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Saying 'Sorry' Now OK in California

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  • Michael J. Schneider
    From: Mark Laythorpe http://www.apbnews.com/newscenter/breakingnews/2000/12/29/sorry1229_01.html Dec. 29, 2000 Saying Sorry Now OK in
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2000
      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.

      'Human nature'

      "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

      Bipartisan support

      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
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