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We published an article a few months ago that highlighted the efforts of California personal injury lawyers Max Halpern and John Michael Montevideo from The Gomez Law Firm. Attorneys Halpern and Montevideo are members of CAOC, or the Consumer Attorneys of California. They were in Sacramento in May to lobby legislators on several topics including forced arbitration. In addition to that topic, Attorneys Halpern and Montevideo discussed the problem of forcing plaintiffs to disclose their immigration statuses with courts in California personal injury cases. Yesterday, Governor Brown acted on what was known as AB 2159 by signing it into law.
See below with an update provided by Attorneys Halpern and Montevideo:
On May 2nd & 3rd, Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC), including its members from San Diego, was in Sacramento meeting with California Assembly Members and Senators to discuss, among many topics, a bill to stop a prevalent discriminatory civil litigation practice aimed at marginalizing plaintiffs based on their immigration status.
In 1986, the Court of Appeal published the opinion Rodriguez v. Kline (1986) 186 Cal.App.3d 1145. Rodriguez held a plaintiff bringing a personal injury lawsuit, and claiming a loss of future earnings from her injury, was required to divulge information about her immigration status. The Court’s reasoning in Rodriguez was that a when an individual does not have immigration status and is subject to deportation, the jury should consider this factor of potential deportation in determining how much money the injured party could make in the future.
Rodriguez had a chilling effect and pressured undocumented injured plaintiffs in a personal injury lawsuit from choosing between (a) revealing their immigration status in a public trial and being subjected to deportation proceedings (b) revealing their immigration status and having the jury scrutinize and judge their legal status in the United States, or (c) not reveal their immigration status and drop their lost future earnings no matter how high the damage. With large populations in of non-citizens and undocumented workers in cities of San Diego, Riverside, and Los Angeles, those living in Southern California faced greater hardship in bringing a personal injury case than others.
Thankfully, a non-citizen injured plaintiff, who should be afforded all rights under lady justice and not subjected to prejudice based on national origin, will no longer face this dilemma. Governor Jerry Brown has signed AB 2159 into law, sponsored by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego.
Added to the California Evidence Code will be section 351.2 – making immigration status inadmissible and undiscoverable in personal injury and wrongful death matters. CAOC commented, “This bill brings an end to 30 years of inequality for non-citizen plaintiffs in California.”
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