California Supreme Court Decision

June 24, 2013

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The following is a recent California Supreme Court decision of interest to attorneys practicing personal injury litigation.

On June 10, 2013, the California Supreme Court resolved a conflict between lower courts for the appropriate application for Civil Code Section 998 in the context of a case where a plaintiff made two formal offers to compromise pre-trial and the verdict at Trial exceeded both of plaintiff's offers. In this setting, the California Supreme Court held that the plaintiff is entitled to recover expert witness fees and interest from the date of the first C.C.P. 998 offer to compromise.

This ruling is important because, as the Court noted, Section 998 of the Code of Civil Procedure was enacted to encourage the settlement of lawsuits prior to Trial. When a plaintiff offers to settle their case prior to Trial for a sum certain and the defendant refuses, he stands exposed to interest at the rate of 10% from the date of that offer and , as well, the obligation to reimburse plaintiff for expert witness fees incurred from that date through Trial. In a personal injury case, expert witness fees are generally not recoverable in the absence of a C.C.P 998 offer and rejection. The case is Martinez v. Brown Co. Construction recently published in the L.A. Daily Journal at 2013 DJDAR 7341. For the plaintiff in the Martinez case, it meant the recovery of an additional $300,000 in itemized expert costs.

This post is published by  The Law Offices of O'Mara and Padilla, specialists in Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Product Liability matters.