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Russell v. Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation

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Court: California Courts of Appeal

Docket: C087916(Third Appellate District)

Opinion Date: December 16, 2021

Judge: Elena J. Duarte

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law, Personal Injury

This case law update is brought to you by Freeway Law auto accident and personal injury lawyers in Orange County. The following is not one of our cases, but it is of some significance, and we thought we should share it with our readers for informational purposes. The information above is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice.

This appeal arose out of the tragic rape and murder of Rachel Russell, perpetrated by her grandson, Sidney DeAvila. DeAvila suffered from severe mental illness, and at the time of the murder he was on parole. Russell’s son, plaintiff Steven Russell, brought an action against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Department), alleging the Department’s parole agents had a special relationship with Russell, and they failed to warn her of DeAvila’s dangerous propensities. A jury agreed, and ultimately awarded the plaintiff $4.5 million in non-economic damages, which the trial court reduced to $2.7 million. The Department appealed, arguing it had no duty to warn Russell of DeAvila’s dangerous propensities and, even if it did have a duty to warn, it was immune from that liability. Plaintiff claimed on cross-appeal that the trial court erred in reducing the judgment and imposing sanctions against trial counsel. The Court of Appeal was “compelled to agree” with the Department, that because the facts presented were not sufficient to establish that there was a special relationship between the agents and Russell, no duty to warn arose. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed.

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