Limitation of survivor damage for pain and suffering, California law Murphy, Campbell, Alliston & Quinn a Sacramento law firm

Uncertain No More: California’s limitation on survivor damages for pain and suffering held inapplicable to section 1983 claims where the constitutional violation causes death

California law does not allow survivors to recover damages for a decedent’s pain and suffering. (Code Civ. Proc., § 337.34.) Until just recently, how and whether this restriction on damages applied to civil rights claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was uncertain. For cases venued in the Eastern District, plaintiffs were likely out of luck, with decisions from that court concluding that CCP § 377.34 precluded the recovery of such damages. Other district courts held California’s limitation on survivor damages to be inconsistent with the policies behind § 1983, and therefore inapplicable to such claims. The days of uncertainty for section 1983 litigants in California are over. Chaudhry v. City of Los Angeles, 751 F.3d 1096 (9th Cir. 2014), decided in May of this year, finally addressed this issue head-on. The court held that California’s limitation on survivor damages for the pain and suffering of a decedent is inconsistent with section 1983 where the alleged constitutional violation has caused the decedent’s death, and is therefore inapplicable to such claims. Chaudhry came to the Court out of the Central District. It involved two police officers who shot and killed Mohammad Usman Chaudhry, a young Muslim man whom they found sleeping in front of a building and suspected might be a drug dealer. The officers testified…