Monday, February 28, 2011

Cabral v. Ralphs Grocery

Care: general duty to exercise reasonable care: California law establishes the general duty of each person to exercise, in his or her activities, reasonable care for the safety of others.  (Civ. Code, § 1714, subd. (a).)  While this court may and sometimes does find exceptions to the general duty rule, the recognized grounds for doing so (Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 112-113) are lacking here. That drivers may lose control of their vehicles and leave a freeway for the shoulder area, where they may collide with any obstacle placed there, is not categorically unforeseeable.  Nor does public policy clearly demand that truck drivers be universally permitted, without the possibility of civil liability for a collision, to take nonemergency breaks alongside freeways in areas where regulations permit only emergency parking. 
Were we to recognize the categorical exemption from the duty of ordinary care Ralphs seeks, no liability could be imposed even when a driver unjustifiably stops his or her vehicle alongside the freeway in particularly dangerous circumstances.  For example, parking a tractor-trailer for the night immediately next to the freeway traffic lanes on the outside of a poorly lit downhill curve, merely in order to save the cost of a spot in a truck stop, could well be considered negligent.  Yet the parking truck driver in that scenario would as a matter of law bear no responsibility for a collision if, as Ralphs contends, no duty exists to exercise reasonable care, in parking alongside a freeway, for the safety of motorists who may unintentionally leave the freeway.  We therefore decline to create a categorical rule exempting those parking alongside freeways from the duty of drivers to exercise ordinary care for others in their use of streets and highways.
The general duty of ordinary care being applicable, it was for the jury to determine whether the Ralphs driver breached that duty, whether decedent Cabral was also negligent, whose negligence caused the collision, and how to allocate comparative fault between the parties.  As Ralphs does not contend the evidence was insufficient to support the finding the company breached its duty of ordinary care and bore one-tenth of the total fault for the accident, we do not decide that question (Cal. S. Ct., S178799, 28.02.11, Cabral v. Ralphs Grocery).

Diligence : devoir général de diligence : le droit californien établit le devoir général de chacun d’exercer dans ses activités une diligence raisonnable pour la sécurité d’autrui. Certaines exceptions peuvent parfois s’appliquer. La présente espèce porte sur le domaine de la circulation routière. Il est jugé qu’il n’existe pas d’exception systématique au devoir général de diligence s’agissant de véhicules à moteur qui se parquent, sans motif d’urgence, au bord de l’autoroute, sur la bande d’arrêt d’urgence, ou sur une voie de dégagement. En cas d’accident dans de telles circonstances, il appartient au jury de déterminer si le conducteur parqué a violé son devoir général de diligence dû aux autres usagers de la route, et de déterminer si la victime qui est entrée en collision avec le véhicule parqué a aussi été négligente. Le jury doit en outre répartir les fautes entre les conducteurs.

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