Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rybicki v. Carlson (Cal. Ct. App. - May 22, 2013)

My interest in cases like this one has definitely increased during the past month or so.

The Court of Appeal gets it right.  Moreover, it does so concisely, in an opinion that takes less than eight double-spaced pages.

Here's my summary of the opinion:  Motor Vehicle 1, Bicylist 0.

I sympathize with you, Mr. Rybicki.  God knows, I sympathize with you.  You were hit by a wrong-way driver while riding your bicycle.  The driver was potentially drunk, and was under 21.  You were seriously injured.  To say that I feel for you is an understatement.

But while you can sue the driver, you can't sue the passengers.  Even if they too were under 21, even if they too were drinking, and even if they helped provide the driver with alcohol.

I know it's a harsh rule.  But under the common law -- which was quickly codified by the Legislature in Section 1714 of the Civil Code once the California Supreme Court started to backtrack on it -- in a case like this one, you can't sue someone for illegally giving someone else alcohol.  The consumption of the alcohol by the driver and subsequent driving constitutes a superceding intervening cause, so no liability.

Sorry about that.

P.S. - Today was the first day I've been able to shower in over week and a half.  Trust me, Mr. Rybicki:  You're be hard-pressed to find someone a more sympathetic to your cause than I am.  But sometimes the law is clear.  Right or wrong.  This is one of those times.