Simons v. Kern County

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtRALPH M. BROWN; CONLEY, P. J., and STONE
Citation234 Cal.App.2d 362,44 Cal.Rptr. 338
PartiesViva Lee SIMONS et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. COUNTY OF KERN, Defendant and Respondent. Civ. 440.
Decision Date12 May 1965

Page 338

44 Cal.Rptr. 338
234 Cal.App.2d 362
Viva Lee SIMONS et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
COUNTY OF KERN, Defendant and Respondent.
Civ. 440.
District Court of Appeal, Fifth District, California.
May 12, 1965.
Rehearing Denied June 9, 1965.
Hearing Denied July 7, 1965.

Page 339

[234 Cal.App.2d 363] Goldberg, Noriega & Sullivan, and Joseph F. Noriega, Bakersfield, for plaintiffs and appellants.

Borton, Petrini, Conron, Brown & Condley and Walter H. Condley, Bakersfield, for defendant and respondent.

RALPH M. BROWN, Justice.

Plaintiffs appeal from a judgment on the pleadings dismissing their complaint for damages for personal injuries resulting from an accident in which plaintiffs' automobile and a dump truck owned by the County of Kern collided on or about August 15, 1960. Plaintiffs' verified claim presented to the County of Kern was rejected. Plaintiffs originally filed a suit on March 20, 1961, against both the driver of the dump truck, one Hopkins, and defendant County of Kern in which plaintiffs alleged that Hopkins negligently drove the County truck, with resulting injuries. The original complaint stated a first cause of action in behalf of plaintiff Simons for permissive use of the truck by Hopkins and it also alleged that the defendants carelessly, recklessly and negligently operated said dump truck and thereby caused the accident; that the direct and proximate result of the carelessness, recklessness and negligence of the defendants caused injuries and damages to the plaintiffs; that as a direct and proximate result of the collision caused by the recklessness and negligence of the defendants the plaintiffs were forced to hire physicians and surgeons; and that as a further direct and proximate result of the negligence of defendants there [234 Cal.App.2d 364] were damages to an automobile. The same allegations were further contained in various paragraphs in the second cause of action in behalf of plaintiff Sharon Lee Harrington.

The individual defendant, Hopkins, was not alleged to be an employee or agent of the defendant County, but in its response to plaintiffs' request for admission of matters of fact defendant County admitted that Hopkins was an employee but denied on information and belief that he was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.

Defendant Hopkins died approximately twenty-one days after the accident and before the complaint was filed. Subsequently, the action was voluntarily dismissed as to him.

On July 5, 1962, the plaintiffs moved to amend their complaint to allege that defendant Hopkins was the agent of the defendant County of Kern, and also to amend by adding appropriate provisions alleging the presentation of the claim to the County and its rejection. The County objected to the amendment on the grounds that it introduced a new cause of action on which the statute of limitations had run. The motion was denied and an appeal from this order was dismissed. Another attempt to renew their motion for leave to amend was unsuccessfully made by plaintiffs and a petition thereafter directed to the District Court of Appeal for a writ of mandate to compel the superior court to permit the amendment was denied, without opinion. The County then made a motion for judgment on the pleadings on the ground that the original complaint does not state a cause of action, stating that the doctrine of respondeat superior was not available to plaintiffs for lack of any allegation of employment and agency; that the theory of liability based on the consent and permission statute is not available to the plaintiffs because the County cannot be held liable

Page 340

under that theory, not being engaged in a proprietary function. On the granting of this motion the plaintiffs appeal from the judgment subsequently entered and ask a review of the orders denying their motions for leave to amend.

The basic questions presented are: 'Did the amended complaint state a new cause of action beyond that asserted in the original complaint?' and, 'Were the allegations in the original complaint sufficient to present a triable issue and thus preclude judgment on the pleadings for the defendant County?'

It is plaintiffs' position that the amended complaint did not introduce a new cause of action, but rather, clarified or augmented[234 Cal.App.2d 365] an imperfectly stated cause of action as set forth in the original complaint. Thus, because the County cannot be held liable as a 'private owner' under Vehicle Code, section 17150, with exceptions of certain proprietary functions not involved here (Peccolo v. City of Los Angeles, 8 Cal.2d 532, 66 P.2d 651), the allegations in the complaint that Hopkins was driving with the permission and authority of the County are mere surplusage; that the only effective cause of action which the plaintiffs could have alleged against the County rests on the doctrine of respondeat superior as permitted by Vehicle Code, section 17001.

We are familiar with the case of McKnight v. Gilzean, 29 Cal.App.2d 218, 84 P.2d 213, where the plaintiff's original complaint alleged a cause of action based on respondeat superior and the plaintiff sought to amend after expiration of the one-year limitation period to charge by appropriate allegations a theory of liability under the permissive use statute. Denial of the motion was upheld on the appeal on the basis that the permissive use statute created a wholly new right of action, the court stating at page 220, 84 P.2d at page 214:

'It is the contention of appellants herein that the same cause of action has been pleaded throughout, and that the amendment, at most, merely perfected the cause of action already stated in the original complaint. With this contention we cannot agree. * * *

'The courts of this jurisdiction have held that section 402, supra [formerly 402--now section 17150 of the Veh. Code], establishes a new statutory action. In Weber v. Pinyan, 9 Cal.2d 226, 70 P.2d 183, 112 A.L.R. 407, the court, in referring to said section, stated [page 185]: 'Since the imputed negligence statute created a new right of action, giving a remedy against a party who would not otherwise be liable, it...

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15 practice notes
  • Nestle v. City of Santa Monica
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 28, 1972
    ...(Code Civ.Proc., § 452) and of liberal allowance of amendments (Scott v. City of Indian Wells, supra; Simons v. County of Kern (1965) 234 Cal.App.2d 362, 367--368, 44 Cal.Rptr. 338) should prevail. Furthermore, plaintiffs did describe the purported legal foundation for their proposed amendm......
  • Bradley v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 26, 1973
    ...that the defendant must necessarily possess full information concerning the facts of the controversy (Simons v. County of Kern (1965) 234 Cal.App.2d 362, 367, 44 Cal.Rptr. 338; Schessler v. Keck (1954) 125 Cal.App.2d 827, 835--836, 271 P.2d 588). It is unnecessary and improper to allege evi......
  • Robinson & Wilson, Inc. v. Stone
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 16, 1973
    ...46 Cal.2d 715, 751--752, 299 P.2d 257; Cardenas v. Ellston, 259 Cal.App.2d 232, 238, 66 Cal.Rptr. 128; Simons v. County of Kern, 234 Cal.App.2d 362, 367--368, 44 Cal.Rptr. 338), a reviewing court will not disturb the trial court's action unless the record shows a manifest abuse of discretio......
  • Nestle v. City of Santa Monica
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 3, 1971
    ...to exercise his discretion liberally in favor of permitting amendments to correct defective allegations. (Simons v. County of Kern, 234 Cal.App.2d 362, 44 Cal.Rptr. 338.) Thus, the trial court's denial of the right to amend must be overturned unless a substantial reason for its action appea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Nestle v. City of Santa Monica
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 28, 1972
    ...(Code Civ.Proc., § 452) and of liberal allowance of amendments (Scott v. City of Indian Wells, supra; Simons v. County of Kern (1965) 234 Cal.App.2d 362, 367--368, 44 Cal.Rptr. 338) should prevail. Furthermore, plaintiffs did describe the purported legal foundation for their proposed amendm......
  • Bradley v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 26, 1973
    ...that the defendant must necessarily possess full information concerning the facts of the controversy (Simons v. County of Kern (1965) 234 Cal.App.2d 362, 367, 44 Cal.Rptr. 338; Schessler v. Keck (1954) 125 Cal.App.2d 827, 835--836, 271 P.2d 588). It is unnecessary and improper to allege evi......
  • Robinson & Wilson, Inc. v. Stone
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 16, 1973
    ...46 Cal.2d 715, 751--752, 299 P.2d 257; Cardenas v. Ellston, 259 Cal.App.2d 232, 238, 66 Cal.Rptr. 128; Simons v. County of Kern, 234 Cal.App.2d 362, 367--368, 44 Cal.Rptr. 338), a reviewing court will not disturb the trial court's action unless the record shows a manifest abuse of discretio......
  • Nestle v. City of Santa Monica
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 3, 1971
    ...to exercise his discretion liberally in favor of permitting amendments to correct defective allegations. (Simons v. County of Kern, 234 Cal.App.2d 362, 44 Cal.Rptr. 338.) Thus, the trial court's denial of the right to amend must be overturned unless a substantial reason for its action appea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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