Legal Question in Insurance Law in California

Prop. 213 and Civil Code 333.4

My client was a passenger in his own auto that was being by his wife. The auto was in both their names. Unknown to either, the insurance had lapsed. They were hit by another vehicle and he (my client), sustained serious injuries. The defense is alleging that this was a Prop. 213 case. I am saying that it does not apply since he was a passenger and not the driver. They say it does apply since the auto was in both their names. Is this a prop. 213 case as to my client /passenger?

Asked on 11/19/03, 9:50 pm

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2 Answers from Attorneys

Joseph Richardson Borton Petrini LLP
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Re: Prop. 213 and Civil Code 333.4

Just as the attorney said, it looks like the answer to this question is unclear. In short, a jury would decide whether this person is an "owner" for purposes of the statute. View the headnotes below, and let any attorney you end up involving know about this case.

Fact that passenger in uninsured vehicle was a registered owner of the vehicle did not establish, as a matter of law, that she was the vehicle's "owner," for purposes of the statute barring uninsured vehicle owners from recovering noneconomic damages sustained as a result of an accident arising out of the use or operation of the uninsured vehicle; voters intended "owner" to mean those persons who fit the commonly understood meaning of the word, and one harmonious with its definition in the Vehicle Code. Savnik v. Hall (App. 3 Dist. 1999) 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 417, 74 Cal.App.4th 733. Automobiles 249

Whether passenger in uninsured vehicle was the vehicle's "owner," for purposes of the statute barring uninsured vehicle owners from recovering noneconomic damages sustained as a result of an accident arising out of the use or operation of the uninsured vehicle, was a jury question in an action arising from an accident involving the vehicle; passenger did not contribute any funds to buy the vehicle, never drove it, and had no knowledge that her name was listed on the registration certificate. Savnik v. Hall (App. 3 Dist. 1999) 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 417, 74 Cal.App.4th 733. Automobiles 245(36)

Vehicle ownership, for purposes of the statute barring uninsured vehicle owners from recovering noneconomic damages sustained as a result of an accident arising out of the use or operation of the uninsured vehicle, is a fact question for the jury to determine in light of all the circumstances; registration is merely one incident of ownership, and a certificate of registration does not necessarily or conclusively establish true ownership. Savnik v. Hall (App. 3 Dist. 1999) 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 417, 74 Cal.App.4th 733. Automobiles 249

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11/22/03, 10:34 am
Steven Murray Steven W. Murray, APC
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Re: Prop. 213 and Civil Code 333.4

You have an interesting question, and the answer may be that the defense is right based on the literal language of Civil Code Sec. 3333.4(a)(2). But not necessarily. You may want to have this question carefully researched as it may be worth litigating in the appellate courts. It is not a simple "yes" or "no."

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11/20/03, 5:12 pm

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