Car Accident Injury Because of Faulty Seat Belt Claim In California

In Johnson v. United Services Automobile Assn. 67 Cal.App.4th 626 (1998), the plaintiff alleged that a faulty seat belt caused him to be ejected from his car in a collision. His insurer retained the damaged car for several weeks and allowed his attorney to have part of the seat belt removed for use in litigation against the manufacturer, but then salvaged the car. (Johnson, at pp. 629-630.) The court concluded that a tort remedy exists for third party negligent spoliation but based on the facts presented found no duty to preserve the evidence and affirmed a summary judgment for the defendant. (Id. at pp. 632, 638.) The court cited the policy considerations identified in Cedars-Sinai in the first party spoliation context and concluded without significant discussion that the policy against creating derivative tort remedies for litigation-related misconduct and the availability of nontort remedies for the misconduct "basically are not implicated in the third party spoliation context," and that the uncertainty of the fact of harm and other burdens and costs do not justify precluding a cause of action for third party negligent spoliation. (Johnson, at pp. 631-632.)