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Ghezavat v. Harris

California Court of Appeals, First District, Fifth Division

September 27, 2019

MO GHEZAVAT et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents,
v.
DAVID RICHARD HARRIS, Defendant and Appellant.

         CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]

          Superior Court of Contra Costa County, No. CIVMSC1300167, Barry P. Goode, Judge.

          The Dolan Law Firm, Christopher B. Dolan and Jeremy M. Jessup; Law Office of J. Michael Brown, J. Michael Brown, for Plaintiffs and Respondents.

          Samuelson, Wilson & Roe, Charles R. Roe, for Defendant and Appellant David Richard Harris.

          BURNS, J.

         In this wrongful death action arising from a motor vehicle collision, the decedents’ survivors sued John Harris, [1] and John’s father, David Richard Harris, who co-owned the truck John was driving. David appeals from the judgment entered against him, after the jury found him liable on a negligent entrustment theory. We affirm.

         Background

         On November 7, 2011, John suffered a seizure while driving a Toyota Tacoma truck and struck a car occupied by Ellie Pirdavari and Mahin Dowlati. Pirdavari and Dowlati were killed. It was stipulated that, as a result of his seizure, John was unable to brake or steer; that he was negligent; and that his operation of the truck was the sole cause of the collision.

         The truck John drove was jointly owned by John and David. When they purchased the truck, in 2005, John was 26 years old. He paid the down payment, and David co-signed the loan. Before the loan was paid off, in 2009, David made some of the payments. The truck was registered in both John’s and David’s names. David paid for its insurance and registration. However, John had sole possession of the keys and was the only driver.

         David was aware, by no later than June 2011, that John suffered from a seizure disorder. In particular, David knew that John suffered a grand mal seizure, in June 2011 on a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train, and that John lost consciousness and control of his body and was taken to the hospital. Within days thereafter, David researched grand mal seizures and learned such seizures could involve lost control and an epileptic fit for a period of time. On July 30, 2011, John suffered a second grand mal seizure on a BART train.

         David testified he did not know if John continued to drive after the June 2011 seizure but believed it was possible. David took no action to dissuade John from driving, such as canceling the Tacoma’s insurance. David considered removing himself from the registration in 2009 to avoid being accountable for John’s use of the truck, but he did not follow through.

         The decedents’ survivors, Mo. Ghezavat, Shadeh Ghezavat, Ali Ghezavat, Haleh Pirdavari, and Leila Pirdavari (collectively, Plaintiffs) sued John and David for negligence. As to David, the Plaintiffs’ theory of liability was negligent entrustment of the jointly owned Tacoma. Returning special verdicts, the jury found David knew or should have known that John was “incompetent or unfit to drive”; that David permitted John to drive the Tacoma; and that David’s permitting John to drive the Tacoma was a substantial factor in causing Pirdavari’s and Dowlati’s deaths. The jury allocated 90 percent of fault to John and 10 percent to David. The trial court entered a judgment in Plaintiffs’ favor against David for $388, 400.

         Discussion

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