Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Uninsured Drivers, Drunks Lose Right to Non-Economic Damages

Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Uninsured Drivers, Drunks Lose Right to Non-Economic Damages

Article excerpt

In November 1996, 76.83 percent of California voters approved a legislative initiative, known as Proposition 213, and adopted California Civil Code Section 3333.4, which prohibits uninsured motorists and drunk drivers from collecting noneconomic damages in any action arising from the operation or use of a motor vehicle. Prop. 213 provided that it should "be effective immediately upon its adoption by the voters" and that its "provisions shall apply to all actions in which the initial trial has not commenced prior to January 1, 1997."

David Yoshioka was rear-ended in July 1994 and filed his suit in June 1995. He was uninsured at the time of the accident, although California has a financial responsibility act. By November 1996, the action had gone to arbitration, at which an award was made. But both parties requested a trial de novo, which was set for March 1997. The trial judge granted the defendants' motion in limine to preclude Yoshioka from offering evidence on general damages-that is, non-economic damages of pain and suffering.

In October 1997, the California Court of Appeal, Second District, affirmed, holding that Prop. 213 was constitutional and that it could be applied to Yoshioka's suit. In November 1997, the court certified its decision for publication, but this was opposed by "consumer" groups and the plaintiffs' bar. Finally, on February 18, 1998, the California Supreme Court, over the dissent of one justice, refused to depublish the decision, meaning that the case can be cited and is binding on trial courts in California. …

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