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Sea Horse Ranch v. San Mateo County Superior Court

Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District, Division Five

May 18, 1994, Filed

No. A061366

Opinion

ORDER MODIFYING OPINION AND DENYING REHEARING

BY THE COURT:

It is ordered that the opinion filed herein on April 26, 1994, certified for publication in official reports, be modified as follows:

Part B, pages 13 through 14, delete the first three paragraphs and replace with the following two paragraphs:

Assuming there is criminal negligence in this case, the next question is whether the [*2]  Ranch, as a corporation, and its president, petitioner Shipley, are criminally liable. This issue comprises the bulk of the briefing. Under the facts of this case, at the probable-cause stage at which a reviewing court must draw every legitimate inference in favor of the information, that question must be answered in the affirmative. We emphasize that our discussion of criminal liability is only within the context of probable cause, and not the question of guilt or innocence to be determined at petitioners' trial.

It should be noted at the outset that petitioners concentrate on the criminal liability of petitioner Shipley. There is no separate discussion of the criminal liability of the corporation. The two are not coterminous. In California, ] a corporation may be criminally liable for the conduct of its officers or agents or employees. ( Granite Construction Co. v. Superior Court (1983) 149 Cal.App.3d 465, 467, 197 Cal. Rptr. 3; see W. T. Grant Co. v. Superior Court (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 284, 286-287, 100 Cal. Rptr. 179.) "California corporations can form intent, be reckless and commit acts through [*3]  their agents[;]" the criminal negligence of corporate officers or agents may be imputed to the corporation to support a charge of involuntary manslaughter. ( Granite Construction Co. v. Superior Court, supra, at pp. 472, 474.) As we discuss below, the criminal negligence in this case is that of petitioner Shipley, the corporate president, presumably acting in the corporation's behalf; Shipley was not a casual or low-level employee with no decision-making authority. Thus, Shipley's negligence may be imputed to the corporation. (Ibid.; W.T. Grant Co. v. Superior Court, supra, at pp. 286-287.)

Except as modified, the petition for rehearing is denied. This modification does not affect the judgment.

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1994 Cal. App. LEXIS 486 *; 94 Cal. Daily Op. Service 3599; 94 Daily Journal DAR 6714

SEA HORSE RANCH, INC. et al., Petitioners, v. SAN MATEO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT, Respondent. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, Real Party in Interest.

Prior History:  [*1]  Superior Court of San Mateo County. Super. Ct. No. SC030276A. Hon. Dale A. Hahn, Judge.

Original Opinion of April 26, 1994, Reported at: 1994 Cal. App. LEXIS 402.

CORE TERMS

modified, imputed

Business & Corporate Law, Management Duties & Liabilities, Causes of Action, General Overview, Criminal Law & Procedure, Homicide, Manslaughter & Murder, Involuntary Manslaughter, Elements