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California Supreme Court overturns “no duty” rule in Cabral v. Ralph’s

And what we can all learn from this tragedy

In Maria Cabral v. Ralph’s Grocery Company, S178799, filed by the California Supreme Court on February 28, 2011, the Court held in favor of an accident victim and took a very restrictive view of the “no duty rule”.

What is the “no duty rule”?

According to the Findlaw dictionary, under the “no duty rule,” a defendant cannot be held liable for an injury if no duty is owed to the plaintiff.

Court can’t make up its mind

The case of Cabral arose from a motor vehicle collision in which a truck driver working for Ralph’s Grocery Company (“Ralph’s”) stopped his tractor-trailer rig alongside an interstate highway in order to have a snack. The plaintiff’s husband, decedent Adelelmo Cabral, for reasons unknown, veered off the highway and collided with the tractor-trailer, resulting in his death.

Perhaps if we all ask what is best (safe) for everyone and not just what is best for me, more of these tragedies can be avoided.

The case was tried to a jury. The jury found both parties to be negligent, but allocated 90% of the fault for the accident to Cabral and 10% of the fault to Ralph’s tractor trailer driver.

Under California’s comparative fault law, the trial court entered a judgment for Cabral’s widow for 10% of her damages.

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Are drivers still liable if they are hit by a cyclist riding on the sidewalk?

Law enforcement officers sometimes mistakenly cite cyclists who are involved in traffic accidents for violating Vehicle Code §21650.1.

In general, under California law, if someone is riding a bicycle on a roadway, he or she must ride in the same direction as motor vehicles (Vehicle Code §21650.1).

Sidewalks, however, are not legally considered part of the roadway (Vehicle Code §555). Therefore cyclists do not violate Section 21650.1, even if they are riding against the flow and direction of traffic along and within a sidewalk.

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