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Product Liability

Southern California Gas Company Liability

Gonzalez v. Southern California Gas Company

Recently, our office heard about an unfair decision involving a fellow San Diego dangerous products lawyer that was handed down by the Fourth Appellate District of the California Court of Appeals in the case of Gonzalez v. Southern California Gas Company. It involved a 17-year old girl who was killed when her car veered off the road and struck a Southern California Gas Company (SCG) unprotected gas meter which was located 11 feet, 4 inches from the curb along the road. Upon impact, the gas meter exploded and caused a fire that engulfed her vehicle. Although she was able to escape the burning vehicle, she later died from burn injuries which engulfed 80 percent of her body's surface.

Prior to the accident when the gas line was first installed, SCG was required by federal law to protect the gas line from foreseeable collisions. The tragic part of this incident is that had SCG protected the gas line as it was legally required to do so, the girl would have only suffered a cut lip. The case went to trial and the jury found that SCG had a duty to protect the victim by coving the gas line and that it's failure to do so was a substantial factor in causing the girl's death.

SCG predictably appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals in California. But in a shocking turn of events, the Court decided to overturn the family's wrongful death verdict and stated that SCG did not owe a duty to protect the gas line. The court wrongfully stated that this type of collision was "not foreseeable," therefore, the jury verdict was disregarded and SCG was not held liable.

What the Appellate Court did was wrong, and even worse, their decision runs afoul of previous California decisions. There are three separate cases that this Court decided to distinguish its' opinion from, including the Californai Supreme Court opinion in Bigbee v. Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co., 34 Cal.3d, 49 (1983).

Most cases of this magnitude are published so courts and attorneys can cite to it. Case precedent is important because the public needs to know what the law is, and how courts interpret the law. However, in shocking fashion, this Court decided NOT to publish their opinion for others to see. It would be one thing for the Court to publish their opinion to the public and allow it to stand up to public scrutiny and review, but the Court (for whatever reason) decided a case that contradicts prior case precedent should not be published. My opinion is that the judges knew that their decision was wrong and without basis and they did not publish their ruling in hopes that it would not be challenged.

So why should this Appellate Court opinion matter to you? For starters, it proves that the Courts do not always do the right thing. Judges are humans too, so sometimes they do not always come to the right decision. This is why it is important that you hire an attorney that is willing to fight and speak out when a Court makes bad decisions.

Fortunately, the trial attorneys for the victim's family is appealing the Court of Appeals ruling to the Supreme Court. We hope that the Supreme Court accepts their appeal and overturns this poor ruling.

The San Diego dangerous product lawyers at the Jurewitz Law Group work hard to make sure that justice is served. In the event that we feel that justice is not served at the trial level, we are not afraid to appeal the jury verdict to a higher court. If you or your family are ever involved in a personal injury in San Diego or wrongful death accident in California, please call our office at (888) 233-5020 for a free consultation.


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