On 12/28/2017 STELLA BAKMAJIAN filed a Personal Injury - Motor Vehicle lawsuit against MICHAEL JEROME JOHNSON JR. 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
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
DOES 1 TO 10
JOHNSON MICHAEL JEROME
12/28/2017: COMPLAINT FOR: 1. NEGLIGENCE 2. NEGLIGENT ENTRUSTMENT 3. INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS 4. NEGLIGENT INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS
Complaint; Filed by Stella Bakmajian (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
COMPLAINT FOR: 1. NEGLIGENCE 2. NEGLIGENT ENTRUSTMENT 3. INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS 4. NEGLIGENT INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESSRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: BC688557 Hearing Date: October 28, 2019 Dept: 3
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES - CENTRAL DISTRICT
MICHAEL JEROME JOHNSON, ET AL.,
CASE NO: BC688557
[TENTATIVE] ORDER SUSTAINING DEMURRER; DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE
October 28, 2019
1. Background Facts
Plaintiff, Stella Bakmajian filed this action against Defendants, Michael Jerome Johnson and Omar Rodriguez for damages arising out of an automobile accident. Plaintiff alleges Johnson was driving an automobile owned by Rodriguez when the accident occurred. Plaintiff alleges Johnson operated his vehicle in a reckless manner and rear-ended Plaintiff; she alleges Johnson was thereafter apprehended and arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, and was ultimately convicted of reckless driving.
Plaintiff’s complaint includes causes of action for (1) negligence (Johnson), (2) negligent entrustment (Rodriguez), (3) IIED (Johnson), and (4) NIED (Johnson and Rodriguez).
Johnson demurs to the third cause of action for IIED, contending it fails to state a cause of action and is uncertain. Specifically, Johnson contends Plaintiff failed to allege Defendant acted outrageously and with intent to inflict the injury, failed to allege Defendant’s conduct was directed at Plaintiff, and fails to allege Defendant’s conduct occurred in the presence of a person of whom Defendant was aware.
a. Meet and Confer
Defense Counsel declares he attempted to meet and confer prior to filing the demurrer, but Plaintiff’s attorney was out on leave. The Court finds the issues presented by way of the demurrer and motion to strike are ripe for consideration, and Counsel are unlikely to resolve the issues by way of meet and confer. The Court will therefore rule on the demurrer and motion to strike on their merits.
b. Initial Note
Plaintiff timely filed and served an opposition to the demurrer and motion to strike on 10/15/19. Any reply to the opposition was due on or before 10/21/19. The Court has not received any reply to the opposition.
c. Intentional Conduct
Defendant’s first argument is that Plaintiff failed to allege outrageous intentional conduct. The Court cannot say, as a matter of law, that driving recklessly while under the influence of drugs is not outrageous. Additionally, Defendant’s cited authorities make clear that “intentional” conduct is not necessary in order to allege IIED; “reckless disregard” is sufficient. The Court cannot say, as a matter of law, that driving recklessly while under the influence of drugs does not constitute “reckless disregard” of the safety of others. The demurrer on the ground that Plaintiff failed to allege outrageous intentional conduct is therefore overruled.
d. Conduct Directed at Plaintiff
Defendant next argues Plaintiff failed to allege Defendant engaged in conduct directed at Plaintiff, as opposed to conduct generally. Defendant cites Christensen v. Superior Court (1991) 54 Cal.3d 868, 904 and Marich v. QRZ Media, Inc. (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 299, 319 in this regard. Plaintiff fails, in opposition to the demurrer, to discuss or distinguish these cases. In Christensen, the Supreme Court considered whether the plaintiff had adequately alleged a claim for IIED against the defendant. In holding that the plaintiff had not, the Court concluded, “Plaintiffs here have not alleged that the conduct of any of the defendants was directed primarily at them, was calculated to cause them severe emotional distress, or was done with knowledge of their presence and of a substantial certainty that they would suffer severe emotional injury. We conclude, therefore, that the model complaint does not establish that any of the plaintiffs has standing to sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
Similarly here, Plaintiff has not, and indeed cannot, alleged that Defendant’s conduct was directed primarily at her and calculated to cause her emotional distress. Instead, Defendant’s conduct was directed at all of those who happened to be on the road at the time of the accident. Plaintiff was merely one of this broad category of persons. Under the cited authority, this is insufficient to state a claim for IIED. The demurrer on this ground is therefore sustained.
3. Motion to Strike
Plaintiff’s complaint includes a prayer for punitive damages against Johnson, under the theory that Johnson was driving recklessly while under the influence of drugs.
The Court finds the complaint sufficiently alleges facts, under Taylor v. Superior Court (1979) 24 Cal.3d 890, 895-96. The Taylor court concluded that the act of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated may constitute an act of "malice" under section 3294 if performed under circumstances which disclose a conscious disregard of the probable dangerous consequences. "One who wilfully consumes alcoholic beverages to the point of intoxication, knowing that he thereafter must operate a motor vehicle, thereby combining sharply impaired physical and mental faculties with a vehicle capable of great force and speed, reasonably may be held to exhibit a conscious disregard of the safety of others." Id., at p. 897.
In this case, Plaintiff alleges not only that Defendant was under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident, but that he was so impaired that he was erratic, confused, and saying strange things after the accident. ¶16. Plaintiff also alleges Defendant has a history of driving under the influence. ¶18. Finally, Plaintiff alleges the accident was not a mere rear-end collision, but instead a reckless driving situation where Defendant rammed into Plaintiff’s car hard enough to cause Plaintiff’s car to strike another car. ¶1. The Court finds a reasonable jury could find the foregoing conduct malicious, and therefore the motion to strike the prayer for punitive damages and related allegations is denied.
The demurrer to the third cause of action for IIED is sustained without leave to amend. The motion to strike is denied. Moving Defendant is ordered to file an answer to the complaint, with the third cause of action deemed stricken, within ten days.
Moving Defendant is ordered to give notice.
Parties who intend to submit on this tentative must send an email to the court at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.