Alex Shumate


This is the manner in which one writer described the court opinion written by Mr. Justice Tobriner in Brown v. Merlo, the California Supreme Court decision which declared the California automobile guest statute unconstitutional. In Brown an automobile guest, alleging both willful misconduct and negligence, brought an action against his host driver for injuries received in an automobile accident which occurred on a California highway. The trial court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment holding that the state automobile guest statute barred recovery since the plaintiff failed to prove that the accident was caused by the driver's willful misconduct or intoxication. The plaintiff-guest appealed from the summary judgment, contending that the statute conflicted with the equal protection clauses of both the state and federal constitutions. The California Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiff, asserting that the classifications set forth in the statute "do not bear a substantial and rational relation to the statute's purposes of protecting the hospitality of the host-driver and of preventing collusive lawsuits."'

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