Li V. Yellow Cab Co.

Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 532 P.2d 1226, 13 Cal.3d 804 (1975), commonly referred to simply as Li, is a California Supreme Court case that judicially embraced comparative negligence in California tort law and rejected strict contributory negligence.


The case simply featured a traffic accident between the plaintiff and the defendant in which both of them had been found to have been driving negligently. That reason would make California law at the time prevent any recovery to Li.


The California Supreme Court, aware of the recent trend toward comparative rather than contributory negligence, took the opportunity to reconsider the state's tort law on the subject.

The only unique feature of the case is its reasoning on Section 1714 of the Civil Code, which had been thought to codify the "all-or-nothing" approach to contributory negligence:

"Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself. The extent of liability in such cases is defined by the Title on Compensatory Relief."

The plain meaning of section 1714 was quite clear, but the court concluded that the California State Legislature had not meant to stop the evolution of the common law, which is quite normal in state tort law, but rather only to clarify the law that existed at the time.

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