Howell v. Hamilton Meats

Last Thursday, the California Supreme Court handed down its decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats.  The ruling favors those who cause injury to others (such as people who get into accidents while texting) over their victims. The Court decided that it is those who cause injuries, and not their victims, who will benefit from the health insurance that the victim has paid for.

I attended the oral argument before the Supreme Court back in May.  I wrote about that here.  Today, Gary Simms, who argued the case for Rebecca HowGary Simms, Appellate Specialistell, provided me his perspective on the Court’s decision.  

Q: Were you surprised by the 6-to-1 decision against the plaintiff?

A: Unfortunately, I wasn’t surprised by the result. The Court is deeply conservative (six Republican appointees) and predictably anti-plaintiff in most personal-injury cases, so I knew from the outset of being retained for the Supreme Court briefing that I would face a very uphill battle. I was working at the margins; in other words; three justices would never vote for my position, and I knew it. I expected to get Justice Pro Tem Klein’s vote, though, and she very clearly signaled it at oral argument. I hoped to get three other votes, but I knew it would be difficult.

Q: Were you surprised by the new Chief Justice’s vote with the majority after she had taken the opposite view in her Court of Appeal opinion in King v. Willmett very shortly before she was appointed to the Supreme Court?

A: Yes, but after the oral argument, I sensed that she would flip-flop, so I was only mildly surprised. I can only speculate why she reversed her position. But I think the most likely reason was that she knew her vote would not change the outcome, so she chose to join the majority to make it unanimous. (Because Justice Klein was sitting pro tem by designation, her dissent does not matter in that regard; all the permanent Justices joined in the majority opinion.) This allowed the Chief Justice to establish herself as being a collegial and open minded consensus-builder. That’s a very important quality for a Chief Justice. And perhaps Continue Reading Howell v. Hamilton Meats: Candid Interview With Appellate Attorney Gary Simms

When a wrongdoer causes injury, he must pay the victim’s hospital bills. If the victim happens to have insurance, the insurance company will often settle those bills before trial. Should the wrongdoer be required to pay the victim for the full amount of the hospital bills? Or only the amount the insurer paid to settle the bills? That was the