Over 30 years, the California Supreme Court has gained a national reputation for rulings that expanded the rights of plaintiffs, including accident victims, distraught survivors, fired employees and injured tenants, to recover damages. Since 1977, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird has made a number of contributions to the law governing the rights of victims in civil cases. Several noteworthy examples include:
American Motorcycle Assn. vs. Superior Court (1978)--In a ruling that goes to the heart of a current political controversy, the court affirmed an accident victim's right to recover damages from the wealthiest or most heavily insured of several defendants, even if that defendant is the least at fault. This year, a coalition of businesses and government agencies is sponsoring a ballot initiative that would limit the amount of damages that can be sought from such defendants.
Royal Globe Insurance Co. vs. Superior Court (1980)--The court said an accident victim could take legal action against a defendant's insurance company if the company dealt in "bad faith," in other words, if it refused to satisfy a reasonable claim. Until Royal Globe, only the person insured by the company was entitled to seek damages for bad faith.
Tameny vs. Atlantic Richfield Co. (1980)--The ruling was the latest in a series that expanded the rights of workers to recover damages from their employers for a variety of reasons, including wrongful discharge, infliction of emotional distress and concealment of hazardous working conditions.