Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Rivelli v. Hemm
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of the Swiss defendants' motions to quash service of summons for lack of personal jurisdiction. At issue in this appeal is whether a Swiss company and its executive vice president, a Swiss citizen and resident, are subject to suit in California court for claims related to the purchase by the Swiss company of shares of a privately-held California corporation.Having carefully reviewed the record presented of Defendant Hemm's contacts with California through his service on the Rodo board, and the nature of Defendant Straumann's transaction with Rodo, the court concluded that in each instance appellants have not demonstrated the required relatedness between the California forum, Hemm or Straumann, and the specific claims at issue, as would be required to permit the constitutional exercise of case-linked jurisdiction. Therefore, the trial court did not err in granting Hemm and Straumann's motions to quash. View "Rivelli v. Hemm" on Justia Law
Berg v. Pulte Home Corp.
The issue presented for the Court of Appeal’s review in this case arose from a residential construction defect lawsuit filed by several homeowners against Pulte Home Corporation. The homeowners sued Pulte for allegedly violating building standards set forth in Civil Code section 896, breach of contract, and breach of express warranty pertaining to 13 homes (the Berg litigation). St. Paul Mercury Insurance Company (St. Paul) defended Pulte in the Berg litigation as an additional insured under a general liability policy issued to St. Paul’s named insured and one of Pulte’s subcontractors, Groundbreakers Landscaping, Inc. Pertinent here, St. Paul later sued three of Pulte’s subcontractors -- Vaca Valley Roofing, Inc., Norman Masonry, Inc., and Colorific Painting, Inc. (collectively defendants) -- for equitable subrogation through a complaint in intervention in the Berg litigation. In essence, St. Paul sought to pursue Pulte’s breach of contract claims against defendants for their failure to defend Pulte in the Berg litigation. Standing in Pulte’s shoes, St. Paul asserted defendants were jointly and severally liable for the reimbursement of the money it expended in defending Pulte, St. Paul raised four arguments on appeal: (1) the trial court erred in granting defendants’ request for a jury trial; (2) the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury that defendants are jointly and severally liable for the mixed defense fees (i.e., attorney fees and costs incurred in defense of the entire Berg litigation, such as attending status conferences or mediations; in other words, tasks unrelated to the defense of a subcontractor’s specific scope of work); (3) the trial court erred in denying St. Paul’s motion for prejudgment interest; and (4) the trial court erred in denying St. Paul’s request for attorney fees in prosecuting the equitable subrogation action. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Berg v. Pulte Home Corp." on Justia Law
Exline v. Gillmor
Plaintiff Brian Exline appealed an order granting defendant Lisa Gillmor’s special motion to strike under California's anti-SLAPP law. Exline filed a complaint against Gillmor alleging that, during her terms serving as a councilmember and then as the mayor of the City of Santa Clara (the City), Gillmor violated the Political Reform Act of 1974 (the Act) by failing to disclose on Form 700 filings her interest in, and income she received from, an entity known as Public Property Advisors. Exline argued his lawsuit was not subject to challenge under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 because it fell within the public interest exemption codified at section 425.17 (b). He contended the trial court erred by concluding that an exception to that exemption, set forth in section 425.17(d)(2) applied and rendered the exemption inapplicable. The Court of Appeal held the exception applied to completion of the Form 700, and the complaint in this case was therefore subject to the anti-SLAPP law. View "Exline v. Gillmor" on Justia Law
Braganza v. Albertson’s LLC
Plaintiff Lisa Braganza sued defendant Albertson’s LLC (Albertson’s) for personal injuries and other damages she sustained as a result of slipping and falling on the floor of an Albertson’s grocery store. The trial court granted Albertson’s motion for summary judgment after denying plaintiff’s request to continue the hearing on the motion in order to allow plaintiff time to conduct discovery necessary to oppose the motion. The trial court later denied plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, based on her claim that the court abused its discretion in denying her continuance request. Appealing those judgments, plaintiff claimed the trial court abused its discretion: (1) in denying her request to continue the hearing on Albertson’s motion; and (2) in denying her new trial motion. The Court of Appeal found no abuse of discretion in either ruling, and affirmed the judgment. View "Braganza v. Albertson's LLC" on Justia Law
Hollingsworth v. Heavy Transport, Inc.
After Kirk Hollingsworth was involved in a fatal accident while working for HT, Hollingsworth's wife and son filed a wrongful death action against HT and Bragg. Plaintiffs alleged that HT lacked the required workers' compensation insurance at the time of the incident, and therefore plaintiffs were entitled to sue Bragg/HT under Labor Code section 3706. Bragg/HT then filed an application for adjudication of claim with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). In the Court of Appeal's previous opinion, Hollingsworth v. Superior Court (2019) 37 Cal.App.5th 927 (Hollingsworth I), the court held that the superior court, which had exercised jurisdiction first, should resolve the questions that would determine which tribunal had exclusive jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims. Following remand, plaintiffs claimed that they were entitled to a jury trial on the factual issues that would determine jurisdiction. The trial court ultimately entered a judgment terminating proceedings in the superior court, and plaintiffs appealed.The Court of Appeal concluded that, although a jury may determine questions relevant to workers' compensation exclusivity when the issue is raised as an affirmative defense to common law claims, jurisdiction under Labor Code section 3706 is an issue of law for the court to decide. In this case, plaintiffs asserted jurisdiction under section 3706, and thus it was appropriate for the court, not a jury, to determine the questions relevant to jurisdiction. Therefore, there was no error in denying plaintiffs' request for a jury trial. The court also found that the trial court's consideration of parol evidence was not erroneous, and that substantial evidence supports its findings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Hollingsworth v. Heavy Transport, Inc." on Justia Law
Jackson v. Park
It is improper for counsel to assert or imply facts not in evidence that counsel knows could be refuted by evidence the court has excluded; it is also improper to argue facts not in the record, and to continue to argue those facts after the court has instructed counsel to stop.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order granting defendant's motion for a new trial based on attorney misconduct during closing argument in this vehicle collision case. The trial court found, among other misconduct, that defense counsel falsely argued excluded evidence did not exist and argued facts outside the record. The court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting defendant's motion for a new trial on causation and damages, concluding that defense counsel's improper arguments resulted in a miscarriage of justice warranting a new trial. View "Jackson v. Park" on Justia Law
Winns v. Postmates Inc.
Postmates’ website enables customers to arrange for deliveries from local businesses. Beginning in March 2017, prospective couriers seeking to offer their delivery services were presented with Postmates’ Fleet Agreement when logging on for the first time. The Agreement directs a prospective courier to review a mutual arbitration provision that applies to “any and all claims between the [p]arties,” including claims related to a courier’s classification as an independent contractor, delivery fees received by a courier, and state and local wage and hour laws. It includes a “Representative Action Waiver.” There is an opt-out provision: “Arbitration is not a mandatory condition of [the courier’s] contractual relationship with Postmates. ” Plaintiffs acknowledged the Fleet Agreement. Postmates did not receive opt-out forms for any of them. In December 2017, Plaintiffs filed a putative class and representative action, alleging Labor Code violations. The trial court denied Postmates’s petition to compel arbitration of Private Attorney General Act claims for civil penalties, citing the California Supreme Court’s 2017 “Iskanian” holding that representative action waivers were unenforceable. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Postmates’ arguments that Iskanian was abrogated by subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Iskanian expressly established that the Federal Arbitration Act does not preempt state law on the enforceability of PAGA waivers. View "Winns v. Postmates Inc." on Justia Law
Harris v. Rojas
At issue in this appeal is the attorney fee clause in a commercial space lease that plaintiff leased from defendant. After nearly three years and a jury trial, the jury gave plaintiff $6,450 on his contract claim, which was 3 percent of his request and which the trial court offset and reduced in the final judgment.The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that when the demand is $200,000 and the verdict is $6,450 or less, the trial judge has discretion to decide the "victory" is pyrrhic and nobody won. In this case, plaintiff's recovery was too little for him to be considered the prevailing party. Furthermore, if the court aggregated the judgments from the two cases that should have been unified by a notice of related cases, defendant is the net winner. View "Harris v. Rojas" on Justia Law
Cahill Construction Co., Inc. v. Superior Court
Richards sued 105 defendants, including Cahill, with claims arising out of Richards’s alleged asbestos exposure during his 30-year career as a pipefitter. The trial court granted trial preference based on a declaration from Richards’s physician that Richards, then 72 years old, was suffering from mesothelioma and had a life expectancy of fewer than six months. Richards produced voluminous responses to interrogatories, the transcript of Richards’s prior deposition in asbestos litigation involving Richards’s co-worker, and Richards’s employment records.Code of Civil Procedure section 2025.295 provides that in a civil action “for injury or illness that results in mesothelioma” if a licensed physician declares the plaintiff “suffers from mesothelioma . . . , raising substantial medical doubt of the survival of the [plaintiff] beyond six months,” deposition examination of the plaintiff is limited to seven hours of total testimony. The statute permits a court to grant up to an additional seven hours if more than 20 defendants appear at the deposition. Defendants deposed Richards for 14 hours. Cahill challenged the time limit.The court of appeal denied Cahill’s petition for mandamus relief. A court may not grant deposition time in excess of the 14-hour cap established in section 2025.295(b)(2) despite other Code of Civil Procedure provisions addressing a court’s right to control discovery. Section 2025.295’s limitation on deposition time does not violate Cahill’s due process rights. View "Cahill Construction Co., Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Martin v. Cal. Coastal Commission
Gary and Bella Martin appealed after the trial court granted in part and denied in part their petition for writ of administrative mandate to challenge the imposition of certain special conditions placed on the development of their property - a vacant, oceanfront lot in Encinitas - by the California Coastal Commission (Commission). The Commission also appealed the judgment. The Martins’ challenged a condition requiring them to eliminate a basement from their proposed home, while the Commission challenged the trial court’s reversal of its condition requiring the Martins to set back their home 79 feet from the bluff edge. Because the Court of Appeal agreed with its own recent decision in Lindstrom v. California Coastal Com., 40 Cal.App.5th 73 (2019) interpreting the same provisions of the Encinitas Local Coastal Program (LCP) and Municipal Code at issue here, the trial court’s invalidation of the Commission’s setback requirement was reversed. The trial court’s decision to uphold the basement prohibition was affirmed. View "Martin v. Cal. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law