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Michaels v. United States

June 22, 2010

CHARLI T. MICHAELS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. S. James Otero United States District Judge

Trial: April 6 and 7, 2010

Time: 9:00 a.m.

Court: Spring St.- Ctrm.1

(Second Floor)

Hon. S. James Otero

FINDINGS OFF ACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW [LOCALRULE52-1]

A bench trial was held on April 6 and 7, 2010. At the close the case, the Court ordered defendant's counsel to prepare [Proposed] Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and confer with plaintiff's counsel regarding such proposed findings. Having considered the testimony of the witnesses, the materials submitted by the parties, and after reviewing the evidence, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:

1. Plaintiff, Charli Michaels, brings this action against defendant, the United States of America, pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b) and 2671-2680, seeking damages. To have a cognizable claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq., the claim must arise from the negligent or wrongful act of a government employee acting within the scope of his or her employment under the circumstances where the United States, if it were a private individual, would be liable under the law of the State where the claim arose. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2674; Dalehite v. United States, 346 U.S. 15 (1953). California law is applicable because the accident occurred in California. Id.

2. In California, actionable negligence requires a legal duty to use care, breach of that duty, and causation of injury. U.S. Liab. Ins. Co. v. Haidinger-Hayes, Inc., 1 Cal. 3d 586, 594 (1970); Mendoza v. City of Los Angeles, 78 Cal. Rptr. 2d 525, 528 (1998). A plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the claimed damages were caused by the negligent act or omission of an employee of the United States. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2674. Plaintiff cannot recover without proving by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant was negligent and defendant's negligence was the proximate cause of her alleged injuries. Elder v. Pac. Telephone and Telegraph, 66 Cal. App. 3d 650, 657 (1977); Brown v. Poway Sch. Dist., 4 Cal. 4th 820, 827 (1993) (plaintiff's burden to prove "every essential fact on which [she] relies"); Hawthorne v. Siegel, 88 Cal. 159, 163 (1981) (plaintiff has the burden of demonstrating a causal connection with her alleged injuries); Cal. Civ. Code § 3333.

3. The car accident occurred on October 3, 2005, at approximately 4:40 p.m., involving plaintiff Charli Michaels driving her 1999 BMW 323i, and Christopher Keeler driving a government-owned 2003 Oldsmobile Alero.

4. At the time of the accident, Mr. Keeler was acting within the course and scope of his employment with the federal government.

5. Ms. Michaels and Mr. Keeler were traveling northbound on Interstate 5 ("I-5") at the time of the accident.

6. Mr. Keeler was traveling in the Number 1 lane prior to the accident and he made an unsafe lane change from the Number 1 lane to the Number 2 lane at the time Ms. Michaels was in the Number 2 lane and in control of the Number 2 lane, in violation of Vehicle Code section 21658(a), causing Ms. Michaels to lose control of her vehicle in the attempt to evade contact with Mr. Keeler's government vehicle.

7. The sole cause of the accident was the negligence of Mr. Keeler and Ms. Michaels did not contribute to the accident. Her actions in avoiding contact ...


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