Acosta v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtTOBRINER
Citation465 P.2d 72,2 Cal.3d 19,84 Cal.Rptr. 184
Parties, 465 P.2d 72 Lucile ACOSTA, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA RAPID TRANSIT DISTRICT, Defendant and Appellant. L.A. 29692.
Decision Date18 February 1970

Page 184

84 Cal.Rptr. 184
2 Cal.3d 19, 465 P.2d 72
Lucile ACOSTA, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA RAPID TRANSIT DISTRICT, Defendant and Appellant.
L.A. 29692.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
Feb. 18, 1970.

Page 185

[465 P.2d 73] [2 Cal.3d 21] Victor Rosenblatt and Harry M. Hunt, Los Angeles, for defendant and appellant.

Charles A. Harrison, Riverside, for plaintiff and respondent.

TOBRINER, Acting Chief Justice.

Defendant appeals from a judgment of the Los Angeles Superior Court entered on a verdict in favor of plaintiff Lucile [2 Cal.3d 22] Acosta for general and special damages in the amount of $12,500. Plaintiff sustained injuries in a fall which occurred when the bus on which she was riding stopped suddenly.

We have concluded that the judgment should be affirmed in that the trial court properly refused to exclude evidence of plaintiff's medical expenses. In addition, the court properly refused to permit defendant, without a proper foundation, to inquire before the jury as to whether a portion of plaintiff's medical bills had been paid through her insurance. We also hold

Page 186

[465 P.2d 74] that the record contains substantial evidence to support the judgment.

1. The facts.

Plaintiff was employed as a saleswoman in the children's shoe department of Bullock's downtown Los Angeles store. On September 17, 1966, the last Saturday for shopping before the beginning of the school year, she left work about 6:15 p.m. and waited for a Southern California Rapid Transit District bus at the corner of Eighth and Broadway in the Los Angeles central business district. The bus stopped at the corner just behind a late-model Ford sedan which had stopped for the traffic signal. Plaintiff waited for about eight or nine other passengers to board the bus and then she did so and paid the fare.

As plaintiff began to walk back toward the rear of the half-filled vehicle to find a seat, the signal light changed and the bus started, following 40 feet behind the Ford sedan northward on Broadway in moderate rush-hour traffic. The bus driver knew that the next block of Broadway contained a mid-block crosswalk for pedestrians, but as he approached to within 100 feet of the walk he saw no pedestrians crossing. He did, however, see several young boys of ages 10 to 12 running northward along the sidewalk approaching the center of the block. Fearing some difficulty, the driver took his foot off the accelerator and rested it on the brake without braking, permitting the bus to coast at about 15 to 20 miles per hour. As the boys reached the center of the block, they turned into the crosswalk and crossed directly in front of the Ford sedan which, to avoid hitting the boys, braked abruptly. The bus driver immediately applied his brakes and brought the bus to a halt some five feet behind the Ford sedan.

While the bus was traveling the approximately 200 feet from the corner bus stop to the sudden halt to avoid a collision, the passengers were moving toward the back of the bus to find seats. Plaintiff, the last passenger to board the bus, had just reached the first set of seats which face the front of the bus when the driver applied the brakes. There is a conflict in the evidence as to whether she was holding onto a bar at the time, but when the [2 Cal.3d 23] bus stopped suddenly plaintiff and at least two other ladies were thrown forward in the bus and fell over the coin box and onto the floor, with plaintiff on the bottom of the heap.

An ambulance carried plaintiff to the Central Receiving Hospital where she received first aid. At the suggestion of her family physician, Dr. Elerding, plaintiff was transferred to the California Hospital for treatment of a lacerated left elbow, a severe contusion of the left hip, recurrent severe headaches, and considerable difficulty in walking. She remained hospitalized for about seven weeks and returned to work for the first time in January 1967. She thereafter worked regularly but not full time, and by the time of trial on February 29, 1968, she had been working only five or six hours a day, five days a week, as a consequence of her injuries.

Plaintiff brought a tort action against the Southern California Rapid Transit District, a public entity, but not the driver of the bus. In chambers, immediately prior to trial, defendant moved to exclude from evidence all medical bills incurred by plaintiff on the basis of her admissions to interrogatories that such bills were largely paid by Blue Shield (California Physicians Service), a collateral source. The defendant predicated its motion on City of Salinas v. Souza & McCue Constr. Co. (1967) 66 Cal.2d 217, 57 Cal.Rptr. 337, 424 P.2d 921; plaintiff sought to distinguish Souza on the ground that it involved double recovery, whereas in the present case Blue Shield must be reimbursed from any recovery by the plaintiff. The trial court observed that the collateral source language of Souza constituted little more than dicta and reasoned that this court had probably not considered a case in which the plaintiff, over an extended period, had expended considerable funds in paying insurance premiums. The trial court concluded that at least if premiums exceeded the amount

Page 187

[465 P.2d 75] to be recovered in a tort action, the defendant could not exclude evidence of the hospital and medical services. The court denied the motion to exclude the evidence.

Later in the trial defendant apparently reserved its objection to the admission into evidence of the medical bills, but stipulated to the introduction of these bills into evidence. In order to show that plaintiff was a malingerer or that the medical services that she received were not reasonable and necessary, defendant sought to cross-examine her on payments and services provided by Blue Shield, Metropolitan Insurance, and California State Disability Insurance. Defendant's attorney indicated that his pretrial motion included a request for cross-examination as to all these forms of insurance coverage 1, but defendant's counsel did not reiterate [2 Cal.3d 24] his reliance on the Souza case. The trial court was disposed to permit defendant's attorney to inquire about any possible insurance coverage outside the hearing of the jury to lay a basis for appeal and then also to permit some questioning on the insurance coverage to show that plaintiff might have been a malingerer. But, apparently, defense counsel did not accept this opportunity to...

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26 practice notes
  • Lopez v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 31, 1985
    ...that human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances. (Acosta v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 19, 27, 84 Cal.Rptr. 184, 465 P.2d 72.) 2 Common carriers are not, however, insurers of their passengers' safety. Rather, the degree of care and ......
  • Lopez v. Southern California Rapid Transit Dist.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 30, 1984
    ...human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under all the circumstances." (Acosta v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 19, 27, 84 Cal.Rptr. 184, 465 P.2d 72.) In California all governmental tort liability must be based on statute. (Gov.Code, § 815; Duarte v. City ......
  • VIA Metro. Transit v. Meck, No. 18-0458
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • June 26, 2020
    ...is "engaged as a common carrier in the business of transporting members of the general public"); Acosta v. S. Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. , 2 Cal.3d 19, 84 Cal.Rptr. 184, 465 P.2d 72, 78 (1970) (same); Fujimura v. Chi. Transit Auth. , 67 Ill.2d 506, 10 Ill.Dec. 619, 368 N.E.2d 105, 108 (1977) ......
  • Helfend v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • February 18, 1970
    ...for defense counsel to show that plaintiff was a malingerer merely because he might have possessed multiple insurance coverage. Page 184 [465 P.2d 72] Plaintiff sustained extremely severe injuries when defendant's bus crushed his Plaintiff remained in the hospital only one week. Considering......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
26 cases
  • Lopez v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 31, 1985
    ...that human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances. (Acosta v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 19, 27, 84 Cal.Rptr. 184, 465 P.2d 72.) 2 Common carriers are not, however, insurers of their passengers' safety. Rather, the degree of care and ......
  • Lopez v. Southern California Rapid Transit Dist.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 30, 1984
    ...human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under all the circumstances." (Acosta v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 19, 27, 84 Cal.Rptr. 184, 465 P.2d 72.) In California all governmental tort liability must be based on statute. (Gov.Code, § 815; Duarte v. City ......
  • VIA Metro. Transit v. Meck, No. 18-0458
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • June 26, 2020
    ...is "engaged as a common carrier in the business of transporting members of the general public"); Acosta v. S. Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. , 2 Cal.3d 19, 84 Cal.Rptr. 184, 465 P.2d 72, 78 (1970) (same); Fujimura v. Chi. Transit Auth. , 67 Ill.2d 506, 10 Ill.Dec. 619, 368 N.E.2d 105, 108 (1977) ......
  • Helfend v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • February 18, 1970
    ...for defense counsel to show that plaintiff was a malingerer merely because he might have possessed multiple insurance coverage. Page 184 [465 P.2d 72] Plaintiff sustained extremely severe injuries when defendant's bus crushed his Plaintiff remained in the hospital only one week. Considering......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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