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Tentative Ruling
Judge Pauline Maxwell
Department 6 SB-Anacapa
1100 Anacapa Street P.O. Box 21107 Santa Barbara, CA 93121-1107


Maria Del Carmen Naranjo Hernandez vs Barbara Voorhies

Case No: 17CV04772
Hearing Date: Wed Jan 03, 2018 9:30

Nature of Proceedings: Petition - Leave to File Complaint in Intervention

TENTATIVE RULING: The motion is granted.


Background: This is a personal injury action arising from a motor vehicle accident which occurred on November 19, 2015 at Sandspit Road and Sandspit Place in Santa Barbara. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Barbara Voorhies was the owner of the vehicle she negligently operated in a manner that caused plaintiff to sustain injuries and damages. The complaint was filed on October 23, 2017. Defendant Voorhies has not yet appeared in the action.

The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (SBMTD) has filed a petition for leave to file a complaint in intervention. It contends that the injuries which plaintiff sustained in the accident were sustained while plaintiff was acting in the course and scope of her employment with the SBMTD, and for which it has become obligated to pay plaintiff certain amounts for indemnity and medical expenses, under the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Insurance and Safety Act of California. It has filed a claim for reimbursement and related relief pursuant to Labor Code section 3852 against defendant. It seeks to intervene in this case to avoid a multiplicity of suits regarding the same accident. A proposed complaint in intervention was lodged with the Court, as required by law.

ANALYSIS: The motion for leave to file a complaint-in-intervention in this action is granted. Plaintiff-in-intervention shall be permitted to separately file the complaint in intervention, and proceed with its service.

Intervention is governed by Code of Civil Procedure section 387, which was amended effective January 1, 2018. The amendment does not appear to have substantively altered the sections provisions, instead merely subdividing the section, and clarifying and more fully explaining the intervention procedure. Pursuant to Section 387, an intervention takes place when a third person is permitted to become a party to an action or proceeding between other persons, either by joining the plaintiff in claiming what is sought by the complaint, or by uniting with the defendant in resisting the claims of the plaintiff, or by demanding anything adversely to both the plaintiff and the defendant. (Code Civ. Proc., § 387, subd. (b).) The nonparty must petition the court for leave to intervene by noticed motion or ex parte application, including a copy of the proposed complaint in intervention or answer in intervention which sets forth the grounds upon which intervention rests. (Code Civ. Proc., § 387, subd. (c).) Section 387 applies to both mandatory (§ 387, subd. (d)(1).) and permissive (§ 387, subd. (d)(2)) intervention. If leave to intervene is granted by the court, the intervenor must separately file the complaint in intervention, and serve a copy of the order granting leave and the pleadings in intervention in the manner specified in the statute. (Code Civ. Proc., § 387, subd. (e).) The intervenor then becomes an independent party to the action, possessing the same rights as any other party. (Deutschmann v. Sears, Roebuck & Co. (1982) 132 Cal.App.3d 912, 916.)

Pursuant to Labor Code section 3852, any employer who pays, or becomes obligated to pay, compensation arising from the injury of its employee, may bring an action against a third person for recovery of all sums for which the employer was liable. Under section 3853, if the employee brings an action against the third person, the employer may, at any time before trial on the facts, join as party plaintiff. As set forth in Bailey v. Reliance Ins. Co. (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 449:

“It is clear under these Labor Code provisions that a worker injured in the course and scope of his employment by the negligence of a third party may seek benefits under his employer's workers' compensation insurance and, at the same time, pursue a negligence claim against a third party who caused or contributed to the injury. Double recovery is disfavored, however, and various provisions of the Labor Code seek to ensure that the employer (defined to include the insurance carrier under Lab.Code, § 3850) will be reimbursed for amounts paid to the injured employee which the employee has also recovered from a third party tortfeasor. ‘An employer who has paid workers' compensation benefits to an injured employee has the right to be reimbursed for the sums paid and for certain other expenditures, except to the extent that fault attributable to the employer caused the worker's civil damages. (Lab.Code, § 3852.)’ (Southern Cal. Edison Co. v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (1997) 58 Cal.App.4th 766, 769, 68 Cal.Rptr.2d 265.) Reimbursement can be obtained in three ways: ‘(1) by an independent lawsuit against the third party; (2) by intervention in the injured worker's lawsuit against the third party; or (3) by asserting a lien against the worker's recovery from the third party. (Lab.Code, §§ 3852, 3853, 3856, subd. (b).)’ (Southern Cal. Edison Co., at p. 769.)” (Bailey v. Reliance Ins. Co. (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 449, 454.)

The proposed plaintiff in intervention, SBMTD, has filed the current motion for leave to file its complaint in intervention. The proposed complaint-in-intervention has been provided to the Court. The proposed complaint in intervention is oddly worded, referring separately to the employer and the plaintiff in intervention (see ¶ 4 [“plaintiff did claim and make lawful demand for compensation payments upon the employer, and the employer did notify plaintiff in intervention of said injuries and of said demand and claim for compensation”], although it appears from the allegations that they are one and the same. Even so, the complaint in intervention properly sets forth the basis for intervening in the action, i.e., to seek reimbursement of the amounts SBMTD has become obligated to pay to its employee, plaintiff Maria Del Carmen Naranjo Hernandez, because of the injuries and damages she sustained in the accident allegedly negligently caused by defendant Voorhies.

Labor Code section 3853 and Bailey v. Reliance Ins. Co., supra, make clear that an employer who has paid workers’ compensation benefits to an employee injured on the job has the right to intervene in the employee’s lawsuit against the person causing such injury. As a result, intervention by SBMTD into this action is appropriate, and the motion for leave to file the complaint in intervention will be granted.

SBMTD shall proceed to comply with the provisions of Code of Civil Procedure section 387(e) related to the filing of the complaint-in-intervention, and the service of that pleading and the court’s order, or notice of the court’s decision or order granting leave to intervene.

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