California Personal Injury Litigation and Proof of Service for Electronic Service

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

Electronic service is a cost-effective manner of service, whether done in Federal cases with CM/ECF, or in California superior courts by stipulation, or in conjunction with electronic filing.  For California superior court cases, the Judicial Council has created an optional proof of service for electronic service, FORM POS-050/EFS-050, which needs to be used in conjunction with Form POS-o50(P).  However, if you follow the requirements of California Rules of Court Rule 2.251(g) the practitioner does not need to use the optional Judicial Council form.

California Rules of Court Rule 2.251(g) requires the following information:

(1)Proof of electronic service may be by any of the methods provided in Code of Civil Procedure section 1013a, except that the proof of service must state:

(A)The electronic service address of the person making the service, in addition to that person’s residence or business address;

(B)The date and time of the electronic service, instead of the date and place of deposit in the mail;

(C)The name and electronic service address of the person served, in place of that person’s name and address as shown on the envelope; and

(D)That the document was served electronically, in place of the statement that the envelope was sealed and deposited in the mail with postage fully prepaid.

(2)Proof of electronic service may be in electronic form and may be filed electronically with the court.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

California Personal Injury Litigation – The Importance of Preserving Evidence

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

If you have been injured in an accident, the most important thing is to make sure you receive medical attention and medical attention for others around you.

However, even if you do not presently have the intention of recovering your damages, there are a few simple steps you can do at the time of the incident, and in the days and weeks following. Missing these opportunities can compromise efforts for compensation.

If you can, take pictures immediately.  With the quality of phone cameras increasing, take as many pictures as possible of the scene of the accident.  For example, in a slip and fall, the condition will be quickly remedied, so if you or your friends or family can take a picture, it can preserve important evidence.  Also, have someone take a picture of your visible injuries. The sooner the pictures are taken after the accident, the better.  In the case of a flooding event or fire, take video during the event.  Again, cameras have excellent video cameras these days.  The new Apple iPhone 4s takes full high definition video, for example.

If there are witnesses, try to get business cards or phone numbers, or some contact information.  If there is a police report, obtain it as soon as possible.  Obtain any other reports.

Get copies of your records regarding medical treatment including billing.  These records can be obtained from your medical providers.  Obtain records of time missed from work.

In slip and falls and trip and falls, the condition of shoes is often an issue.  Keep the shoes, and don’t wear them again.  If you have clothes or other property, preserve them, too.  If you have to repair property, such as a car, make sure that pictures are taken before the repairs.  Take pictures from different angles.  We no longer live in an age where you could only take a few pictures before running out of film.

Remember that you likely face statutes of limitations that can impact your ability to be compensated for your losses.  If a government agency is involved, typically a government claim is required before you file suit, and generally the government claim must be filed six months from the date of the incident.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 300 E. State St. #517
                   Redlands, CA 92373
Telephone: (909) 296-6708

Excellent Legal Resource For Those Impacted By Recent Disasters

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

After the Old Fire, the Mayor and Common Council of the City of San Bernardino authorized the City Attorney’s Office to assist San Bernardino residents (and later, people in unincorporated areas adjacent to the City of San Bernardino).  Though this was highly unusual (having public attorneys directly assist the public), I was honored to do so, and I saw it as a continuation of my public service work that I had started as the staff attorney at Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino and continued with my nuisance abatement work as a city prosecutor.

While helping members of the public with their legal problems occasioned by their houses burning down and losing all their possessions, we  distributed a useful guide published by the mega-law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.  Though no doubt Morrison & Foerster LLP’s hardworking associates did the heavy lifting, it had the seal of a variety of voluntary bar associations (including the San Bernardino County Bar Association) and the State Bar of California on the back.  Here is a blurb from the Morrison & Foerster LLP website that explains why they created this guide:

In 2007, a series of wild fires broke out in Southern California, destroying at least 1,500 homes and burning over 500,000 acres of land from Santa Barbara County to the US–Mexico border. Nine people died as a direct result of the fire.

The Helping Handbook, which contained information about legal issues that people may face in an emergency, as well as contact information for organizations offering assistance, was originally created as a legal guide for individuals, victims’ families, and small businesses affected by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Since then, MoFo has continued to work with state and local bars to create versions of the Helping Handbook for people displaced by natural disasters such as the Southern California wildfires of 2003, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the New York flooding in 2006.

With the 2007 wildfires leaving many people displaced in its wake, MoFo decided to create a version of the Helping Handbook to help victims manage in the aftermath. Many of the affected residents’ primary language was Spanish. During this critical time, when advice on how to manage this critical situation was needed most, MoFo and TransPerfect Legal Solutions decided to work together to provide Spanish-speakers with accessible, accurate information about the resources available to help them.

 

The most recent Morrison & Foerster Helping Handbook is from 2008.  As we begin another fire season, (and after the Hill Fire has been contained) hopefully this guide can help people who do not know where to turn after a disaster.
The most important valuable lessons I learned from the Old Fire and its aftermath are that public adjusters must have the best lobbyist in Sacramento.   I never met anyone who was satisfied with a public adjuster. Here is sage advice from the 2008  Helping Hands Fire Handbook:

What is a public insurance adjuster and what should I look for if I decide to hire one?
Public insurance adjusters claim that they can maximize your insurance benefits by finding damage
that an insurance company adjuster might not find. It is generally recommended that you try and settle
an insurance claim directly with your insurance company before you hire a public insurance adjuster.
Your insurance company provides an adjuster to you at no charge. If you use the insurance company’s
adjuster, you still have the right to separately hire a public adjuster to help you. Public adjusters are paid
a fee or a percentage of your claim. It is important that you understand what the fees are and how they
are calculated before you hire a public adjuster. It is always a good idea to rely on referrals from friends
and family to determine which public adjusters are legitimate. If you decide to hire a public adjuster, do
so in writing and make sure that they are licensed. Call the California Department of Insurance (CDI) at
(800) 967-9331 or access the CDI’s website at http://www.insurance.ca.gov for licensing verification and other
information regarding public adjusters. You can also file a complaint at the website or by calling the CDI’s
consumer hotline at (800) 927-4357.

Morrison & Foerster LLP, Helping Handbook, For Individuals and Small Businesses Affected by the 2008 Southern California Wildfires, Pg. 65

If an insurance company is not honoring the policy after negotiations by the policyholder, it is much better to find an attorney who specializes in insurance bad faith who may charge the policyholder a lot less and do a lot more than a public adjuster.  I do not practice  insurance bad faith law, but I was impressed with some of the attorneys that handled bad faith claims after the Old Fire.

The second thing I learned is that you have to analyze your insurance company and your policy, including exclusions, before a disaster.  The way a company treated policyholders poorly made me switch to another company.  I  requested a larger policy limit with my new insurance company which covered the rebuilding of my house.  Of course, after a fire is not the time to change the policy.

The last thing I learned is that it is difficult to inventory your belongings after a disaster.  For one, there is the grief associated with losing your possessions, and there are too many details that you cannot remember.   If you can, inventory your personal property before a disaster, and keep a copy of the list (and pictures and video) off-site.

The three biggest problems the Old Fire victims I assisted had were with their insurance company, then with their contractors or public adjusters,  then with their mortgage companies.  Some were underinsured, some were uninsured.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 300 E. State St. #517
Redlands, CA 92373
Telephone: (909) 296-6708

New California Case Rules Plaintiff Entitiled to Recover the Reasonable and Necessary Costs Caused by Someone Who Wrongfully Injured Cat

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A new case in the First District Court of Appeals, Division 1, Kimes v. Grosser (May 31, 2011), 2011 WL 2128649:

“Under Civil Code section 3333 plaintiff may present evidence of the bills incurred to save the cat’s life and is entitled to recover the reasonable and necessary costs caused by someone who wrongfully injured the cat. Defendants are entitled to present evidence why the costs were unreasonable under the circumstances.” Id. at *4.

The Court gives the background of the case is:

Plaintiff Kevin Kimes alleges as follows: His pet cat Pumkin was shot with a pellet gun on October 28, 2005, while perched on a fence between his property and that of defendants Charles Grosser et al. Emergency surgery costing $6,000 saved Pumkin’s life, but left Pumkin partially paralyzed, and plaintiff incurred an additional $30,000 in expenses caring for Pumkin because of the injury. Plaintiff contends the shot that wounded Pumkin was fired from defendants’ backyard, and defendants Charles or Joseph Grosser were responsible for the “willful[ ] and malicious[ ]” shooting.

Plaintiff filed this suit to recover amounts paid for Pumkin’s care as a result of the shooting, and punitive damages. Defendants filed motions in limine to exclude evidence of plaintiff’s expenses caring for Pumkin, a cat they described as “an adopted stray of very low economic value,” on the theory that their liability was limited to the amount by which the shooting reduced Pumkin’s fair market value. When the court granted the motions at the outset of the trial, plaintiff declined to proceed, effectively conceding that Pumkin had no market value that justified the expenses of trial. Plaintiff’s appeal is from the judgment of dismissal entered on his failure to prosecute. Id. at *1

The dismissal was reversed by the Court. The takeaway from this decision is that animals will not be treated exactly like other property.

I once argued in the alternative that the value of an animal was limited to its fair market value. That dog was a German Shepherd named Woman. The dog attacked the police officers during a neighborhood evacuation when an unexploded bomb was found nearby. Non-lethal force (mace) was used before the dog was shot, and the dog survived for another year before being put down.

Unlike the case with Pumkin, the judge ruled that Woman’s shooting was within the discretionary immunity under the Government Code, and because the officers were immune, the City of San Bernardino was immune. Judgment was entered in favor of my client, the City of San Bernardino. There is a saying that “this case is a real dog” and sometimes, it is true.

In my time as an attorney, I’ve come across a variety of pet names. The City of San Bernardino had an arson dog named Cinder. Another Deputy City Attorney had an appeal of a determination to destroy a dog named Biscuit (who was later absolved because there was a “counterfeit Biscuit” running around the neighborhood, causing the mayhem attributed to Biscuit). Dangerous dog hearings and appeals are the less glamorous side of municipal law.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055