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Only 11 weeks after denying review in a case holding government agencies liable for emergency dispatchers’ mistakes, the California Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to review a case that says they’re not. All of the justices except Janice Rogers Brown, who was absent from the court, voted to review the 4th District Court of Appeal’s ruling in Eastburn v. Regional Fire Protection Authority, S107792. On May 15, four of the court’s seven justices rejected a chance to review the First District’s ruling in Chan v. City and County of San Francisco, S104759. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar was recused from that vote, while Justices Brown and Ming Chin voted to hear the case. In Chan, the First District said the city of San Francisco could be held liable for a 911 dispatching mistake that allegedly led to the August 1998 death of Angelique Chan. In Eastburn, the 4th District rejected the First District’s ruling in holding that the Regional Fire Protection Authority, the Barstow Fire Protection District and the city of Victorville were not liable for dispatching errors that allegedly resulted in permanent injuries to a young girl electrocuted in a bathtub. While the Supreme Court often resolves conflicts between appellate courts, the decision to take Eastburn, as opposed to Chan, baffled Charles Sneathern, the Torrance solo practitioner who represented the losing side in Eastburn. “I have no idea [what's on the court's mind],” he said, “and I’m a little worried.” “My court of appeal [justices] said they are confident the Supreme Court will not follow the First District,” he said Wednesday. “And that was before the Supreme Court denied review by the city and county of San Francisco.” The 4th District criticized Chan for finding that the qualified immunity provided under government codes does not apply to 911 dispatching. “Absent bad faith or gross negligence,” the court ruled, “[government] defendants are immune for the acts of an emergency dispatcher in their employ.” Sneathern said he hopes that by appealing his losing case, he hasn’t ruined the victory that plaintiffs lawyer David Russo had earned in the San Francisco case in January.

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