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Seffert v. LA Transit Lines

(1961)

Supreme Court of California - 56 Cal. 2d 498

tl;dr:

Plaintiff received a large damages award from the jury for her economic and non-economic injuries; Court holds that the jury award was not excessive.

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Facts & HoldingSeffert v. LA Transit Lines case brief facts & holding

Facts:Plaintiff was caught by a bus door and was dragged...

Holding:The California Supreme Court affirmed.The Court found that the amount...

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Seffert v. LA Transit Lines | Case Brief DeepDive
Majority opinion, author: PETERS, J.
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The defendants are appealing a personal injury case where the plaintiff was injured when the defendants' bus doors closed suddenly, catching her hand and foot, and dragging her before throwing her to the pavement. The defendants argued that the injury resulted from the plaintiff's own negligence, but the evidence supported the plaintiff's version of events. The majority opinion found no errors on the issue of liability and rejected the defendants' argument that the instruction on res ipsa loquitur shifted the burden of proof. The defendants' other claimed errors on liability were minor and without merit. The plaintiff suffered serious, painful, disabling, and permanent injuries, which had a significant impact on her life. The defendants' contention that the damages were excessive is without merit.

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Dissenting opinion, author: TRAYNOR, J.
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Justice Traynor dissents from the majority opinion in a personal injury case, finding the award of $134,000 for pain and suffering to be excessive and indicative of passion, prejudice, whim, or caprice. Awards for pain and suffering in negligence cases have been recognized by the state for a long time, but critics have questioned their rationale. The judge can only instruct the jury to allow a reasonable amount, relying on their restraint and common sense. In this case, the jury lacked such restraint and common sense, resulting in an excessive award of $134,000 for pain and suffering. The excessive award was likely due to the improper argument of plaintiff's counsel, who urged the jury to award a specific sum for each day or month of suffering, despite the lack of evidence on the monetary value of plaintiff's suffering.

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