. Plaintiff failed to arrange for an IDC prior to the filing of this motion. Further, Defendant had a good faith basis for opposing the motion. Given those factors, the Court finds that the imposition of sanctions would be unjust and the Court declines to impose them here.Moving party is ordered to give notice.