Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Garcia v. Rosenberg (Cal. Ct. App. - Dec. 4, 2019)

Good decision by Justice Hill to publish this opinion today.  And good ending thereto.

I too found disturbing the trial court's unquestioned reliance upon the self-serving declaration of the defendant in this malicious prosecution action hat the lawsuit was dismissed only because a client representative couldn't attend the MSC.  ("The reason or intent of Allstate and Rosenberg behind the dismissal of the subrogation action is a matter uniquely within their knowledge, and apparently the only evidence the trial court considered on that issue was Rosenberg’s declaration stating his intent. The Garcias were not likely to have direct evidence of Rosenberg’s intent, but there were inferences to be drawn from the circumstantial evidence. Rosenberg did not deny that, within a few months after the subrogation action was filed, the Garcias provided him with a document from the Department of Motor Vehicles showing they had sold the Aerostar and filed a release of liability six months before the accident with Allstate’s insured. It was undisputed Rosenberg and Allstate pursued the subrogation action vigorously for seven years, including garnishing the Garcias’ wages, placing a judgment lien on their home, having their drivers’ licenses suspended, and declining to consider the possibility of the Garcias’ innocence in light of the evidence they presented, then suddenly dismissed it shortly before trial. The evidence would support an inference in the Garcias’ favor that Rosenberg’s stated reason was a convenient excuse for a last minute dismissal to avoid a trial he deemed likely to result in a judgment against his client.")  So good to see the Court of Appeal refuse to affirm on that basis.

And even though the case gets affirmed in the end, it's nice that Justice Hill ends the opinion by saying:  "In closing, we note that the Garcias’ plea for justice, made at oral argument, did not fall on deaf ears. We understand and appreciate the obstacles they faced in attempting to defend themselves in the subrogation action and prosecute their malicious prosecution actions."  It's always good to remember that we're dealing with people.  Real people, real problems.  Not merely abstract issues of law.

Even when those legal principles constrain our actions and make the case come out in a way that might not be intrinsically morally pleasing.