From: "Mark Laythorpe" <xntryk1@...
Dec. 29, 2000
Saying 'Sorry' Now OK in California
Law Allows People to Apologize Without Admitting Guilt
By Randy Dotinga
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (APBnews.com) -- Living in California means never having
to admit guilt when you say you're sorry.
As of Jan. 1, a new state law will allow residents to apologize after an
accident and avoid having their statements used against them in civil court.
So-called benevolent gestures of sympathy will be considered simple acts of
charity, not admissions of guilt.
The bill was sponsored by state Assemblyman Lou Papan, who wants to
encourage the "healing process" after accidents, said Edward Randolph, his
chief of staff. Papan, a Democrat, represents a district near San Francisco.
"When you get into an auto accident, most people want to immediately come
out and make sure everybody's OK and be sympathetic and apologetic,"
Randolph said. "That's your human nature. You don't think through the legal
ramifications until three days later when you're slapped with a summons."
Randolph said his insurance company even advised him to not apologize if he
ever got in a car accident. But it doesn't make sense, he said.
"You want to apologize for the chaos that's been caused, even if it's not
your fault," he said.
Randolph said the bill was modeled after laws in Massachusetts and Vermont.
Verbal or written gestures of sympathy will not be considered admissions of
However, if a person apologizes as part of an admission, as in "I'm sorry I
caused the accident," the last part of the statement will still be
The bill got bipartisan support, passing the state Senate by a vote of 27-1
and the state house by 75-0, Randolph said.
But the new law does not have universal approval. Peter Dean, a civil
attorney in the San Diego suburb of Escondido, said the law was waste of
Juries are smart enough to understand that apologies do not necessarily mean
guilt, he said.
Dean said he has tried hundreds of cases over his 27-year career and never
once did an apology make a difference. In some cases he even advised clients
to apologize because it made them seem more human.
"All I can say about that law is that I'm sorry," he said.
Randy Dotinga is an APBnews.com West Coast correspondent