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Some developments may not receive an enormous amount of coverage in the news, yet these happenings can still have a profound effect on a large number of people. Such was the case yesterday when word came out that California Governor Jerry Brown was signing AB 2159 into law. AB 2159, put simply, ends a decades-long norm in California personal injury lawsuits that many saw as openly discriminatory. That norm no longer exists. Governor Brown signed a bill that no longer allows a person’s immigration status to be considered with personal injury or California wrongful death lawsuits. For the past 30 years, this status has been part of the equation and most likely affected an innumerable number of would-be personal injury claims.
This entire situation goes back to 1986 when a California appellate court case known as Rodriguez v. Kline took place. In that case, the plaintiff was injured and filed a California personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. Part of the damages the plaintiff was seeking to recover involved the loss of future wages. The court held in Rodriguez that an award for the loss of future wages should consider what an undocumented person would earn in his or her country of origin and not in the United States. Therefore, a plaintiff’s immigration status became a relevant factor in California personal injury cases.
The decision had a chilling effect on a lot of people who would have otherwise filed a California personal injury lawsuit after being wrongfully injured. Not only did such a decision lead to plaintiffs recovering a fraction of what they would have if they were given the same rights as others, but some people likely did not file a lawsuit because they were afraid of putting their immigration status on the public record. Defense attorneys eventually began to argue that other forms of loss, such as medical expenses, should also consider immigration status and a person’s country of origin.
Governor Brown signed AB 2159. The bill was sponsored by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego. Co-sponsors of the bill included the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and CAOC, or Consumer Attorneys of California. Several lobbying efforts were made, including by Attorneys Max Halpern and John Michael Montevideo of The Gomez Law Firm. Technically speaking, the law will add language to the California Evidence Code, specifically section 351.2. A link to the bill can be found here. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2017.
This law guarantees equal treatment for plaintiffs in California personal injury lawsuits regardless of a person’s immigration status. Such a status is now considered irrelevant when attempting to quantify damages incurred. Hopefully this will put an end to unjust treatment in this regard and put an end to the fear that many people may have experienced after being injured because of the negligent actions of others.Uncategorized
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