Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order sustaining the City's demurrer without leave to amend in an action alleging that city inspectors harmed Los Globos nightclub's business by reducing the number of patrons allowed at the club and did so without first providing the club with a statutorily-required hearing. The court held that Los Globos' failure to exhaust its administrative remedies prior to filing suit in superior court barred it from pursuing its claim. View "Los Globos Corp. v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Artur Hefczyc appealed an order denying his motion for class certification in his lawsuit against Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego (Rady). On behalf of a proposed class, Hefczyc sought declaratory relief to establish that Rady's form contract, signed by patients or guarantors of patients who receive emergency room care, authorized Rady to charge only for the reasonable value of its services, and that Rady therefore was not authorized to bill self-pay patients based on its master list of itemized charge rates, commonly referred to as the "Chargemaster" schedule of rates, which Hefczyc alleged was "artificial" and "grossly inflated." The trial court denied Hefczyc's motion for class certification, concluding that the class was not ascertainable, that common issues did not predominate, and that class action litigation was not a superior means of proceeding. Hefczyc contends that the trial court erred in denying class certification because, as the complaint sought only declaratory relief, the motion for class certification was brought under the equivalent of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, rule 23(b)(1)(A) or (b)(2) (28 U.S.C.), for which he was not required to establish the ascertainability of the class, that common issues predominated and that class action litigation was a superior means of proceeding. Hefczyc also contended that even if the trial court properly imposed those three requirements in this action, the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that those requirements were not met. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that Hefczyc's arguments lacked merit, and accordingly affirmed the order denying class certification. View "Hefczyz v. Rady Children's Hosp." on Justia Law

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After the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) certified an environmental impact report (EIR) for its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (transportation plan), CREED-21 and Affordable Housing Coalition of San Diego filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the EIR's adequacy under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Cleveland National Forest Foundation and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a similar petition, in which Sierra Club and the State later joined. The superior court granted the petitions in part, finding the EIR failed to carry out its role as an informational document because it did not analyze the inconsistency between the state's policy goals reflected in Executive Order S-3-05 (Executive Order) and the transportation plan's greenhouse gas emissions impacts after 2020. The court also found the EIR failed to adequately address mitigation measures for the transportation plan's greenhouse gas emissions impacts. The California Supreme Court granted review on the sole issue of whether the EIR should have analyzed the transportation plan's impacts against the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals in the Executive Order and reversed the Court of Appeal "insofar as it determined that the [EIR's] analysis of greenhouse gas emission impacts rendered the EIR inadequate and required revision." Cleveland and the State requested the Court of Appeal keep the remainder of its decision substantially intact and publish it as revised. SANDAG asserted the case was moot because the EIR and the transportation plan have been superseded by more recent versions, which Cleveland and the State did not challenge. The Court of Appeal agreed with Cleveland and the State that SANDAG did not establish this case was moot. The Court exercised its discretion and reversed to the extent the superior court determined the EIR failed to adequately analyze the transportation plan's greenhouse gas emissions impacts. The judgment was affirmed to the extent the superior court determined the EIR failed to adequately address the mitigation measures for the transportation plan's greenhouse gas emissions impacts. The judgment was modified to incorporate this court's decision on the cross-appeals. The matter was remanded to the superior court with directions to enter a modified judgment and order the issuance of a peremptory writ of mandate conforming to the Supreme Court's decision in Cleveland II and to this court's decision on remand. View "Cleveland Nat. Forest Foundation v. San Diego Assn. etc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal granted plaintiff's petition for a writ of mandate compelling the superior court to vacate its limited discovery order, and enter a new order granting the motion and ordering Marshalls to produce a list of the names and contact information of its nonexempt California employees employed since March 22, 2012. The case was before the court on remand from the California Supreme Court. The previous opinion was vacated and the trial court was directed to vacate its limited discovery order and enter a new order granting discovery. View "Williams v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Appellants Ralphs Grocery Company and related subsidiaries (Ralphs) appealed an order striking their complaint against respondents Victory Consultants, Inc. (Victory) and Jerry Mailhot under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP law). Appellants contended the superior court erred in determining their complaint, which alleged a cause of action for trespass, arose out of activity protected by the anti-SLAPP law, and by concluding they failed to demonstrate a probability of succeeding on the merits of that cause of action. After review of the complaint, the Court of Appeal agreed with Appellants: respondents have not shown Appellants' cause of action for trespass arises out of protected activity. The acts constituting trespass were not protected activity. Although Respondents argued that Appellants were suing them based upon petitioning activity, which would typically be protected, such activity was occurring on private property. “Respondents have provided no persuasive argument that their activity occurring on such private property is protected. Additionally, even if we were to reach the second question under an anti-SLAPP analysis, we would conclude Appellants carried their minimal burden of showing a probability of succeeding on the merits.” The Court, therefore, reversed the order. View "Ralphs Grocery Co. v. Victory Consultants, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Mary Anna Whitehall worked as a social worker for the San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS or the County). She sought legal advice pertaining to any liability she might have for submitting misleading information and doctored photographs to the juvenile court at the direction of her superiors. Her counsel prepared a filing; subsequently plaintiff was immediately placed on administrative leave for disclosing confidential information to an unauthorized person. Upon being informed she would be terminated for the breach, plaintiff resigned her position and filed a whistle blower action against the County. The County filed a special motion to strike the complaint as an Anti-SLAPP action, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, which was denied by the trial court. The County appealed. On appeal, the County argued the trial court erred in determining plaintiff had established the second prong of the criteria to overcome a special motion to strike an Anti-SLAPP lawsuit by finding a likelihood she would prevail because the County’s actions were not privileged or covered by governmental immunity. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Whitehall v. County of San Bernardino" on Justia Law

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McMillin Management Services, L.P. and Imperial Valley Residential Valley Residential Builders, L.P. (collectively "McMillin") filed suit against numerous insurance companies, including respondents Lexington Insurance Company (Lexington) and Financial Pacific Insurance Company (Financial Pacific). McMillin alleged that it had acted as a developer and general contractor of a residential development project in Brawley and hired various subcontractors to help construct the Project. As relevant here, McMillin alleged that Lexington and Financial Pacific breached their respective duties to defend McMillin in a construction defect action (underlying action) brought by homeowners within the Project. McMillin alleged that Lexington and Financial Pacific each owed a duty to defend McMillin in the underlying action pursuant to various comprehensive general liability (CGL) insurance policies issued to the subcontractors that named McMillin as an additional insured. The trial court granted Lexington's motion for summary judgment, reasoning, that there was no possibility for coverage for McMillin as an additional insured under the policies "[b]ecause there were no homeowners in existence until after the subcontractors' work was complete[ ] . . . ." On appeal, McMillin contended that the fact that the homeowners did not own homes in the Project at the time the subcontractors completed their work did not establish that its liability did not arise out of the subcontractors' ongoing operations. The trial court granted Financial Pacific's motion for summary judgment, finding McMillin did not establish homeowners in the underlying action had sought potentially covered damages arising out of the subcontractors' drywall installation. The Court of Appeal reversed as to Lexington, and affirmed as to Financial Pacific. View "McMillin Management Services v. Financial Pacific Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The underlying suit involved a loan foreclosure. The borrowers filed a cross-complaint against MCC, alleging fraud, despite being advised MCC had no involvement in the transaction involved in the lawsuit. The borrowers mistakenly identified MCC as an agent of the lender and a loan servicer and continued the lawsuit despite being warned that it should be dismissed. After the borrowers settled the main lawsuit against them, they filed a voluntary dismissal in favor of MCC. MCC then sued the borrowers for malicious prosecution. The borrowers filed an anti-SLAPP motion (Code of Civil Procedure 425.16(b)(1)) to dismiss. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the motion, concluding that MCC met its burden under step two of the anti-SLAPP analysis, demonstrating a probability of success on its claim for malicious prosecution. There was no evidence of any research done before filing the cross-complaint seeking $300 million in damages; the borrowers were notified no fewer than four different times that MCC was the wrong entity to sue. View "Medley Capital Corp. v. Security National Guaranty, Inc." on Justia Law

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Yelp Inc., operator of a website for consumer reviews, petitioned for a writ of mandate to overturn an order compelling its production of documents that may reveal the identity of an anonymous reviewer on its site. Yelp also appealed from a separate order imposing $4,962.59 in monetary sanctions against it for failing to comply with the subpoena requiring production of the documents. Gregory Montagna filed a lawsuit against Sandra Jo Nunis and several Doe defendants alleging a single cause of action for trade libel. Montagna, an accountant, prepared a tax return for Nunis in 2015, initially quoting Nunis a “minimum” fee of $200 for the preparation of her return, based on her representation that her income was comprised exclusively of wages reported on a W-2 form, and she would require only a simple return. However, both Nunis’ income and the resulting tax return were allegedly more complicated than she had represented. As a consequence, Montagna charged Nunis $400 for preparation of the return, rather than the $200 fee he initially quoted. Nunis allegedly paid Montagna only $200, and refused to pay him more even after receiving “a collection letter” for the balance. And in November 2015, Nunis allegedly went online to the Yelp website under an alias and posted a negative review of Montagna. Yelp argued the trial court's orders had to be reversed because: (1) the trial court erroneously concluded Yelp lacked standing to assert the First Amendment rights of its anonymous reviewer as grounds for resisting the subpoena; and (2) the court further erred by concluding Montagna made a prima facie showing the posted review contained defamatory statements. The Court of Appeal agreed the trial court erred in ruling Yelp lacked standing to assert the First Amendment rights of its anonymous reviewer, but found no error in its determination Montagna made a prima facie showing the challenged review was defamatory. The Court concluded the latter finding was sufficient to support the trial court’s order compelling Yelp to produce the subpoenaed documents in the circumstances of this case. Consequently, the Court denied the petition for writ of mandate. "However, given the dynamic nature of this area of law - the primary cases we rely upon were decided after the trial court issued its ruling - we also conclude Yelp’s opposition to Montagna’s motion to compel was substantially justified." Thus the Court reversed the order imposing sanctions against Yelp. View "Yelp Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a municipal ordinance, which authorized the issuance of bonds to be used to refinance the defendants' obligations with respect to the ​construction of a baseball park. Judgment was entered in favor of defendants on grounds that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the refinancing. After review, the Court of Appeal found the plaintiff taxpayers had standing under Government Code section 1092 to challenge the ordinance on the grounds participants in the proposed transaction violated the conflict of interest provisions of section 1090. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court's judgment dismissing plaintiff's complaint. View "San Diegans for Open Gov. v. Public Facilities Financing etc." on Justia Law