California Civil Suits Against Drug Dealers

A lot of people probably know that you can sue for money if you’re the victim of an act. For example, someone sells a defective product that injures you, a doctor makes a mistake that causes you pain and suffering, etc. As a category, these offenses that victims can sue for money on are called “torts”. There are some very common torts (e.g. negligence, false imprisonment, etc) that get taught in pretty much every law school. Then there are some unusual torts, like the subject of this post: suing drug dealers for the damage they cause in marketing, distributing, and selling drugs. In California, this is under the Drug Dealer Liability Act (DDLA) (California Health and Safety Code section 11700). Other states in the US may allow suits like this as well. As always, check your state’s laws or consult an attorney in your area to see what is prudent for your particular situation. I’m going to abbreviate “Health and Safety Code” as “H&SC” below. Basic Elements of a DDLA suit: Most tort offenses have a set number of specific criteria that the plaintiff has to satisfy in order to win. For a DDLA suit, the elements are: Plaintiff is a member of a specific class of persons (H&SC section 11705) (see below); There is a specific person who used the drugs (H&SC section 11703(b)); Defendant is anyone who sold, administered, or furnished drugs or, as in certain situations described below, knowingly participated in marketing said drugs (H&SC section 11705(b)(1) and (b)(2)); The defendant’s acts proximately caused plaintiff to suffer injury (H&SC sections 11704(a), 11702(a)) Who Can Sue Under...

Domestic Violence as a Tort in California (CA Civil Code section 1708.6)

Domestic violence in California can be treated three ways: (1) as a crime under California Penal Code section 273.5, (2) as a family law offense beginning with California Family Code section 6200 as well as the statutes thereafter (i.e. the California Domestic Violence Prevention Act). This is how Domestic Violence Restraining Orders are issued by a California family court. Both of these are pretty commonplace. There’s a chance you may have heard of one or both of these before. The third way is perhaps less commonly known: Domestic violence is a civil tort in California for which a lawsuit can be filed just like in a medical malpractice lawsuit or a car accident lawsuit. The governing statute for the tort of domestic violence is California Civil Code section 1708.6. The criteria for this are pretty simple: Plaintiff suffers injury as a result of abuse, Said abuse was intentionally inflicted by the defendant who was in one of the specified relationships under California Penal Code section 13700(a) with the Plaintiff; Plaintiff’s injuries were proximately caused by the abuse inflicted by defendant. Under section 13700(b), the allowed relationships are: spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, person with whom the defendant has a child, person with whom defendant is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship. The statute of limitations on a Civil code 1708.6 Domestic Violence suit is 3 years from the date of the last abusive act. (California Civil Code section 1708.6(e)). This statute of limitations doesn’t begin until the abuse stops, but the plaintiff can recover for all domestic violence-related injuries during the entirety of the relationship. There’s...

False Imprisonment in California Torts

This post continues our tour through California tort law. Last time, I went over civil battery which is basically the defendant causing or committing some sort of harmful or offensive contact on the plaintiff without consent and resulting in injury. I’ve also blogged about battery as a criminal offense in California. This time, we’re going to go over false imprisonment which, unfortunately, can have several different definitions and criteria depending on the facts of the situation. The simplest definition is, in essence, that false imprisonment is when a defendant acts without lawful authority and restricts a plaintiff’s freedom of movement for some appreciable amount of time.  Scofield v. Critical Air Medicine, Inc. (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 990, 1006. Defendant locking plaintiff in a room against plaintiff’s will, for instance, would qualify. Incidentally, false imprisonment is also a crime in California under California Penal Code section 236. The criminal definition and the simplest civil definition are identical. The civil definition gets more nuanced if you add in facts such as (1) was the imprisonment due to an arrest or not? (2) if there was an arrest, was it by a California Peace Officer or not? (3) if there was an arrest, was it with a warrant or not? If you’re interested, California defines the term “peace officer” in California Penal Code section 830. Given that some of these permutations don’t make sense (e.g. a private citizen won’t arrest you with a warrant, etc), there’s only three realistic possibilities: #1 – With Arrest by a Peace Officer With a Warrant If an officer has a warrant for your arrest, it does not...

Why Get Married – California Marital Privileges

I know that a lot of people these days are negative on marriage or view it as an antiquated institution. You likely know someone who lives with a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend, has kids with them, owns property with them, and — for all intents and purposes — they are a married couple, just without being married. Despite all of the negatives that people associate with marriage, there are still positives. This blog post is going to go over one of them in California — the Marital Privilege. The Marital Privilege is not unique to California, by any means. New York has it as does the federal court system. This post is just about the California Marital Privilege. If you’ve seen lawyers on television or in the movies, you’ve probably heard of the “Attorney-Client Privilege” at some point. In general, a privilege is something that protects you or excuses you from doing something the law would normally require. With an Attorney-Client privilege, it prevents anyone (e.g. a judge) from forcing your lawyer to disclose what you and your lawyer talked about. There are many different kinds of privilege generally. Each privilege has its own criteria that need to be satisfied first before the privilege can be invoked successfully. Each privilege also has its own limits and exceptions. This post is definitely not an exhaustive explanation. Always check the laws of your state and consult with an attorney about the specifics of your situation. California law recognizes several different kinds of privileges, including the Attorney-Client Privilege and the Marital Privilege. In a nutshell, the Marital Privilege operates like the Attorney-Client Privilege...

Criminal Battery in California

In a previous post, I described the offense of civil battery in California. This post is about how battery is treated under California criminal law. To remind you, the end result of criminal law is the defendant undergoes some form of incarceration (e.g. jail time, probation, etc) while the end result in civil law is to obtain a money judgment or injunctive relief of some kind for the injured plaintiff. Regardless of whether you look at it under civil law or criminal law, a battery is — in essence — the defendant hitting the plaintiff in some way. Civilly, this is phrased as a harmful or offensive touching by the defendant against the plaintiff resulting in injury. California defines criminal battery in California Penal Code section 242 as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” (I encourage you to actually look up section 242 as it is surprisingly short. That quote above is, literally, all it says.) The potential sentence for battery is described in California Penal Code section 243(a) which is, unfortunately, much longer and a more difficult read than section 242. The sentence for battery depends, at a minimum, on who the victim is (e.g. spouse, police officer, etc) and how serious the resulting injury is. Criminal sentencing in general and California in particular can be confusing and complicated. As always, if you have any doubt about your particular situation, consult an...