Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Minors N.C., P.G., J.G., and D.G. appealed orders denying the Imperial County Department of Social Services' petition to remove them from the care of their paternal aunt under Welfare and Institutions Code sections 387 and 361.3. Minors contended that in view of the court's finding that the three youngest children were diagnosed with nonorganic failure to thrive while in their aunt's care, the court erred in determining that continued placement with their aunt was appropriate and in their best interests. The Court of Appeal agreed, concluding the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the children to remain with a caregiver who failed to provide adequate food to them, causing serious injury to the health and well-being of the three youngest children. View "In re J.G." on Justia Law

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Defendants appealed the trial court's order awarding costs to plaintiffs in a wrongful death case under Code of Civil Procedure section 998. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the joint offer to settle both wrongful death claims was valid. The court held that the trial court properly awarded plaintiffs costs under section 998. In this case, defendants did not anticipate that either wrongful death claim, standing alone, would exceed the settlement offer. The court explained that this was precisely the situation in which an additional cost award under section 998 was appropriate and in furtherance of the goal of encouraging parties to accept reasonable settlement offers. View "Gonzalez v. Lew" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of Southern SARMs' postjudgment motion for sanctions against Nutrition Distribution because Southern SARMs had failed to give Nutrition Distribution the required notice. The court held that, based on the plain language and legislative history of former subdivision (f) of Code of Civil Procedure section 128.5, and confirmed by the August 2017 amendments to that provision, a 21-day waiting period applies to a motion for sanctions under section 128.5 that, as here, is directed to allegedly improper actions or tactics that can be withdrawn or appropriately corrected. In this case, because Southern SARMs failed to provide Nutrition Distribution with the safe harbor opportunity to withdraw its first amended complaint before filing its motion for sanctions, the trial court properly denied the motion. View "Nutrition Distribution, LLC v. Southern SARMs, Inc." on Justia Law

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John and Denise Lane jointly owned a piece of rural property together with Denise's mother, Joan Bell. In 2011, the Lanes filed a lawsuit (the property action) against Bell arising out of disputes over the property. Bell cross-complained, seeking among other things a declaration of the extent of her interest in the property and an order for partition. The Lanes prevailed on most of Bell's claims, but a judgment was ultimately entered in Bell's favor valuing her interest in the property and granting her claim for partition. Because Bell prevailed on at least one of her claims was that the Lanes cannot demonstrate a "favorable termination" of the underlying action, which is fatal to their malicious prosecution action. In its most recent discussion of the issue, the California Supreme Court emphasized that "lack of probable cause" and "favorable termination" were distinct requirements in a malicious prosecution action: "'[T]hat a malicious prosecution suit may be maintained where only one of several claims in the prior action lacked probable cause [citation] does not alter the rule there must first be a favorable termination of the entire action.'" (Crowley v. Katleman, 8 Cal.4th 666 (1994). Thus, if the defendant in the underlying action prevails on all of the plaintiff's claims, he or she may successfully sue for malicious prosecution if any one of those claims was subjectively malicious and objectively unreasonable. But if the underlying plaintiff succeeds on any of his or her claims, the favorable termination requirement is unsatisfied and the malicious prosecution action cannot be maintained. The Lanes suggested in their appeal that the Court of Appeal decline to apply the dicta of Crowley in favor of their reading of Albertson v. Raboff, 46 Cal.2d 375 (1956), which held that, at least in certain cases, a malicious prosecution plaintiff could satisfy the "favorable termination" element by succeeding on some causes of action in the underlying case, even though a partial judgment was entered against him or her on a different claim. In the absence of further guidance from the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal believed Crowley correctly addressed the issue presented by the facts of this case, and the trial court properly relied on Crowley in granting summary judgment. View "Lane v. Bell" on Justia Law

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A woman checked into a hotel room in the early evening. She did not answer her husband’s calls for several hours. He suspected that she may have been injured. The husband called the hotel and a maintenance worker checked the room. The worker reported that no one was there. Hours later, the husband went to the hotel room and found his wife lying on the floor. She had suffered a brain aneurism. The couple sued the hotel and the maintenance worker’s employer (a staffing agency) for negligence. The agency filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it owed no legal duty to the married couple. The trial court granted the motion and the couple appealed. Ordinarily, a person has no legal duty to come to the aid of another; however, if that person does, and does so without exercising reasonable care, the person coming to the aid of the other may be responsible for any damages caused under a “negligent undertaking” theory of liability. The Court of Appeal could not say as a matter of law that the maintenance worker owed no legal duty; there were triable issues of material fact such that the trial court improperly granted summary judgment and reverse. View "O'Malley v. Hospitality Staffing Solutions" on Justia Law

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Payment in the amount of the judgment to plaintiff by a third party for something collaterally related to the judgment did not constitute satisfaction of the judgment. In this case, the Court of Appeal held that CTIC's payment to Jacob Tikosky was not payment on Tikosky's judgment against Yoram Yehuda, but rather was payment for Tikosky refraining from having Yehuda's property sold. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's denial of Yehuda's motion to compel acknowledgment of partial satisfaction of the judgment. View "Tikosky v. Yehuda" on Justia Law

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California's compulsory joinder statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 389, applied when a fiduciary relationship exists between the plaintiff and the persons for whose benefit the action is prosecuted. Plaintiff obtained assignments from over a thousand borrowers that transferred 100 percent interest in causes of action relating to their home loans and a 5 percent ownership interest in the real estate securing the home loans. Plaintiff then filed suit against various entities involved in originating, servicing, or enforcing those loans. Plaintiff subsequently filed a petition for writ of mandate to challenge the trial court's order requiring joinder of the borrowers under section 389. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that plaintiff had no fiduciary relationship with the borrowers. Because the assignments were for the mutual benefit of plaintiff and the borrowers, the court held that section 369, subdivision (a)(3) did not apply and did not authorize plaintiff to proceed without joining the borrowers. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for writ of mandate and lifted the stay. View "Brown v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Apple, Inc. (Apple) is the defendant in a putative class action filed by plaintiffs and real parties in interest Anthony Shamrell and Daryl Rysdyk. In their operative complaint, plaintiffs alleged that Apple's iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 smartphones were sold with a defective power button that began to work intermittently or fail entirely during the life of the phones. Plaintiffs alleged Apple knew of the power button defects based on prerelease testing and postrelease field failure analyses, yet Apple began selling the phones and continued to sell the phones notwithstanding the defect. The trial court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification but expressly refused to apply Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. University of Southern California, 55 Cal.4th 747 (2012) to the declarations submitted by plaintiffs' experts. The trial court believed it was not required to assess the soundness of the experts' materials and methodologies at this stage of the litigation. The Court of Appeals determined that belief was in error, and a prejudicial error. “Sargon applies to expert opinion evidence submitted in connection with a motion for class certification. A trial court may consider only admissible expert opinion evidence on class certification, and there is only one standard for admissibility of expert opinion evidence in California. Sargon describes that standard.” The Court of Appeal directed the trial court to vacate its order granting plaintiffs' motion for class certification and reconsider the motion under the governing legal standards, including Sargon. View "Apple Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Apple, Inc. (Apple) is the defendant in a putative class action filed by plaintiffs and real parties in interest Anthony Shamrell and Daryl Rysdyk. In their operative complaint, plaintiffs alleged that Apple's iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 smartphones were sold with a defective power button that began to work intermittently or fail entirely during the life of the phones. Plaintiffs alleged Apple knew of the power button defects based on prerelease testing and postrelease field failure analyses, yet Apple began selling the phones and continued to sell the phones notwithstanding the defect. The trial court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification but expressly refused to apply Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. University of Southern California, 55 Cal.4th 747 (2012) to the declarations submitted by plaintiffs' experts. The trial court believed it was not required to assess the soundness of the experts' materials and methodologies at this stage of the litigation. The Court of Appeals determined that belief was in error, and a prejudicial error. “Sargon applies to expert opinion evidence submitted in connection with a motion for class certification. A trial court may consider only admissible expert opinion evidence on class certification, and there is only one standard for admissibility of expert opinion evidence in California. Sargon describes that standard.” The Court of Appeal directed the trial court to vacate its order granting plaintiffs' motion for class certification and reconsider the motion under the governing legal standards, including Sargon. View "Apple Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Petitioners California Self-Insurers’ Security Fund (the Fund) and Nixon Peabody LLP (Nixon Peabody or the firm) sought a writ of mandate to direct the trial court to vacate its order disqualifying Nixon Peabody from representing the Fund in the underlying case. Petitioners argued the trial court mistakenly believed it was compelled by law to disqualify the firm; the court instead should have made further factual findings and exercised its discretion. Real parties in interest contended disqualification was mandatory and therefore no discretion needed to be exercised. The Court of Appeal concluded that automatic disqualification was not required under these facts. View "CA Self-Insurers' Sec. Fund v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law