Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
by
Frank Gomez and plaintiff Louise Gomez rekindled their love over 60 years after Frank broke off their first engagement because he was leaving to serve in the Korean War. Frank’s children from a prior marriage, defendants Tammy Smith and Richard Gomez, did not approve of their marriage. After Frank fell ill, he attempted to establish a new living trust with the intent to provide for Louise during her life. Frank’s illness unfortunately progressed quickly. Frank’s attorney, Erik Aanestad, attempted to have Frank sign the new living trust documents the day after Frank was sent home under hospice care. Aanestad unfortunately never got the chance to speak with Frank because Tammy and Richard intervened and precluded Aanestad from entering Frank’s home. Frank, who was bedridden, died early the following morning. Louise sued Tammy and Richard for intentional interference with expected inheritance, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and elder abuse. Tammy filed a cross-complaint against Louise for recovery of trust property. A trial court issued a statement of decision finding in favor of Louise as to her intentional interference with expected inheritance cause of action and in favor of Tammy and Richard as to the remaining causes of action. The trial court also ruled against Tammy on her cross-complaint. Tammy appealed the judgment in favor of Louise; she did not appeal the trial court’s ruling with regard to her cross-complaint. Tammy argued the judgment should have been reversed because: (1) Louise admitted she did not expect to receive an inheritance; (2) Tammy’s conduct was not tortious independent of her interference; (3) the trial court applied an erroneous legal standard in its capacity analysis; (4) there is no substantial evidence to support the finding that Frank had the capacity to execute the trust documents; (5) the trial court’s finding that Tammy knew Louise expected an inheritance is contradicted by the evidence; and (6) alternatively, the constructive trust remedy is fatally ambiguous. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Gomez v. Smith" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs' second amended complaint alleged derivative causes of action on behalf of ALI against AIG for conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud by concealment, breach of fiduciary duty, declaratory relief, conversion, and accounting.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order of dismissal entered as to the AIG defendants after the trial court sustained without leave to amend the AIG defendants' demurrer to plaintiffs' second amended complaint. The court held that, although plaintiffs' appeal is timely, their derivative claims are barred by the compulsory cross-complaint rule under Code of Civil Procedure section 426.30, subdivision (a). In this case, ALI may not assert against AIG the related causes of action not pleaded in the AIG v. Mahdavi action. Because ALI is barred from asserting the related causes of action against AIG, so are plaintiffs. The court explained that, because plaintiffs stand in the shoes of ALI in seeking redress for ALI's injuries, they are generally subject to the procedural rules that would apply to ALI as plaintiff in a direct action. The court stated that it would be inequitable to AIG to allow plaintiffs to assert claims ALI failed to assert by compulsory cross-complaint in the earlier-filed action, subjecting AIG to the precise piecemeal litigation section 426.30 was designed to prevent. View "Heshejin v. Rostami" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal considered how the timeliness rules for Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6 judicial peremptory challenges should apply in case of a proceeding initiated by the filing of a habeas corpus petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The habeas petition was sent from Department 100 to the Torrance Courthouse, and on February 20, 2020, the supervising judge in Torrance assigned the matter "for review and ruling" to Department G, the department in which real party in interest's criminal trial had been held. The judge who presided over real party in interest's trial was no longer assigned to that department, and thus Judge Edmund Clarke was the recipient of the petition for ruling.The District Attorney subsequently filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the trial court's denial of its Section 170.6 motion. The court held that the trial court correctly ruled that the District Attorney's Section 170.6 motion was untimely. Applying Section 170.6's all purpose assignment rule, the court stated that the peremptory challenge to Judge Clarke had to be made "within 10 days after notice of the all purpose assignment, or if the party has not yet appeared in the action, then within 10 days after the appearance." In this case, the District Attorney had legal notice of Judge Clarke's all purpose assignment at the latest on March 15, 2020, five days after service of the informal response order (and actual notice on March 13, 2020, when the District Attorney received the order). Furthermore, the District Attorney did not file its Section 170.6 motion until April 15, 2020. Therefore, there was more than ten days after notice of the assignment. View "People v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

by
Oakland entered into agreements with OBOT for the development of the former Oakland Army Base. The project was to include a bulk commodity shipping terminal for products, including coal. When the subject of coal became public, it activated interest groups, ultimately leading to an ordinance banning coal handling and storage in the city and a resolution applying the ordinance to the terminal. A federal court held that the resolution was a breach of the OBOT agreements, and enjoined Oakland from relying on the resolution. Friction between OBOT and Oakland continued. OBOT sued, alleging breach of contract and tort claims.The city filed a demurrer, then a special motion to strike (SLAPP motion, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16) that sought to strike “in part” the complaint. The SLAPP motion was heard with other matters. The hearing dealt primarily with the demurrer, which the court overruled in most part, and sustained in part with leave to amend. Days later, the court “denied without prejudice” the SLAPP motion, describing it as “premature” in light of the amended complaint to come.The court of appeal determined that the SLAPP motion has no merit because the complaint is not based on protected activity and remanded with instructions to deny the motion on the merits. The essence of the complaint arose from Oaklands’s acts or omissions in breach of its agreements, its refusal to cooperate, and its tortious conduct. View "Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, LLC v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Parkford Owners for a Better Community (Parkford), appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendants, Placer County and Placer County Community Development Resource Agency (collectively, the County), and real parties in interest, Silversword Properties, LLC (Silversword), K.H. Moss Company, and Moss Equity (collectively, Moss). Silversword owned property upon which Moss operated a commercial self-storage facility (Treelake Storage). Parkford’s lawsuit challenged the County’s issuance of a building permit for construction of an expansion of Treelake Storage, claiming the County failed to comply with both the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Planning and Zoning Law. The trial court concluded: (1) the County’s issuance of the building permit was ministerial rather than discretionary, and therefore CEQA did not apply; and (2) Parkford’s challenge under the Planning and Zoning Law was barred by the statute of limitations. Real parties in interest, joined by the County, argued the trial court correctly decided each of these issues, and in the alternative, urged the Court of Appeal to affirm the judgment because Parkford’s challenge to the building permit became moot prior to the entry of judgment, when construction on the expansion project was completed. The Court concluded Parkford’s claims were moot and dismissed the appeal. View "Parkford Owners for a Better Community v. County of Placer" on Justia Law

by
In May 2017, plaintiff Joseph Mejia bought a used motorcycle from Defendant DACM, Inc. (Del Amo) for $5,500. Mejia paid $500 cash and financed the remainder of the purchase price with a WebBank-issued Yamaha credit card he obtained through the dealership purchasing the motorcycle. In applying for the credit card, Mejia signed a credit application acknowledging he had received and read WebBank’s Yamaha Credit Card Account Customer Agreement (the credit card agreement), which contained an arbitration provision. Sometime after his purchase, Mejia filed a complaint against Del Amo on behalf of himself and other similarly situated consumers alleging Del Amo “has violated and continues to violate” the Rees-Levering Automobile Sales Finance Act by failing to provide its customers with a single document setting forth all the financing terms for motor vehicle purchases made with a conditional sale contract. The trial court denied Del Amo’s petition to compel arbitration, finding the arbitration provision was unenforceable under McGill v. Citibank, N.A., 2 Cal.5th 945 (2017) because it barred the customer from pursuing “in any forum” his claim for a public injunction to stop Del Amo’s allegedly illegal practices. Del Amo contended the trial court erred in ruling the arbitration provision was unenforceable under McGill, arguing: (1) McGill did not apply because, due to a choice-of-law provision in the contract, Utah law rather than California law governed the dispute; (2) if California law applied, the arbitration provision “does not run afoul of McGill” because Mejia did not seek a public injunction; (3) the arbitration clause was not unenforceable under McGill because the provision did not prevent a plaintiff from seeking public injunctive relief in all fora; and (4) if the arbitration provision was unenforceable under McGill, the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted McGill and required enforcement of the clause. The Court of Appeal found no merit to any of Del Amo's contentions and affirmed the district court's order. View "Mejia v. DACM Inc." on Justia Law

by
Wagon Wheel Canyon Loop Trail (the Trail) is located in Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park (the Park), a public park owned and operated by Orange County, California. Before the incident at issue in this case, a wooden lodgepole fence ran perpendicularly across the mid-point of the eastern half of the Trail loop, serving as an entrance and exit for the Trail, and created a physical barrier cyclists had to maneuver around when riding either north or south on the Trail. Plaintiff Sean Nealy “had ridden his bicycle on and along [the Trail] several times in the past, [and] knew of the existence of the [perpendicular] wooden lodgepole fence." At some point unknown to plaintiff, the lodgepole fence was replaced with new fencing, which consisted of wooden fenceposts or “pylons” between which were strung horizontally, gray colored wire cables. Like the original lodgepole fence, the new perpendicular fence “divided” the southern and northern portions of the Trail loop, “separating each direction of travel.” However, the new fence actually ended before it reached the boundary of the Trail, and there was an opening between the fence’s western-most post and the parallel fencing at the western edge of the Trail. Plaintiff, an experienced cyclist, was riding his bicycle on the Trail. He noticed the lodgepole fence had been removed, but did not see the wire cables strung between the new fenceposts. He mistakenly believed he could ride between the fenceposts, but instead, rode directly into the wire cables, where he was thrown over the handlebars and onto the ground, resulting in serious injuries. He sued the County, alleging (1) Negligence (Premises Liability)”; and “(2) Dangerous Condition of Public Property.” County demurred, asserting plaintiff’s claims were barred both by Government Code section 831.4’s “trail immunity” and section 831.7’s “hazardous activity immunity.” The trial court sustained the demurrer based on trail immunity, finding the new fencing was a “condition” of the Trail for which County was statutorily immune. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Nealy v. County of Orange" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying plaintiffs' request for entry of a default judgment and dismissing their wrongful death action against the terrorist organization Al Shabaab. This action stemmed from Al Shabaab's murder of 148 students in their dormitories at Garissa University in Kenya, including 21-year-old Angela Nyokabi Githakwa.The court held that the trial court did not violate the Githakwa Parties' due process rights by determining that it lacked jurisdiction over Al Shabaab. In this case, the trial court provided the Githakwa parties adequate notice and an opportunity to address personal jurisdiction. Furthermore, the trial court correctly concluded that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Al Shabaab where Al Shabaab is not subject to the trial court's general jurisdiction and the trial court lacked specific jurisdiction over Al Shabaab for the Garissa University attack. View "Brue v. Al Shabaab" on Justia Law

by
California’s automatic renewal law, Bus. & Prof. Code 17600, requires a consumer’s affirmative consent to any subscription agreement automatically renewed for a new term when the initial term ends and requires “clear and conspicuous” disclosure of the offer terms, and an “easy-to-use mechanism for cancellation.” Mayron sued Google on behalf of a putative class, alleging that Google’s subscription data storage plan violates the automatic renewal law: “Google Drive” allows users (those registered for a Google account) to remotely store electronic data that can be accessed from any computer, smartphone, or similar device. There is no charge for 15 gigabytes of storage capacity. For a $1.99 monthly fee, users can upgrade to 100 gigabytes of storage. Plaintiff alleged Google did not provide the required clear and conspicuous disclosures nor obtain his affirmative consent to commence a recurring monthly subscription agreement and did not adequately explain how to cancel, and alleged unfair competition, Bus. & Prof. Code 17200.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. There is no private right of action for violation of the automatic renewal law and, because Mayron has not alleged an injury caused by Google’s conduct, he has no standing to sue under the unfair competition statute. View "Mayron v. Google LLC" on Justia Law

by
Five laborers filed suit against their former employer, Miguel Martinez, alleging violations of various labor laws. The Court of Appeal previously heard plaintiffs' claims; in its initial review, the Court considered plaintiffs’ appeal of a judgment that rejected all their claims against Martinez. Although the judgment was affirmed for the most part, the Court reversed to allow plaintiffs to proceed on two of their claims, one of which concerned Martinez’s failure to pay plaintiffs for rest periods, and another of which was derivative of their rest-period claim. As was explained, Martinez was obligated to pay his employees for the time they spent on authorized rest periods. However, the Court found nothing in the evidence to show he had ever paid his employees for this time. The case was thus remanded to allow the trial court to determine appropriate damages and penalties based on this failure. Following the remand, the parties raised various challenges to the trial court’s calculation of damages and penalties. Plaintiffs contended the trial court undervalued their damages and wrongly rejected several of their claims for penalties. Martinez, in turn, claimed that insufficient evidence supported the trial court’s calculation of damages and penalties. Because the Court of Appeal find none of the parties’ several claims warranted reversal, it affirmed the trial court’s decision. View "Sanchez v. Martinez" on Justia Law