Governor Brown signed AB 2159 into law today, adding section 351.2 to the California Evidence Code. Under the bill, evidence of immigration status is inadmissible and undiscoverable in personal injury and wrongful death suits.
Up until today, the governing law in personal injury and wrongful death suits was Rodriguez v. Kline. In that case, the California Second District Court of Appeal held as follows: if a plaintiff whose citizenship is in dispute seeks compensation for lost wages in court, the court holds a preliminary hearing to determine whether or not the plaintiff is “subject to deportation” and whether or not they are taking steps to correct their deportable condition. If the plaintiff is found to be “subject to deportation”, the jury may find that the plaintiff will recover only those lost wages that he or she could have earned in his or her country of origin.
This bill ends 30 years of disparate treatment toward non-citizens in California, allowing non-citizens to recover lost wages in personal injury and wrongful death claims to the same degree as citizens. It also frees up judicial resources, allowing the court’s time to be spent answering more pressing legal questions than the immigration status of the parties in personal injury and wrongful death matters. Hundreds and hundreds of published cases cite to Rodriguez v. Kline on the question of a plaintiff’s immigration status, illustrating the magnitude of courthouse time that will be freed by ridding the judicial process of Rodriguez’s preliminary hearing requirement. Governor Brown’s bill is a welcome boon to both plaintiff’s rights and courtroom efficiency in an endeavor where both are invaluable.
If you or a loved one, citizen or otherwise, is seeking legal help for an injury or wrongful death, please contact our office so that we may assist in your recovery.