This is the first in a series of discussion of legal topics of interest to insurers and business executives—our firm’s clients.
In representing clients on behalf of Smith, Smith & McFaul I sometimes get carried away and gripe, complain and moan about the status of legal uncertainties faced by my clients. Sometimes the facts are uncertain, sometimes the law is. I intend to comment on cases, statutes and procedures that promote certainty in the law—applaud it when I find it and criticize legal developments that promote uncertainty. It’s intended to be informative and thought provoking.
The “Bright Line” is any legal principle that is so certain that every day citizens and businessmen can plan their activities confident of the legal standards that apply. Certainty in the application of the law allows for predictability and better future planning for businesses. The results are more productivity, more economical legal services and a healthier business environment.
A good example of a “Bright Line” test is a well crafted statute of limitations. For a very long time, California had a ONE YEAR statute of limitations for personal injury actions based on negligence. There are argumetns for shorter and longer ones. Recently, the legislature approved, and the governor has signed, a TWO YEAR STATUTE of limitations. The change has resulted in uncertainty causing confusion to insurers and defendants. Is the statue retroactive? Does it revive actions already expired under the one year statute? No, it doesn't but it took an unnecessary court case to find out. Krupnick v. Duke Energy Morro Bay (2004) 115 Cal.App4th 1026, 9 Cal.Rptr.3d 767.