$22.5 Million Verdict Reversed Where Employer Admitted Its Vicarious Liability For Employee's Negligence

Diaz v. Carcamo, 2011 WL 2473597 (Cal. S. Ct. 2011)

Jose Carcamo, a truck driver for defendant Sugar Transport, caused Dawn Renae Diaz to suffer severe permanent injuries as a result of a traffic accident on Highway 101. Diaz sued Carcamo and Sugar Transport, alleging that Sugar Transport was both vicariously liable for Carcamo’s negligent driving and directly liable for its own negligence in hiring and retaining Carcamo. At trial, Sugar Transport offered to admit vicarious liability if Carcamo were found negligent. Sugar Transport contended that such an admission should bar Diaz from further pursuing her claims for negligent entrustment, hiring and retention of Carcamo. Over Sugar Transport’s objection, the trial court admitted evidence of Carcamo’s two prior accidents; that he was in the U.S. illegally; that he had used a phony Social Security number to obtain employment; that he had been fired from or quit without good reason three of his last four driving jobs; that he had lied on his application; and that the only reference from his prior employers consisted of a “very negative evaluation.” The California Supreme Court reversed the judgment (over $22.5 million in damages) after concluding Sugar Transport was prejudiced by admission of evidence concerning Carcamo after it admitted to vicarious liability for his actions.