Li v. Yellow Cab Co.

13 Cal. 3d 804, 119 Cal. Rptr. 858, 532 P.2d 1226 (1975)



The "all-or-nothing" rule of contributory negligence as it presently exists in the state should be and is herewith superseded by a system of "pure" comparative negligence, the fundamental purpose of which shall be to assign responsibility and liability for damage in direct proportion to the amount of negligence of each of the parties. Therefore, in all actions for negligence resulting in injury to person or property, the contributory negligence of the person injured in person or property shall not bar recovery, but the damages awarded shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person recovering.


Plaintiff sued defendant for personal injuries following a car accident in which defendant's car hit plaintiff's car. However, the trial court found that plaintiff had contributed to the car accident and, thus, was barred from recovery. The plaintiff appealed the case to the Supreme Court of California.


Can an individual recover damages for injuries in a car accident even if he was contributorily negligent?




The court reversed the judgment, holding that the "pure" form of comparative negligence should be adopted in California in place of the contributory negligence doctrine. The court reasoned that Cal. Civ. Code § 1714 did not preclude judicial action in the area of contributory negligence. Thus, even though plaintiff contributed toward the accident, defendant could be held liable for his portion of fault. However, the damages awarded were to be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to plaintiff.

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