People v. Jennings

Decision Date04 April 2005
Docket NumberNo. D043944.,D043944.
Citation26 Cal.Rptr.3d 709,128 Cal.App.4th 42
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Jason JENNINGS, Defendant and Appellant.

Richard P. Siref, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, San Diego, for Defendant and Appellant.

Bill Lockyer, Attorney General, Robert Anderson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, Scott C. Taylor and Daniel Rogers, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

AARON, J.

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendant Jason Jennings appeals from a postjudgment order to modify restitution. Jennings argues that the trial court erred in failing to apply the proceeds paid to his victim by his insurance carrier in a civil settlement against the amount of restitution ordered by the court in Jennings's criminal case. We conclude that the trial court should have offset Jennings's restitution obligation by his insurer's payments to the victim to the extent the payments were made to cover the costs of items included in the court's restitution order.

II. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
A. Factual background

On September 27, 2002, Jennings lost control of his vehicle while driving in the City of San Diego on Fairmont Avenue toward the entrance to westbound Interstate 8. The vehicle crashed into a concrete bridge railing on the right side of the road and overturned. Jennings's passenger, Aleah Hockridge, was ejected. Jennings's vehicle eventually landed on Hockridge, causing her to sustain major injuries including head trauma, a fractured leg and clavicle, and multiple lacerations. The results of a preliminary alcohol screening and blood test indicated that Jennings had been driving with a .16 blood-alcohol level.

B. Procedural background
1. Jennings's guilty plea and sentencing

The San Diego County District Attorney filed an amended felony complaint charging Jennings with one count of driving under the influence of alcohol and causing injury (Veh.Code, § 23153, subd. (a)) and one count of driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or greater and causing injury (Veh.Code, § 23153, subd.(b)). The complaint further alleged that Jennings personally inflicted great bodily injury within the meaning of Penal Code section 12022.7, subdivision (a).1

On January 23, 2003, Jennings pled guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol and causing injury, and admitted the enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury. The remaining charge was dismissed and sentencing was left to the trial court's discretion. On April 17, 2003, the trial court sentenced Jennings to a term of five years' probation with conditions, including 120 days of work furlough. The court also ordered Jennings to pay the victim restitution in the amount of $108,678.77, pursuant to section 1202.4, subdivision (f).

2. The civil settlement with Hockridge

On September 22, 2003, Hockridge signed a settlement agreement to accept $105,000.00 from the California State Automobile Association Inter-Insurance Bureau (CSAA) in exchange for releasing Jennings and his mother, Janet Jennings, from further civil liability. Hockridge's attorney signed the settlement agreement on October 2, 2003, indicating that he had explained the release and its legal effect to Hockridge.

According to the settlement agreement, in exchange for $105,000, Hockridge agreed to "forever and fully release[], aquit[], and discharge[], Janet Jennings and Jason Jennings ... of and from all claims, demands, damages, ... actions and causes of action of every kind and nature, known or unknown, existing, claimed to exist, or which can ever hereafter arise out of or result from or in connection with a certain accident, casualty, or event which occurred on or about September 27, 2002, ...." The document also conditioned execution of the release on "an agreed allocation of the settlement amount of 15 percent to medical expenses and 85 percent to pain and suffering...."

3. Jennings's requests to modify the restitution amount

In late 2003, Jennings moved the court to offset the $108,678.77 he had been ordered to pay as victim restitution by $105,000—the amount his insurance company tendered to Hockridge as a result of the civil settlement.2 On January 9, 2003, the People opposed Jennings's request to offset the restitution order by $105,000. However, the People conceded that pursuant to People v. Bernal (2002) 101 Cal. App.4th 155, 123 Cal.Rptr.2d 622 (Bernal), a brief analysis needed to be done characterizing the defendant's payments thus far as being credited toward civil or criminal losses. The People acknowledged that a "`trial court must offset against defendant's restitution obligation monies paid to the victim by the defendant's insurance carrier for losses subject to the restitution order' [citation]," stating, "it seems clear that a victim may not recover twice for the same identical loss." However, the People argued that only $15,750 of the $105,000 civil settlement amount should be credited against Jennings's restitution obligation because this was the portion of the settlement that was allocated to Hockridge's medical costs, as opposed to her pain and suffering.3 The People also requested that the court modify the restitution order to reflect additional medical expenses Hockridge had incurred subsequent to the date of sentencing.

The court held hearings on the matter on January 13 and 21, 2004. On January 21, the parties stipulated to an increase in the restitution obligation in recognition of Hockridge's additional medical expenses, and the court modified the restitution amount to $113,487.77. After hearing arguments from both parties regarding whether any offset was appropriate, the court concluded that Jennings was entitled to no offset under Bernal because, according to the court, Jennings was "not the insured." The court stated, "it is his mother who is the insured, and based on that fact alone I distinguish Bernal and find that Mr. Jennings is entitled to no offset based on the insurance carrier refund to the victim."

On February 6, 2004, Jennings filed a motion to modify the restitution order and reconsideration of the court's previous ruling. In support of the motion, Jennings provided a declaration from his mother in which she stated that (a) Jennings was an insured under the policy, (b) Jennings's name was on the declarations page of the insurance policy, (c) Jennings had used his earnings from summer jobs to help her pay for "extra expenses," including the insurance premiums, and (d) the insurance company had indicated that it had no subrogation rights for claims paid on behalf of either Jennings or his mother. Jennings also submitted a CSAA document entitled "Automobile Policy Declarations" that listed Janet and Jason as drivers on policy Number 2F-05-02-8. The People challenged the motion on both procedural and substantive grounds, arguing that Jennings had presented no new facts or law, and disputing that Jennings had paid the insurance premiums. The People submitted a declaration from the victim's attorney in the civil case stating that information as to who had purchased the policy had not been raised during the settlement discussions.

On March 5, 2004, the court held a hearing on Jennings's motion to modify and reconsider the previous ruling as to Jennings's restitution obligation. The trial court disagreed with Jennings's attorney that the additional evidence offered to the court was sufficient to allow the court to offset Jennings's restitution obligation by the amount paid to the victim in the civil settlement. The court ordered that its previous ruling regarding modification of the restitution order would stand.

Jennings appeals from the court's order denying his request to modify the restitution obligation pursuant to section 1237, subdivision (b), which allows challenges to "order[s] made after judgment, affecting the substantial rights of the party."

III. DISCUSSION

A. Jennings is entitled to an offset for payments made by CSAA to Hockridge

Jennings argues that the trial court should have applied the $105,000 CSAA paid to settle Hockridge's civil claims against him and his mother toward the $113,487.77 in restitution he owes Hockridge under the court's restitution order. The trial court did not allow Jennings to offset the insurance company's payments against his restitution obligation because the court determined that the insured on the CSAA policy was Jennings's mother, and not Jennings.4 Although a trial court's "allocation of restitutionary responsibility" is reviewed for an abuse of discretion, an order resting upon a "`demonstrable error of law'" constitutes an abuse of the court's discretion. (People v. Draut (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 577, 581, 86 Cal.Rptr.2d 469, quoting In re S.S. (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 543, 550, 43 Cal.Rptr.2d 768.)

In challenging the trial court's order, Jennings contends that the trial court should have applied the rule announced in Bernal, supra, 101 Cal.App.4th at pages 167-168, 123 Cal.Rptr.2d 622, to his situation because his insurer paid his victim to settle claims against him and his mother. The Bernal court concluded that payments made to the victim by the defendant's insurance company to settle civil claims on behalf of the defendant satisfies section 1202.4, subdivision (a)(1)'s mandate that the victim receive restitution payments "directly from the defendant." (Bernal, supra, 101 Cal.App.4th at p. 168, 123 Cal. Rptr.2d 622.) Thus, under Bernal, payments made to the victim by the defendant's insurer in settlement of the victim's civil claims against the defendant should offset the defendant's victim restitution obligation to the extent those payments indemnified the victim for losses covered by the restitution order. (Ibid.)

Although the People initially conceded below that Jennings was an insured on the CSAA policy within the...

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