Can You Sue a Corporation in San Diego, CA?

Strictly speaking, corporations do not exist; they are mere figments of the human imagination. Just like money, corporations exist only to the extent that we pretend that they do. So can you sue a corporation even though it doesn’t actually exist? Yes, you can.

The law recognizes two different types of “persons”: natural persons and legal persons. A natural person is a biological human being, an individual. 

A legal person is an entity that the law treats like a natural person for certain purposes, such as owning property or incurring debts.  A corporation is a legal person.

What Is a Corporation?

A corporation is a fictional legal entity. You create a corporation by filing certain documents with the state government. Typically, the owners of a corporation are shielded from liability for corporate debts beyond their pre-existing investments in it.

Personal Injury and Corporate Liability

A corporation can sue and be sued for personal injury. Following are some ways in which you can hold a corporation liable for personal injury.

Vicarious Liability for Employee Misconduct

Vicarious liability arises when one party bears liability for the misconduct of another. If a corporation is an employer, they can bear vicarious liability for the misconduct of their employees. The limiting condition is that the employee must be acting within the scope of their duties for the corporation. 

That means that if Employee Smith, an employee of XYZ Corporation, injures you through misconduct while acting within the scope of their duties for XYZ Corporation, you can seek damages from XYZ Corporation. It usually makes sense to do so, because XYZ Corporation probably has more resources to pay a personal injury claim than the average corporate employee does.

You can win such a lawsuit without proving that the corporation did anything wrong. Since a corporation acts through its employees, the misconduct of an employee constitutes the misconduct of their employer.

Premises Liability

Premises liability is a common basis for corporate personal injury liability. You can sue a corporation for an injury that occurs on its premises due to a dangerous condition on the property. 

In this situation, the focus would not be on the misconduct of corporate staff, but on the condition of the corporation’s premises. The claim would be that the corporation should have inspected its own property and either repaired or warned of the dangerous condition that caused the injury.

Product Liability

Under product liability law, you can sue a corporation for an injury caused by its defective product. To bear liability, the corporation should have operated somewhere within the product’s chain of distribution. It doesn’t have to be the manufacturer.

Corporate Actions

You can sue a corporation for negligent policy resolutions that cause injury. This basis applies to most official corporate acts, such as board resolutions.

Workers’ Compensation Claims

If you are a corporate employee who suffers a workplace injury, you normally cannot file a lawsuit against the corporation. Instead, you should file a workers’ compensation claim. The good news is that you can win without proving fault.

Third-Party Workplace Injury Claims

As a corporate employee hurt in a workplace accident, you can file a lawsuit against an at-fault, third-party corporation (not your employer). The possible bases of such a lawsuit include but are not limited to product liability and premises liability. 

Contributory Fault

If you were partly to blame for the accident, the corporation can use the defense of contributory fault to reduce or eliminate its own liability.

Where Can I Sue a Particular Corporation in San Diego?

You can sue a corporation for personal injury in San Diego even if it has no place of business in San Diego, doesn’t do business in San Diego, isn’t registered to do business in California, and is not organized under California law. All you need is for the accident that caused the injury to have occurred in San Diego, and a reasonable case that the corporation is responsible.

If the amount in controversy is $10,000 or less, you can sue in the San Diego County Small Claims Court. If the amount is more than $10,000, you should sue in the Superior Court of San Diego County

There may be other venue options depending on where the defendant corporation can be found or where the defendant does business, at least if either of these locations is within California. 

How To Sue a California Corporation for Personal Injury

Complete the following steps to file a personal injury lawsuit against a corporation:

  1. File a civil complaint with the appropriate court: Your complaint should specify your allegations and the damages you are seeking. Include all relevant details of the injury and the basis for holding the corporation liable. List the types of compensation you are seeking (medical bills, pain and suffering, and more). 
  2. Submit the appropriate filing fees with your complaint. A waiver might be available based on poverty.
  3. Legally notify the corporation of the lawsuit by delivering a copy of the complaint and a summons to the corporation’s registered agent for service of process. Use a registered process server or sheriff to do this. 
  4. File a proof of service document with the court to confirm that the defendant has been properly served with notice of the lawsuit.

In case you were wondering, properly completing these steps will beat the statute of limitations deadline, as long as you complete them before the deadline expires. For a California personal injury, the deadline is generally two years after the injury occurs (exceptions sometimes apply). 

Once you beat the statute of limitations deadline, you will never have to worry about it again no matter how long the lawsuit might drag on.

Suing a Corporation Is Going To Require an Experienced San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer

As detailed above, filing a personal injury claim against a corporation typically involves complications that do not exist when you sue a natural person. This is no time to attempt to represent yourself; you almost certainly need Mission Personal Injury Lawyers standing by your side. Contact our San Diego law office or call us at (619) 777-5555 to schedule a free consultation.