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JD, Attorney
Category: Personal Injury Law
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Experience:  Over 10 years litigation experience
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California If a company admits liability in a wrongful death

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California: If a company admits liability in a wrongful death case, does that automatically mean the jury can not hear the details that led up to the wrongful death? Even though a manager for the company pled guilty to misdemeanor vehicle homicide x 2? The company does not survey their drivers medical conditions or prescriptions drugs or DMV files. All that is needed to drive their vehicles is a CDL. The company has 10K vehicles on the road.
Thank you for your question.

Is this case already at trial or still in pre-trial?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
we are not in trial yet
An admission does not preclude addition evidence of negligence or of actual complicity. Such information would still be admissible, and the jury can still hear the details unless the company settles out of court before the trial.

Hope that helps.

Edited by Dimitry Alexander Kaplun on 2/15/2010 at 10:57 PM EST
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
ok, Let me see if i understand this. I was told the company has admitted liability because they do not want the jury to hear the details of the accident. That by admitting liability it becomes a wrongful death damage case. That the only thing the jury can hear is how the loss of our daughter effects the lives of us, her parents. The accident occured in 2006, in California. Can you prove or give me a page number in a book or something, what the jury instructions would be?
Who exactly said this to you, an attorney?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Yes, i have 2 law firms, 4 attorneys. The first law firm had to bring in a 2nd firm when 2 months before trial, they changed their motion to NOT LIABLE OR RESPONSIBLE. That allowed up to begin discovery. During discovery, we found some pretty damaging evidence that the company was paying their expert witness to lie. Right around that time, they flipped. Said they were liable, went to court with a motion to ammend and we asked for a motion to continue our discovery. The judge agreed with all of us. But now my lawyers are saying there is not need to continue discovery becuz a jury wont hear it....just a damage case, no punitive, no details. I am going to a meeting with my lawyers and need to present them with a right to tell the jury what happened that day and why it happened. I believe its possible the company who killed my daughter has told the lawyers they will pay x amount of dollars but expenses must come out of it.
Thank you for your follow-up. I have been trying to find the information on this and have been unsuccessful. As such, I will open your question to other experts who may be able to find the specific rules and statutes that you seek.


Dimitry Alexander Kaplun, Esq.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
thanks Dimitry. If necessary, i can add $$$ to get the rules and statutes that i can lay down in front of my lawyers. I just need to be able to show my lawyers that there are other options.
Then if you do not mind, let me work on this until tomorrow--let me see if I can dig something up for you, and if not, I will request that others take a look and see if they can provide you with other options.

Will that suffice?


Dimitry Alexander Kaplun, Esq.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Yes. That is wonderful. I need be on strong footing as I am having a meeting on the 17th. All the lawyers are going to be yapping at me that there is nothing here other then wrongful death since liability has been agreed to. They are trying to convince me that details will not be heard by the jury. It is a warm up to their trying to convince me to settle out of court. Tomorrow is the 16th. If you cant find the statute, please give it to someone who can! lisa

I am very sorry for your loss.


I researched your issue earlier and Dimitry asked me to go ahead and post your answer to prevent delay.


Your attorneys are correct. This is an issue that involves a very simple rule of evidence. California Evidence Code 350 and 352 exclude evidence that is not relevant to the issue presented to the jury. ( Admitting liability is actually a very common defense strategy where liability is clear or the circumstances of the incident may inflame a jury to render an emotionally inflated verdict.


When a defendant admits liability and limits the jury question to damages he/she renders the circumstances of the accident irrelevant. Take a look at Sumrall v. Butler, 102 Cal. App. 2d 515 (


There is one thing that could make the circumstances of the incident relevant. Punitive damages are severely limited in wrongful death actions (they actually must be joined in a separate survival action), however if a plaintiff were to seek punitive damages and survive a motion for summary judgment then it would be possible to create relevant issues that involve the circumstances of the offense. As I have said, punitive damages in wrongful death cases are VERY rare and difficult to maintain, however it is a conversation you should have with your attorney.


This is obviously a very difficult issue.


Please reply if I can help further.



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JD, Attorney
Satisfied Customers: 1335
Experience: Over 10 years litigation experience
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Customer: replied 7 years ago.

ok, i appreciate your help. I have another question that may be complicated. I would like to pay for this one and then start another question. lisa


Thank you and good luck!