Immigration Status and Loss of Earnings

On August 17, 2016, Gov. Brown signed AB 2159, which provides that, in civil actions for personal injury or wrongful death, evidence of a person’s immigration status is not admissible and discovery of a person’s immigration status is not permitted. The bill also provides that these restrictions do not affect the standards of relevance, admissibility, or discovery under other specified provisions of law.

This is a significant departure from existing law.  Up to now, the courts have been guided by the 30-year-old decision in the Rodriguez v. Kline case.  Under this precedent, defendants faced with paying damages for lost future income could seek to limit these damages to what the plaintiff would have earned in their “home” country, despite being injured in California.  For this reason, future loss of earnings analyses were rarely done on cases where legal immigration status could not be established.

The new law will open up many more cases in which both plaintiffs and defendants need to accurately assess future employment options and potential earnings.  Cases already filed but still in litigation will likely need to be re-examined, to determine whether or not this will become an issue.

If you find yourself dealing with any matters where this may be a question, we would be happy to discuss your case, to determine if expert analysis is appropriate.