Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tunkl v. Regents of the University of California case brief

Tunkl v. Regents of the University of California case brief summary
383 P.2d 441 (1963)

Plaintiff executrix sought review of an order from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), which entered judgment in favor of defendant Regents of the University of California (Regents) in a negligence action filed by the executrix's decedent prior to his death.


The decedent brought this action to recover damages for personal injuries alleged to have resulted from the negligence of two physicians in the employ of the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, a hospital operated and maintained by the Regents as a nonprofit charitable institution. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Regents based on the decedent's execution of an agreement releasing the medical center from liability for services provided to him. 


  • On appeal, the court held that the exculpatory provision in the agreement was invalid under Cal. Civ. Code § 1668 because it affected the public interest. 
  • In so holding, the court found that the agreement exhibited all of the characteristics set forth by the courts of the type of transaction in which exculpatory provisions would be held invalid, including the following: 
  • (1) the agreement involved an institution subject to public regulation; 
  • (2) the hospital's services to those who needed the particular skill of its staff and facilities constituted a practical and crucial necessity; and 
  • (3) the hospital held itself out as willing to perform its services for those qualified members of the public.

The court reversed the lower court's judgment in favor of the Regents.

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