Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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After declaring them dependents of the court, a California juvenile court removed M.V. and I.V. (together, Children) from the physical custody of their parents, J.V. (Father) and M.Z. (Mother), and placed them with a relative caregiver pending reunification efforts. Father, Mother, and the Children appealed those dispositional orders, arguing substantial evidence did not support the court’s findings, by clear and convincing evidence, that there was substantial danger to the Children if they were returned home and that there were no reasonable means to protect them without removing them from their parents’ custody. After review of the juvenile court record, the Court of Appeal agreed and reversed the dispositional orders as to both Father and Mother. View "In re M.V." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Nshan Simonyan had a dispute with his insurer, Nationwide Insurance Company of America ("Nationwide") over the company's handling of his defense arising out of a three-car accident in which Simonyan was a driver. Simonyan asked Nationwide to appoint, as "Cumis" counsel, a law firm that he had already hired to advance his affirmative claim against the driver who hit him. Nationwide refused. Simonyan appealed the dismissal of his case after the trial court sustained Nationwide’s demurrer to his second amended complaint without leave to amend. Simonyan argued his allegations were sufficient to state claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to reconsider based on new allegations. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Simonyan v. Nationwide Ins. Co. of America" on Justia Law

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Financial Casualty & Surety, Inc. ("Surety") provided a $100,000 bail bond for a criminal defendant who failed to appear in court as required. The court declared a forfeiture of the bond under Penal Code section 13051 and Surety failed to vacate the forfeiture within the statutorily specified appearance period. Accordingly, the trial court entered summary judgment against Surety in the amount of the bond and court costs.Surety appealed from the denial of its motion to set aside the summary judgment on the forfeited bond. It argued the trial court prematurely entered summary judgment because an emergency rule adopted by the Judicial Council in response to the Covid-19 pandemic (Emergency Rule 9), which tolled “the statutes of limitations and repose for civil causes of action,” also tolled the appearance period for vacating forfeitures of bail bonds.The Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s order and denied Surety's motion to set aside the summary judgment on the forfeited bond. The court held that the appearance period is not a statute of limitations subject to tolling under Emergency Rule 9. The court reasoned that a motion to set aside bail forfeiture, in which a surety may assert defenses in an existing forfeiture proceeding, is not a pleading that commences a cause of action or special proceeding. View "P. v. Financial Casualty & Surety, Inc." on Justia Law

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This putative class action against California and San Diego County officials challenged California Governor Gavin Newsom’s emergency orders and related public health directives restricting business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiffs, owners of affected restaurants and gyms (Owners), primarily contended the orders were procedurally invalid because they were adopted without complying with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Furthermore, Owners contended that the business restrictions were substantively invalid because they effected a taking without compensation, violating the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Rejecting these claims, the superior court sustained demurrers to the third amended complaint without leave to amend and dismissed the action. While the Court of Appeal sympathized with the position some Owners find themselves in and the significant financial losses they alleged, the unambiguous terms of the Emergency Services Act and controlling United States Supreme Court regulatory takings caselaw required that the judgment be affirmed. View "640 Tenth, LP v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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Defendants Patricia G. Olson and Jimmy Dastur appealed a court order disqualifying Steven Bailey, a former El Dorado County Superior Court judge, from representing them in this lawsuit filed by plaintiff Robert Hassett. The trial court relied on rule 1.12 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, finding Bailey’s participation as a judge was personal and substantial in rendering decisions in two other cases involving the validity of options and a purchase agreement for the same real property at issue in the action brought by Hassett. Defendants argued on appeal that: (1) Hassett lacked standing; (2) the disqualification motion was a tactic designed to disrupt defense; and (3) Bailey did not personally and substantially participate as a judge in a “matter” within the meaning of rule 1.12. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Hassett v. Olson" on Justia Law

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Crystal Geyser Water Company bought a closed water bottling facility and sought to revive it. Both the County and the City ultimately granted the necessary permits. This appeal concerned one of two lawsuits challenging these approvals, brought pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In one suit, Appellants We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review and Winnehem Wintu Tribe alleged that the County’s environmental review for the bottling facility was inadequate under CEQA. In another, they alleged that the City’s decision to issue the wastewater permit for the bottling plant was also improper under CEQA. In this case, the County served as the lead agency and considered the potential environmental impacts of permitting the bottling facility before it or any other public agency issued a permit for the facility. But in Appellants’ view, the County’s analysis was inadequate. Appellants alleged the County: (1) provided a misleading description of the project; (2) defined the project’s objectives in an impermissibly narrow manner; (3) improperly evaluated the project’s impacts to aesthetics, air quality, climate change, noise, and hydrology; and (4) approved the project even though it would result in violations of the County’s and the City’s general plans. The trial court rejected all Appellants’ arguments. But the Court of Appeal found two contentions had merit: (1) the County defined the project’s objectives in an overly narrow manner; and (2) the process for evaluating the project’s impacts to climate change was flawed. Relevant to this point, the County initially informed the public that the bottling project would result in greenhouse gas emissions of one amount, but, after the period for public comments had ended, the County disclosed that the project would actually result in emissions nearly double what it initially estimated. Under the circumstances of this case, the appellate court found the County should have allowed the public further opportunity to comment on the project after this late disclosure. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "We Advocate Through etc. v. County of Siskiyou" on Justia Law

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Vicki Hebert filed a putative class action against Barnes & Noble, Inc. (Barnes & Noble), alleging it willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). According to Hebert, Barnes & Noble willfully violated the FCRA by providing job applicants with a disclosure that included extraneous language unrelated to the topic of consumer reports. The Act required employers like Barnes & Noble provide a job applicant like Herbert a standalone disclosure stating that the employer may obtain the applicant’s consumer report when making a hiring decision. Barnes & Noble moved for summary judgment, arguing that no reasonable jury could find its alleged FCRA violation was willful. The company asserted it included the extraneous information in its disclosure due to an inadvertent drafting error. The trial court agreed with Barnes & Noble, granted the company’s motion, and entered judgment in the company’s favor. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the trial court, determining a reasonable jury could have found that Barnes & Noble acted willfully because it violated an unambiguous provision of the FCRA, at least one of the company’s employees was aware of the extraneous information in the disclosure before the disclosure was displayed to job applicants, the company may not have adequately trained its employees on FCRA compliance, and/or the company may not have had a monitoring system in place to ensure its disclosure complied with the FCRA. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Hebert v. Barnes & Noble, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ralph and Heidi Bowser bought a 2006 Ford F-250 Super Duty truck, with a 6.0-liter diesel engine (6.0L engine). They had owned a 2004 model of the same truck; that turned out to be a lemon. The dealership, however, assured them that Ford had “fixed” the problems. After the purchase, the truck required repair after repair. After the truck had about 100,000 miles on it, the Bowsers largely stopped driving it; it mostly sat in their driveway. The Bowsers’ expert testified that, in his opinion, the 6.0L engine had defective fuel delivery and air management systems. Over Ford’s objections, the Bowsers introduced a number of internal Ford emails and presentations showing that Ford was aware that certain parts of the 6.0L engine, including fuel injectors, turbochargers, and EGR valves, were failing at excessive rates, and that Ford was struggling to find the root cause of some of these failures. Ford conceded liability under the Song-Beverly Act. A jury found for the Bowsers on all causes of action, and awarded compensatory and punitive damages. Ford appealed, raising a number of alleged evidentiary errors at trial, and challenged the jury’s award of damages. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Bowser v. Ford Motor Company" on Justia Law

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A cryogenic storage tank, manufactured by Chart and used by PFC, a San Francisco fertility clinic, to store patients’ reproductive material, experienced a failure. A putative class action was filed in federal court against four defendants. Claims against Chart proceeded in federal court; claims against other defendants proceeded in arbitration. Claimants not involved in the federal litigation filed subsequently-coordinated suits in California state courts against the four defendants. Arbitration was compelled for about 260 claims against PFC but not the other defendants. After 18 months of negotiations and discovery, three defendants reached an agreement to resolve the claims against them in all proceedings. The trial court entered a good faith settlement determination, dismissing with prejudice “[a]ll existing cross-complaints” for equitable indemnity or contribution against the settling defendants.Chart, the non-settling defendant, unsuccessfully challenged the good faith settlement determination in a mandamus proceeding, then filed an appeal. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal, noting a split among the divisions. When one tortfeasor defendant intends to settle a case before it is resolved against all defendants, the tortfeasor may petition the court for a determination that the settlement was made in good faith. (Code Civ. Proc. 877.6.) so that the other defendants are barred from obtaining contribution or indemnification from the settling tortfeasor based on the parties’ comparative negligence or fault. The court’s good faith determination is reviewable only by a timely petition for writ of mandate. View "Pacific Fertility Cases" on Justia Law

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Crystal Geyser Water Company bought a closed water bottling facility and sought to revive it. Both the County and the City ultimately granted the necessary permits. This appeal concerned one of two lawsuits challenging these approvals, brought pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In one suit, Appellants We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review and Winnehem Wintu Tribe alleged that the County’s environmental review for the bottling facility was inadequate under CEQA. In another, they alleged that the City’s decision to issue the wastewater permit for the bottling plant was also improper under CEQA. The Court of Appeal addressed Appellants’ challenge to the City’s approval of the wastewater permit. The County served as the lead agency and the City served as one of several responsible agencies for the proposed bottling facility. According to Appellants, the City failed to comply with its obligations as a responsible agency for three reasons: (1) the City failed to make certain findings that were required under CEQA before issuing the wastewater permit for the bottling facility; (2) the City should have adopted mitigation measures to address some of the bottling facility’s environmental impacts before approving the permit; and (3) the City should have performed additional environmental review following a late revision to the permit. The trial court rejected all Appellants’ arguments. But the Court of Appeal agreed with Appellants on one point: The City should have made certain findings under CEQA before issuing the wastewater permit. Apart from needing to make one or more of these findings for each significant impact, the City also needed to supply a brief explanation of the rationale for each finding. The City, however, never complied with these requirements. “It instead, in a single sentence, said only this: The City has reviewed the County’s report on the project and ‘finds no unmitigated adverse environmental impacts relating to the alternate waste discharge disposal methods.’” Because the Court found this brief statement inadequate to satisfy CEQA, judgment was reversed. View "We Advocate Through Environmental Review v. City of Mt. Shasta" on Justia Law