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Immigration Status No Longer Admissible in California Injury Suits

In August, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that prohibits the admission or discovery of evidence related to a person’s immigration status in California personal injury and wrongful death cases. Assembly Bill 2159 becomes effective on January 1, 2017.

Existing state law generally establishes that a person's immigration status is irrelevant to issues of civil liability. However, in Rodriguez v. Kline, a California Court of Appeal held that an undocumented worker injured in the United States is not entitled to be compensated based upon his or her projected earning capacity in the United States, but rather may recover future lost wages based on projected earning capacity in the worker's country of lawful citizenship.

As highlighted by proponents of AB 2159, the defendants in injury cases rely on Rodriguez to “leverage the fear of deportation against undocumented plaintiffs in order to reduce or even eliminate claims for future lost income and, increasingly, to limit future medical damages to what the injured person would expect to pay for medical care in the plaintiff's country of origin, rather than in the U.S. where he or she lives but where medical costs are typically much higher.”

Accordingly, the new law, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), aims to guarantee that injury victims obtain fair compensation for their injuries and medical costs, regardless of their immigration status. “"When injustices are committed in California, the parties responsible should be held to California's standards, it's that simple," Gonzalez stated.

AB 2159 amends Section 351.2 of the California Evidence Code. The new provision specifically states: “In a civil action for personal injury or wrongful death, evidence of a person’s immigration status shall not be admitted into evidence, nor shall discovery into a person’s immigration status be permitted.”

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured due to someone else’s negligence, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation. We work tirelessly on behalf of all injury victims.