City Worker Destroys Own Car, Tries to Sue City For It

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And when that ploy by Lodi, California, dump truck driver Curtis Gokey failed, his wife filed suit.

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  1. They should fire the driver for negligence and a bad attitude. Of course he is probably in a union and they would sue the city for trying that.

    Seriously though, if the city does not pay off they are basically saying they won’t do so because he is committing fraud, and that ought enough to be able to fire him. But, that assumes a rational world, not CA.

  2. I read that story somewhere else today, too. What dirtballs. Seems like there might be a potential fraud case against them.

    This reminds me of the the absurd stories I’ve heard about wounded soldiers returning home to find they are being charged for body-armor that was damaged in the firefight where they were wounded.

  3. Assuming he didn’t intentionally wreck his car, why is this such a big deal? Why does the ownership of the car determine whether or not the driver is personally liable for the damage caused in the course of his professional duties?

    If he’d hit someone else’s car, the city would pay for it. If he’d hit his brother’s car, the city would pay.

    Why does he incur a greater liability, as a driver, just because his route covers his own house?

    If he’d been driving his own car, on city business, and wrecked it, it would be covered by the city.

  4. Just a few years ago, the SCOTUS ruled that the seizure a car (jointly owned by a couple) in a drug raid while in the MAN’S possession would violate the woman’s fourth amendment rights, as she had no involvement in the crime.

    That would trump any California law. Though I doubt the effort would net the $1,800 she’d get for being the car’s co-owner.

    It’s, a point of law.

  5. I saw this on the little news clip in our elevator. They had the better headline though:

    “Man Sues Self”

  6. > “I’m not as nice as my husband is,” she said.

    I hope she’s a better driver.

    -Allen

  7. Fuck it, let the lawsuit proceed. The City should take whatever damages are awarded from the husband, plus 15% for court costs.

  8. This guy should be suing the city for letting an obviously incompetent guy drive a truck.

  9. What can one say except:

    Oliver St. John-Mollusc!

  10. Your honor, I’d like to move for a bad law thingie.

  11. I’m with Bubba. If he did it by accident, then why should this be any different than if he hit any other citizen’s car?

  12. “Why does he incur a greater liability, as a driver, just because his route covers his own house?”

    It’s the same principle where you can’t divide by zero. Or something.

  13. Check the conflict of interest statute to see if the guy’s house can be on his route, if not then the administrator loses. No conflict and it was actually on his route, the city loses. The only way he can lose for fraud is if he was driving it personally and effectively stole the truck from the city. Seems like the perfect way to get the ole jalopy fixed to me.

  14. It’s the same principle where you can’t divide by zero. Or something.

    I’m not sure if you are being facetious or not, but I had a similar thought as I was thinking about bubba’s response.

    It seems logical that he should receive the same benefits that anyone else would have had their car been hit. But when I tried to reconcile that logic with idea that some guy was basically sueing himself, my brain seized up in a paradox.

    My gut feeling is still that the Gokey’s are lowlifes taking advantage of a loophole to pay or the husband’s mistake.

    I withdrawl my comment that they are dirtballs. They are mearly balls in my mind at this point. I will determine what type of ball they are once I have pondered this matter more.

  15. Oops. “To pay for the husband’s mistake”

  16. But when I tried to reconcile that logic with idea that some guy was basically sueing himself, my brain seized up in a paradox

    The only way he is suing himself is if employees are liable for accidental damages they create to others’ property while on the job. He is suing the city, and the city should have to pay. Then they should fire him.

  17. I dunno . . . if my car were hit by the dump truck, I would sue the city on the grounds that my car was destroyed through no fault of my own. Surely the fact that this one is his own fault ought to disqualify him from being recompensed. That ought to be an exception to whatever negligence issues are involved here.

  18. Some of you seem to be groping your way toward an understanding of comparative negligence as being the reason why this couple shouldn’t recover, but other people whose cars he may have crushed could. Of course, California tort law is way ahead of you. From the Wiki:

    “Most notably, in the case Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal.3d 804 (1975), the California Supreme Court adopted the principle of comparative negligence in the face of a California Civil Code provision codifying the traditional common-law doctrine of contributory negligence.”

    I write here to suggest that, comparative negligence notwithstanding, maybe you are trusting the media a little bit too much here. The media account says that the driver admitted the accident was his fault. That is awfully conclusory and I am skeptical that that is what the guy really told the court. We don’t know what the driver’s evidence is. Here are some plausible conversations that could have happened and would potentially make the city liable for some or all of the damages even in a comparative negligence regime:

    Employee: Gee, boss, I am not trained to drive this big truck.
    Employer: I can fire u for any reason or no reason at all. U drive that truck.

    Employee: Gee, boss, the mirrors have been damaged on this truck. Tires ain’t lookin’ so hot neither.
    Employer: I can fire u for any reason or no reason at all. U drive that truck.

    Employee: Gee, boss, it is so slippery out today, I think we ought to leave the big truck parked right where it is.
    Employer: I can fire u for any reason or no reason at all. U drive that truck.

    Well, you probably get the point. Don’t trust the media too much and . . .

  19. The only way he is suing himself is if employees are liable for accidental damages they create to others’ property while on the job.

    They are so liable. The employer’s liability is derivative of the employee’s, as a matter of fact.

    Its an interesting conundrum – should somebody be able to recover for an accident that they have admitted was their own fault? Under traditional principles of personal responsibility (known as contributory or comparative negligence), the answer was no.

    In this modern no-fault era? Who knows.

  20. It seems to me they should either pay out on the car and fire him for incompetence, or refuse to pay out and let him keep his job.

    It also seems like the same sort of thing that prevents a criminal from turning himself in and collecting the reward for info leading to his capture.

  21. In this modern no-fault era? Who knows.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_v._Yellow_Cab_Co.

    “In this case we address the grave and recurrent question whether we should judicially declare no longer applicable in California courts the doctrine of contributory negligence, which bars all recovery when the plaintiff’s negligent conduct has contributed as a legal cause in any degree to the harm suffered by him, and hold that it must give way to a system of comparative negligence, which assesses liability in direct proportion to fault.”

    They overrule Li, RCD? Got a cite for me?

  22. If the city has a policy (or union contract) that allows them to fire a driver who causes an accident, then it seems perfectly reasonable to allow the driver to choose between his job and the money. Assuming that they normally fire their drivers after such an accident. However, one would think that if this were the case, he would not have reported it.

    The point is that the driver was acting as an agent of the city. To the extent that the accident was an accident, implying some sort of random process, then it’s not appropriate to saddle him with the liability.

    Had he wrecked someone else’s car, then that person probably could not have gone after the driver personally.

    I agree that the circumstances warrant a serious fraud investigation.

    Consider this from an insurance perspective. The driver caused an accident, while at work. Should his personal insurance cover the accident, or his workplace insurance?

  23. I agree with bubba. Unless the guy purposely destroyed his own car in order to get a settlement, then the city should be liable just as they would be if it were any other driver who hit his car or if he hit anyone else’s car.

    Barring some evidence of fraud, I think it very reasonable that an agent of the city (it doesn’t matter who) is responsible for damage to private property and the city is responsible for said damage.

  24. The issue isn’t whether the city is liable for its employee’s mistake (it is), but whether it has a legal right to collect any judgment against it from that employee. Respondeat superior exists because the employee usually can’t afford to pay such judgments himself. And the employer usually doesn’t try to collect from the employee for the same reason, but also because it would look bad or harm employee morale and job performance if they knew they’d be left holding the bag – no cop is going to engage in a high speed pursuit if he thinks the city is going to try to stick him with the bill when he hits some bystander. Which may be a good thing in that particular case, but that’s not the point.

    Here we know the employee can afford to pay the city back – they just immediately take back what they have to pay him and the wife. And there’s no real risk that other employees are going to be pissed that the city stuck this guy with the costs of his own mistake like they might if he’d hit some random John Q. Public’s car.

    The only real question is whether there is a statute abrogating the city’s right to be indemnified by the employee. If not, the city should join the guy as a defendant and collect the judgment from him as defendant in the same proceeding that requires them to pay him as the plaintiff.

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