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State ex rel. Dept. of California Highway Patrol v. Superior Court (Mayra Antonia Alvarado)

Supreme Court of California

February 26, 2015

STATE OF CALIFORNIA ex rel. DEPARTMENT OF THE CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL, Petitioner,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF ORANGE COUNTY, Respondent; MAYRA ANTONIA ALVARADO et al., Real Parties in Interest

Petition for Modification Denied April 1, 2015

Petition for review to review a judgment of the Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three. Petition for review granted, judgment of the Court of Appeals reversed, and matter remanded.

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COUNSEL

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Kathleen A. Kenealy, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Kristin G. Hogue, Assistant Attorney General, Alberto L. Gonzalez and Joel A. Davis, Deputy Attorneys General, for Petitioner.

No appearance for Respondent.

Allred, Maroko & Goldberg, Michael Maroko and John S. West for Real Parties in Interest.

Opinion by Corrigan, J., with Cantil-Sakauye, C. J., Chin, Liu, Baxter, [*] and Hill, JJ.,[**] concurring. Concurring opinion by Werdegar, J., concurring.

OPINION

[343 P.3d 416] [184 Cal.Rptr.3d 355] CORRIGAN, J.

Under the Freeway Service Patrol (FSP) Act, motorists receive free emergency roadside assistance as a public service on California's busiest highways. (Sts. & Hy. Code, § 2560 et seq; Stats. 2000, ch. 513, § 1, pp. 3576-3577.) FSP tow trucks drive designated routes at peak traffic hours and respond to calls for assistance. [184 Cal.Rptr.3d 356] The FSP program is jointly administered by California's Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Department of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and local transportation agencies. Caltrans manages statewide funding, planning, and coordination. CHP trains the tow truck drivers, supervises field operations, and may provide dispatchers. Local agencies contract with privately owned tow services, which hire and assign the drivers and provide trucks that must be dedicated solely to the FSP program.

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) oversees a local program. It contracted with California Coach Orange, Inc. (California Coach), for FSP tow services, and with CHP for field supervision, program management, and oversight of contractor service quality. On January 16, 2008, a California Coach FSP tow truck driven by Joshua Guzman [343 P.3d 417] hit a car on Interstate 5, injuring Mayra Antonia Alvarado and her child. Alvarado sued Guzman, California Coach, CHP, Caltrans, and OCTA. CHP moved for summary judgment. For purposes of the motion, the parties stipulated that the sole theory of recovery against CHP was that it was Guzman's " special employer."

The trial court denied summary judgment, finding triable issues with respect to special employment. However, it granted CHP's request to certify a controlling question of law to the Court of Appeal: whether the statutes establishing the FSP program are inconsistent with a finding that CHP is the

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special employer of an FSP tow truck driver. [1] Ruling that CHP cannot be such a special employer as a matter of law, the Court of Appeal directed entry of summary judgment. We granted Alvarado's petition for review.

We agree with the Court of Appeal that the FSP statutes, as written, are incompatible with a special employment relationship between CHP and tow truck drivers. However, this conclusion does not foreclose the possibility that CHP might act as a special employer in particular circumstances. The statutes authorize CHP to perform certain functions, but do not bar it from taking on other responsibilities. Our resolution of the question of law presented here does not rule out CHP's ...


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