California passed a new law in February 2016 that prohibits courts from inquiring about a plaintiff’s immigration status in a personal injury case. This was not always the case. In the past, defendants were permitted to raise the immigration status of an injured plaintiff as a defense to the determination of loss of wages.
Rodriguez v. Kline: The Old Law
For more than 30 years, injured victims in California who were not legally in the country had to calculate their future earnings according to how much they would have made in their countries of origin. In most cases, this amount would be significantly less if the calculation was based in the United States. This rule was based on the case of Rodriguez v. Kline, which was decided on appeal in 1986.
In that case, the plaintiff, Jesus Rodriguez, was seriously injured in a car accident. The jury returned a verdict in Rodriguez’s favor, awarding him $99,000. Kline appealed the amount warded to the plaintiff. He argued that Rodriguez was illegally residing in the country and his future expected income should have been calculated according to the wages he would have earned in Mexico. The Court of Appeals of California ruled for the defendant.
Effect of the Court of Appeals Ruling
The Court of Appeals in the Rodriguez v. Klein case established a procedure that courts were mandated to take when a plaintiff’s immigration was at issue. The courts would hold a pretrial hearing when a defendant challenged the immigration status of a plaintiff. The defendant would have the burden of showing evidence that the plaintiff could potentially be deported. The plaintiff would then have the burden of proving that he or she could take steps to avoid deportation.
The New Law On Undocumented Personal Injury Victims in California
In 2016, California passed AB 2159. The bill was signed into law by the governor, which went into effect in February 2017. This new law does not allow a defendant to seek discovery of the immigration status of an injured plaintiff in personal injury claims. In other words, this law allows inured victims to calculate loss of earnings claims based what he or she might have earned in the U.S.
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