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Riverside Superior Judge Carol Greene tentatively ruled for a demurrer Jan. 20 that would clear the California Highway Patrol of a negligence lawsuit brought by a tow truck driver harmed in 2019 by a man stopped by the CHP in Moreno Valley.

CHP officers called tow truck driver Wilson Randall to tow a car whose driver they had stopped Aug. 12, 2019. The officers showed Randall their vehicle report, which reflected that there were no firearms in the car, Randall claimed in his first amended complaint. The officers also allowed the driver, Aaron Luther, to remove belongings from the car.

After entering the car, Randall noticed a firearm on the front seat, and tried to alert the officers. Luther retrieved the gun, killed one officer, and injured two others, the ruling said. Randall claimed to have also been injured.

Randall sued the state of California Aug. 5, through the California Highway Patrol, claiming negligence and gross negligence/willful and reckless disregard for the safety of others.

His second cause of action alleged the state was negligent in its hiring and supervision of employees.

He prayed for reimbursement of medical expenses, general damages, loss of earnings, cost of suit and loss of income.

The state claimed in its demurrer that Randall’s suit fails to prove the state owed or breached a duty of care to Randall.

The tentative ruling agrees with the state that appellate cases have established wide investigative immunities that cover the state in the case. 

“A public employee is not liable for injury caused by his instituting or prosecuting any judicial or administrative proceeding within the scope of his employment, even if he acts maliciously and without probable cause,” Greene quoted Government Code section 821.6.

Greene also cited the cases Asgari v. City of Los Angeles, County of Los Angeles v. Superior Court, Ingram v. Flippo and Leon v. County of Riverside as examples of officer immunity during investigations.

Randall has 20 days to amend the case on the negligence cause, but cannot amend the negligence in hiring cause.

Domenic Puccio of Tustin’s The Puccio Law Firm represents Wilson.

Edward Wolfe represents the state and the California Highway Patrol. 

Case number CVRI2103735.

Read the complaint here.

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