Augustus v. Bean

Decision Date14 February 1961
Citation10 Cal.Rptr. 857
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesHarry C. AUGUSTUS, Plaintiff, v. Cecil Compton BEAN, William C. Bean, Aaron Shaffer, Defendants. Cecil Compton Bean, Defendant and Appellant, Aaron Shaffer, Defendant and Respondent. Civ. 24570.

Spray, Gould & Bowers, Los Angeles, for appellant.

Schell & Delamer, by Fred B. Belanger, Los Angeles, for respondent.

BISHOP, Justice pro tem.

On April 8, 1956, the driver of a Buick and the driver of a Hudson each negligently operated his car in such a manner that the driver of a Cadillac was injured. The latter, with the assistance of a jury, obtained a judgment, entered April 7, 1958, against the two joint tort-feasors, awarding him, the Cadillac driver, $11,592.20. The driver of the Hudson appealed; the judgment was affirmed (Augustus v. Shaffer, 1959, 171 Cal.App.2d 160, 340 P.2d 37), and the Hudson driver, Aaron Shaffer, the respondent on this appeal, having completely satisfied the judgment, in the fall of 1959, moved for a judgment of contribution against his co-defendant, the Buick driver, Cecil Compton Bean. This motion was granted, and a judgment was entered decreeing that defendant Aaron Shaffer recover $5,796.10 from his co-defendant Cecil Compton Bean. It is from this judgment that the last-named defendant has appealed.

But for the provisions of sections 875-880, added to the Code of Civil Procedure in 1957, defendant Shaffer would have had no recourse against his co-defendant, for as stated in Smith v. Fall River Joint Union High School Dist., 1934, 1 Cal.2d 331, 334, 34 P.2d 994, 996: 'It is well settled in this state that there is no right of contribution between joint tort-feasors whose concurrent negligence has made them jointly liable in damages. (Adams v. White Bus Line, 184 Cal. 170 .)' As late as April, 1960 we find it stated: 'Prior to January 1, 1958, the law in California was the common-law rule that there was no right of contribution between joint tortfeasors.' Alisal Sanitary Dist. v. Kennedy, 1960, 180 Cal.App.2d 69, 74, 4 Cal.Rptr. 379, 382.

In 1957, however, there was legislation which 'adds California to the growing list of states which permit, to a greater or lesser degree, contribution among joint tort-feasors.' 32 State Bar Journal 553. Title XI, comprised of sections 875-880, was added to Part II of the Code of Civil Procedure. These are some of the provisions of sections 875 and 878: ' § 875. (a) Where a money judgment has been rendered jointly against two or more defendants in a tort action there shall be a right of contribution among them as hereinafter provided. * * * (c) Such right of contribution may be enforced only after one tortfeasor has, by payment, discharged the joint judgment or has paid more than his pro rata share thereof. * * *'

' § 878. Judgment for contribution may be entered by one tortfeasor judgment debtor against other tortfeasor judgment debtors by motion upon notice. * * *'

It is the last section of Title XI that gives rise to our problem. Section 880 reads: 'This title shall become effective as to causes of action accruing on or after January 1, 1958.' As applied to this case, the ultimate question is: Did the 1957 legislation give to the defendant Aaron Shaffer a right to the judgment of contribution that was entered in his favor against his codefendant Cecil Compton Bean, the appellant? The latter insists that it did not, for the reason that the cause of action, in this case, was not one that accrued on or after January 1, 1958, within the meaning of section 880.

The task set before us is one not infrequently met: 'What did the legislature mean by what it said?' There is no doubt about the meaning of 'accrue,' as the word is used in section 880. A cause of action accrues when a suit may be brought upon it. Maguire v. Hibernia Savings & Loan Soc., 1944, 23 Cal.2d 719, 733, 146 P.2d 673, 680, 151 A.L.R. 1062; Van Hook v. Southern California Waiters Alliance, 1958, 158 Cal.App.2d 556, 565, 323 P.2d 212, 217.

Our crucial question thus becomes this: To what 'causes of action' did the legislature refer, in section 880? In view of the nature of the subject matter of Title XI (sections 875-880) the choice is limited; the reference is either to causes of action accruing to persons who have been injured by joint torts, or...

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1 cases
  • Caffroy v. Fremlin
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • December 19, 1961
    ... ... (Augustus v. Bean, 189 ACA 101, 103, 10 Cal.Rptr. 857.) Plaintiffs' allegations with respect to the execution of an oil lease with Texaco, Inc., the receipt ... ...

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