Congratulations to Newport Beach Partner Tyler Offenhauser and Senior Associate Jonathan Cothran who recently prevailed on behalf of BWB&O’s client before the Los Angeles Superior Court on a highly contested Demurrer based on the federal Graves Amendment.
While driving a van owned by BWB&O’s client, the third-party driver pulled out across a divided highway in front of a motorcycle driven by a retired Police Officer causing his death. The Officer’s Estate sued BWB&O’s client (the vehicle owner) and multiple other parties seeking millions in damages. On Demurrer, Tyler and Jonathan argued that the federal Graves Amendment created a complete bar to liability without independent negligence or wrongdoing on behalf of BWB&O’s client because the van was rental. Plaintiffs strongly challenged this position, and amended their complaint multiple times alleging that BWB&O’s client actively engaged in a criminal conspiracy, operated and managed an electronic surveillance system in the van, failed to properly verify the license of the driver at the time of rental, and failed to properly register the vehicle.
The federal Graves Amendment has not been considered by any California Appellate court, and all the case law used to support our Demurrer was persuasive from outside jurisdictions. Despite these hurdles, the Court ruled affirmatively on all causes of action in favor of BWB&O’s client—upholding the Graves Amendment’s application in California and resulting bar to any liability. In addition, because the BWB&O team had sent out pointed Requests for Admissions early in the case, they positioned themselves to seek recovery of Attorneys’ Fees in addition to costs. After prevailing on Demurrer, Plaintiffs agreed to waive all rights to appeal in exchange for a release of the entitled Attorneys’ Fees and costs — giving BWB&O’s clients a complete and final victory in the case after more than a year of hard-fought litigation.
A HUGE victory and shout out to Tyler and Jonathan for their incredible work!