Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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Kevin Johnson, APLC, Kevin Johnson, and Jeanne MacKinnon (collectively, the attorney defendants) filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint on behalf of their clients Christian Clews (Christian), Barbara Clews (Barbara), and Clews Land & Livestock, LLC (CLL) (collectively, Clews Horse Ranch) challenging a decision of the City of San Diego (City) to approve the construction of a private secondary school adjacent to the Clews’ commercial horse ranch. The petition asserted the City’s approval of the project and adoption of a mitigated negative declaration for the project violated the California Environmental Quality Act, the San Diego Municipal Code, and the City’s land use plan. The trial court denied relief and, in Clews Land and Livestock, LLC v. City of San Diego, 19 Cal.App.5th 161 (2017), the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. Jan Dunning, Cal Coast Academy RE Holdings, LLC, and North County Center for Educational Development, Inc. (collectively, Cal Coast), the developers of the project and real parties in interest in the CEQA Litigation, then filed this lawsuit against Clews Horse Ranch and the attorney defendants for malicious prosecution. Cal Coast asserted the defendants lacked probable cause and acted with malice when they pursued the CEQA Litigation. The attorney defendants filed a special motion to strike Cal Coast’s complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute, to which the Clews Horse Ranch joined. The trial court denied the motion after finding that Cal Coast established a probability of prevailing on its malicious prosecution claim. Clews Horse Ranch and the attorney defendants appealed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion. The Court of Appeal concluded Cal Coast established a probability of prevailing on its malicious prosecution claim against Clews Horse Ranch, but not against the attorney defendants. Therefore, the Court affirmed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion as to Clews Horse Ranch, and reversed the order denying the anti- SLAPP motion as to the attorney defendants. View "Dunning v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Rudy Alarcon filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to invalidate hearing officer Robert Bergeson’s decision upholding the City of Calexico’s (City) termination of Alarcon’s employment as a City police officer. The City filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging Bergeson’s decision to award Alarcon back pay based on his finding that the City failed to provide Alarcon with sufficient predisciplinary notice of allegations that Alarcon had been dishonest during the investigation that led to his termination. The trial court consolidated the petitions and issued a written ruling that denied both petitions. As to Alarcon’s petition, the trial court determined that Alarcon had not met his burden to establish the charges against him were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court also found that the weight of the evidence demonstrated that Alarcon had “used force” and “discourteous language” during the arrest that led to his termination. With respect to the City’s petition, the trial court determined that “the hearing officer’s lengthy finding that the dishonesty charges were not properly noticed does not rise to the level of an abuse of discretion.” After review, the Court of Appeal found no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment with respect to Alarcon; the Court determined the City’s cross- appeal was untimely and should have been dismissed. View "City of Calexico v. Bergeson" on Justia Law

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Bryant Walker was employed as an eighteen-wheeler tractor-trailer driver for BlueLinx Corporation (“BlueLinx”). Walker was attempting to make a left turn into the driveway of BlueLinx’s facility: he activated his left turn signal, and stopped his tractor-trailer in the left lane, approximately sixty feet from a break in the median, in order to wait for another vehicle to exit the driveway. Before Walker could make his turn, his tractor-trailer was struck from behind by a vehicle driven by Kunta Hester. Hester died as a result of the accident. Hester’s survivors filed the instant suit against Walker, BlueLinx, and its insurer, alleging defendants breached their duty to Hester because Walker negligently stopped his vehicle on a public roadway in violation of La. R.S. 32:141(A). At issue in this case was whether defendants violated any duty to plaintiffs under the provisions of La. R.S. 32:141(A), which prohibited the stopping or parking of a vehicle in the travelled portion of a roadway. The Louisiana Supreme Court concluded defendants were entitled to summary judgment: plaintiffs failed to rebut the presumption that Hester was at fault for the accident. View "Hester v. Walker et al." on Justia Law

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In a matter of first impression, the Louisiana Supreme Court granted review on whether a suit against the state, in which plaintiff fails to request service within 90 days and which was dismissed for insufficient service of process, interrupts prescription on the second suit filed before dismissal of the first. The Supreme Court held that the plain language of La. R.S. 13:5107(D)(3) made clear that plaintiff’s second suit was untimely and the first suit did not interrupt or suspend prescription as to the state defendants. Accordingly, because the state defendants’ exception of prescription should have been granted, the trial court’s ruling denying the exception of prescription was reversed. View "Davis v. Louisiana" on Justia Law

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This case involved a defamation claim brought by the executive director of a public agency against the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor arising out of statements appearing in two audit reports and the summaries which accompanied the release of those audit reports. Plaintiff claimed the audits cast his conduct in connection with his duties at the agency in a defamatory light. The defendants moved for summary judgment, but the district court denied the motion, finding the existence of genuine issues of material fact. The court of appeal denied writs. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari, primarily to determine whether the lower courts erred in concluding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. Finding there were no genuine issues of material fact, and that the questions presented were all questions of law, the Supreme Court further found that the statements were not actionable as a matter of law, but rather statements of opinion relating to matters of public concern that did not carry a provably false factual connotation. As such, the statements were entitled to full constitutional protection. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the lower courts and granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Johnson v. Purpera" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against two defendants: a property owner and her alleged liability insurer. The insurer was served with the petition, but plaintiff withheld service on the property owner. The insurer filed an answer on its own behalf within three years of suit being filed, but no action was taken in the suit by any party relative to the property owner within that three years. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application to determine whether plaintiff’s action against the property owner was abandoned pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 561(A)(1). The court of appeal found the filing of an answer by the insurer within the three-year abandonment period was effective to interrupt the abandonment period as to the property owner. The Supreme Court held the filing of the insurer’s answer did not serve to interrupt the abandonment period as to the property owner; therefore the appellate court was reversed because plaintiff’s original action against the property owner was abandoned by operation of law. However, the Court found plaintiff’s underlying claims against the property owner, that were subsequently reasserted by amended petition, were not necessarily prescribed due to the potential interruption of prescription resulting from the pending suit against an alleged solidary obligor. Because a determination regarding prescription could not be made based on the existing record, the court of appeal’s ruling on the property owner’s exception of prescription was affirmed, and the matter remanded to the district court for an evidentiary hearing on that exception. View "Williams v. Foremost Ins. Co. et al." on Justia Law

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On a rainy day in 2011, Darcy Johnson, a business invitee at a Washington State Liquor Control Board liquor store, slipped and fell in the entryway to that store, just after entering. A jury returned a verdict for Johnson. The Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that the trial court should have granted the State’s motion for a judgment as a matter of law because Johnson had not satisfied the notice requirement in a premises liability action. The Washington Supreme Court granted review to resolve whether the reasonable foreseeability exception to the notice requirement applied. The Court held that the exception applied. The Court therefore reversed and remanded to the Court of Appeals. View "Johnson v. Liquor & Cannabis Bd." on Justia Law

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New Vision sued SG in the federal district court in Nevada. SG then filed Patent Trial and Appeal Board petitions. The Board declined to respect the forum selection agreement in the parties’ license agreement, which referred to “exclusive” jurisdiction in the appropriate federal or state court in the state of Nevada, and proceeded to a final decision, finding the claims at issue as well as proposed substitute claims, patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101.The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the Board’s decisions for consideration of the forum selection clause in light of its 2019 “Arthrex” decision. Because Arthrex issued after the Board’s final-written decisions and after New Vision sought Board rehearing, New Vision has not waived its Arthrex challenge by raising it for the first time in its opening brief. The Board’s rejection of the parties’ choice of forum is subject to judicial review; section 324(e) does not bar review of Board decisions “separate . . . to the in[stitu]tion decision.” View "New Vision Gaming & Development, Inc. v. SG Gaming, Inc." on Justia Law

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Jordan Morsette appealed an amended judgment ordering him to pay $242 million in compensatory damages and $885 million in punitive damages to Plaintiffs Shayna Monson; Lee Zander, individually and on behalf of Taylor Goven, deceased; and Jason Renschler, individually and on behalf of Abby Renschler, deceased. In June 2015, while driving on the wrong side of the Bismarck Expressway, Morsette’s vehicle collided head on with Monson’s vehicle. Monson suffered serious bodily injuries, and Goven and Renschler died at the crash scene. Morsette’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.295 percent at the time of the collision. The Plaintiffs sued Morsette for negligence, seeking damages for their injuries. Morsette answered and admitted liability for the accident. The Plaintiffs moved to amend their complaint to add a punitive damages claim, alleging Morsette’s conduct was oppressive and malicious. The district court granted the Plaintiffs’ motion, finding they “met the threshold of malice necessary to amend the complaint to request punitive damages.” Morsette argued the district court erred in admitting evidence of his intoxication, erred in its instructions to the jury, and erred by granting the Plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint to add a punitive damages claim. Morsette also argued the jury’s verdict was excessive. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the amended judgment, finding the district court erred by admitting irrelevant evidence, failing to properly instruct the jury, and in concluding there was sufficient evidence to support a punitive damages claim. The matter was remanded for a new trial. View "Zander, et al. v. Morsette" on Justia Law

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Robert Smith’s employer, Najjar Lube Centers, Inc. dba Jiffy Lube, held a presentation for its employees to learn about a new Castrol product. Castrol employee Gus Pumarol led the presentation. Smith alleges that Pumarol made several comments to Smith during the presentation that he considered racist and offensive. Smith sued BP Lubricants USA, Inc. dba Castrol (BP) and Pumarol for harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and for discrimination under the Unruh Act. Smith also sued Pumarol for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). The trial court sustained BP and Pumarol’s demurrer without leave to amend, and Smith timely appealed. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment. The Court affirmed the trial court’s order sustaining BP and Pumarol’s demurrer to Smith’s FEHA claim without leave to amend, but concluded, however, that Smith sufficiently alleged claims for IIED and violation of the Unruh Act. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Smith v. BP Lubricants USA Inc." on Justia Law