In this appeal, Horvitz & Levy LLP helped defeat a plaintiff’s attempt to hold a corporation liable under an agency theory for a serious auto accident.
Christopher Haynes suffered severe brain injuries when his motorcycle collided with a car driven by Grace Pak, who was driving her cousin, Brandon Kim, home from school. Haynes sued Grace, her father Timothy Pak (who owned the car she was driving), Charles Kim (Brandon’s father), and US Metro Group Inc. (a corporation wholly owned by Charles Kim). Haynes contended that Grace was acting as an agent for Tim Pak, Charles Kim and US Metro at the time of the accident. The jury found Grace Pak was 90 percent at fault, and awarded nearly $20 million in damages. The jury also found that Grace Pak was an agent of Timothy Pak and Charles Kim (but not US Metro), and that Timothy Pak was an agent of Charles Kim and US Metro. Judgment was entered for Haynes against Grace Pak, Timothy Pak, and Charles Kim, but for US Metro on Haynes’s claims against it. Haynes and Charles Kim appealed. Horvitz & Levy represented US Metro as respondent on appeal.
The Court of Appeal affirmed in a non-published opinion, rejecting Haynes’s argument that Grace Kim was necessarily US Metro’s agent by virtue of the jury’s other agency findings. The Court of Appeal also rejected arguments by Haynes and Charles Kim that the jury’s verdict was inconsistent, thereby requiring a complete new trial (including US Metro). The court explained that there was no inconsistency because the evidence showed no direct link between U.S. Metro (i.e., Charles Kim in his capacity as CEO of U.S. Metro) and Grace Pak. Thus, whatever may have been the relationship between U.S. Metro and Timothy Pak, U.S. Metro did not give Grace Pak any authority to act on its behalf in transporting Brandon Kim. In other words, the jury could have found that Timothy Pak was authorized to act for both U.S. Metro and Charles Kim, but that when he authorized Grace Pak to pick up Brandon Kim, Timothy Pak was in fact acting only for Charles Kim in his individual capacity. (Charles Kim’s petition for review is pending.)