Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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In 2015, Krein, a Tuolomne Water District employee, fell from a bridge and “sustained paraplegic injuries.” Du-All had contracted to periodically inspect the wastewater treatment plant, including the Bridge. Plaintiffs sued multiple defendants. All parties apparently fully complied, without compulsion, in discovery. On May 7, 2018, Du-All served its expert witness disclosure, identifying the two experts it expected to call at trial and plaintiffs served their expert witness disclosure. Following receipt of plaintiffs’ expert disclosure and the life care plan, Du-All retained supplemental experts to rebut the anticipated testimony. On May 25, Du-All served its supplemental expert disclosure (Code of Civil Procedure 2034.280), listing five experts. On June 4, plaintiffs moved to strike Du-All’s supplemental disclosure, arguing that Du-All should have disclosed all the experts in its original disclosure because these types of experts are commonly used in personal injury cases. Expert discovery had not begun. The parties stipulated to continue the trial date to October 29. The trial court ruled that four experts could not testify because they are not disclosed. The court of appeal vacated. Du-All disclosed the experts it expected to call at trial; when plaintiffs disclosed five other experts and a life care plan, Du-All designated experts to rebut plaintiffs’ position. "This is the precise reason why the Legislature codified the right to designate rebuttal experts." The trial court denied that right by placing limitations not found in the Code of Civil Procedure. View "Du-All Safety, LLC v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Lucinda Cox and Hollis Griffin, who had been friends for over 20 years, opened a cosmetology school together. Cox was one of the school's teachers and Griffin handled administration. The relationship deteriorated over time: Cox alleged Griffin intentionally filed a false police report accusing Cox of forgery and embezzlement, leading to Cox's arrest and seven-day incarceration. Cox's attorney asked the court to instruct the jury on false arrest (false imprisonment) and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Cox's complaint did not allege a cause of action for malicious prosecution, and the court did not instruct on malicious prosecution. After the jury awarded Cox $450,000 in a general verdict, the trial court granted Griffin's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) because under Hagberg v. California Federal Bank, 32 Cal.4th 350 (2004), citizen reports of suspected criminal activity can only be the basis for tort liability on a malicious prosecution theory. When a citizen contacts law enforcement to report a suspected crime, the privilege in Civil Code section 47(b) barred causes of action for false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, even if the police report was made maliciously. Cox's only argument on appeal was the JNOV should have been reversed because "the elements of malicious prosecution were supported by substantial evidence in the record." The Court of Appeal rejected Cox's argument because an appellant "cannot challenge a judgment on the basis of a new cause of action [she] did not advance below." The Court found an exception to that rule allowing a change in theory on appeal if the new theory involves a question of law on undisputed facts. But that exception did not apply here because the record did not contain undisputed evidence establishing all elements of malicious prosecution. Accordingly, although the jury found that Griffin intentionally filed a false police report causing Cox emotional distress, the Court of Appeal was compelled to affirm the defense judgment. View "Cox v. Griffin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, while a director of a nonprofit public benefit corporation called Wildlife Waystation, filed suit against defendants alleging claims of self-dealing and misconduct. The trial court sustained defendants' demurrers to the complaint, which claimed that plaintiff no longer had standing when the Waystation board of directors removed her as a director. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that plaintiff did not lose standing to maintain this action when Waystation removed her as a director. Rather, she had standing under Corporations Code sections 5233, 5142, and 5223 at the time she instituted this action, and her subsequent removal as director did not deprive her of standing. The court also held that the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend for failing to join the Attorney General as a indispensable party and notifying the Attorney General of the action. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions. View "Summers v. Colette" on Justia Law

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This case presented two issues for the Court of Appeals' review: (1) whether the nonmarital biological child of an absentee father who never openly held her out as his own have standing under Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 to sue for his wrongful death if she failed to obtain a court order declaring paternity during his lifetime?; and (2) if she did not have standing, did section 377.60 violate the state or federal equal protection clauses? Upon the specific facts of this case, the Court concluded the child did not have standing, and there was no equal protection violation. "We cannot imagine the Legislature intended to confer wrongful death standing on a child who had no relationship whatsoever with the decedent to the exclusion of the decedent’s other family members with whom he did have a relationship." View "Stennett v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Novato City Council approved construction of a solar-panel carport and a bus-transfer facility. In December 2015, two new members were sworn in; the Council elected Eklund as mayor. The Council's first business meeting of the month, on December 15, primarily consisted of public comment about the projects. The policy manual allowed councilmembers to request orally that an item be placed on a future agenda. The Council discussed both projects during the council-comments portion of the meeting. Eklund asked that the bus project be placed on a future agenda; a majority disagreed. The Council voted to form a subcommittee to study the solar project. TransparentGov sent a letter claiming that the Council had violated the Brown Act (open meeting law, Gov. Code 54950) by discussing substantive aspects of the solar project and by voting to establish a subcommittee without public notice. The City responded that it would not in the future establish subcommittees without first placing the issue on the posted agenda. In 2016, the Council amended its policy to prohibit councilmembers from orally asking for an item to be placed on a future agenda. The new policy requires a written request that must be included in the agenda package for the meeting. TransparentGov sought a declaration that the 2015 meeting violated the Brown Act. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the petition for a writ of mandate and declaratory relief. TransparentGov failed to demonstrate a justiciable controversy warranting relief. Resolving whether the discussions that took place at the meeting violated the Brown Act is unnecessary to guide any future behavior that is likely to occur. View "TransparentGov Novato v. City of Novato" on Justia Law

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Petitioner David Dudek appealed after the trial court sustained the demurrer of respondents Anne Kebisek Dudek, Tiffany Guzman, Jeanette Kebisek, Mary Kebisek, Guillermo Andrade, Maria Sanchez, Ora Day, Tonya Courtney, and Michael Quinn to David's petition to recover money distributed to the respondents in accordance with the beneficiary designation of Genworth Life Insurance Policy #5804946 (the Policy), which covered the life of J.D. Dudek (J.D.), Petitioner's brother. According to David, in late 2009, J.D. created and executed the J.D. Dudek Life Insurance Trust, naming David as the trustee. David asserted the Policy was listed as an asset of the Trust, to be held and administered in accordance with the Trust's terms. According to the Petition, J.D. prepared and submitted to the life insurance company the forms required by that company to change the ownership and beneficiary designations on the Policy in order to establish David, as trustee, as the sole owner and named beneficiary of the Policy. David was unaware that not long after J.D. submitted the forms, the insurance company rejected the ownership and beneficiary designation forms because J.D. had altered some of his entries without initialing the changes. David was also unaware that J.D. had failed to file corrected forms with the life insurance company after he was notified of the insurance company's rejection of his submitted forms. After J.D. died, David produced the Trust to the life insurance company and sought to obtain the proceeds of the policy. However, the life insurance company distributed the proceeds of the policy to the beneficiaries that it had on file, pursuant to the beneficiary designations that J.D. submitted prior to the alleged change. David subsequently sought an order directing the respondents to transfer the proceeds of the Policy to him as the trustee of the Trust. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court, finding that if David could establish the facts alleged in the Petition, then it would be clear that J.D. created an irrevocable trust, and properly funded it, when he delivered to David the transferring document. "If the Trust was created, then David's entitlement to the proceeds of the life insurance policy that was an asset of the Trust would be established, and he would be able to seek the court's assistance in having those proceeds conveyed to him in his capacity as trustee. The trial court therefore should not have sustained the respondents' demurrer to David's Petition." View "Dudek v. Dudek" on Justia Law

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Gallaher is a Santa Rosa real estate developer. During the 2016 Santa Rosa City Council election, The Press Democrat published five articles about substantial independent election expenditures made by Gallaher’s son-in-law, Flater, on behalf of three candidates. Gallaher and Flater allege the articles falsely implied that Gallaher was the source of the funds and sued for defamation, libel per se, and false light invasion of privacy. Defendants moved to strike the complaint under the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. The trial court granted the motion in part, denied it in part, and permitted plaintiffs to conduct discovery on the issue of malice. The court of appeal concluded the motion should have been granted in full because plaintiffs failed to make a prima facie showing the allegedly defamatory statements were false. The articles reporting on Flater’s enormous independent expenditures, explaining Flater’s connection to Gallaher, and raising questions about the source of the funds were clearly in connection with an issue of public interest. It was incumbent on plaintiffs to unambiguously deny Gallaher’s funding of the independent expenditures to make a prima facie showing of falsity. View "Sonoma Media Investments, LLC v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In January 2013, the family court ordered respondent C.P. to pay monthly child support. From September 2013, through August 2017, C.P. was incarcerated in federal prison. Less than a month after his release, C.P. promptly filed a request for the court to adjust the child support arrears that accrued during his incarceration—which the parties and the family court handled under the then-current Family Code section 4007.5. (Stats. 2015, ch. 629, sec. 2, eff. Oct. 8, 2015). The court granted C.P.'s request over the objection of appellant San Diego County Department of Child Support Services (Department) The Court of Appeal determined the family court erred as a matter of law in granting C.P.'s request: “Given the unambiguous language in current section 4007.5 and the timing of C.P.'s child support order, incarceration, and request for adjustment of arrears, the statutory relief awarded is unavailable to C.P. under current section 4007.5.” Subdivision (f) expressly provided that the statute applied only to child support orders issued on or after October 8, 2015, and C.P.'s child support order under consideration was issued in January 2013. Furthermore, contrary to the family court's stated reasons, at the time of the repeal of former section 4007.5 (Stats. 2010, ch. 495, sec. 1), C.P. did not have a vested statutory right to have his support order adjusted, and current section 4007.5 did not contain a saving clause pursuant to which former section 4007.5 could have provided statutory protection for incarcerated child support obligors like C.P. However, the Court determined C.P.'s request could be read to have sought the adjustment in child support arrears under former section 4007.5, which was repealed as of July 1, 2015; but the parties did not brief and the trial court did not consider whether former section 4007.5 contains a saving clause that provides C.P. with a statutory basis on which to have obtained the requested relief. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal reversed the order granting C.P.'s request and remanded with directions to consider, as appropriate based on briefing to be requested, whether former section 4007.5 included a saving clause that allowed its application to C.P.'s request and, if so, whether C.P. made a sufficient showing for relief. View "County of San Diego Dept. of Child Support Services v. C.P." on Justia Law

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An association (plaintiff, Friends of Spring Street) filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief at superior court, challenging a determination by defendant Nevada City (the City) that real parties in interest Mollie Poe and Declan Hickey had the right to resume operation of a bed and breakfast facility in a residential district of the City despite the fact that, years earlier, voters had passed an initiative measure repealing the provisions in the City’s municipal code allowing such facilities. Plaintiff also challenged a 2015 City ordinance relating to the discontinuance of nonconforming uses subject to conditional use permits. The trial court upheld the City’s ruling with respect to the bed and breakfast and upheld the 2015 ordinance. In Friends I, the Court of Appeal concluded that "while the trial court did not err in upholding the 2015 ordinance, the court did err in upholding the [C]ity’s ruling with respect to the bed and breakfast." On remand, the trial court vacated its prior decision on the bed and breakfast issue and entered judgment in favor of plaintiff on that issue with respect to its petition for writ of mandate. The trial court further directed the City to file a return to the writ, indicating it had set aside its challenged decision. The City complied. Plaintiff then moved for costs under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032 and attorney fees under section 1021.5; the City and Real Parties opposed. The trial court granted the City’s and Real Parties’ motions to strike plaintiff’s memorandum of costs and denied plaintiff’s motion for attorney fees. Plaintiff appealed, but finding plaintiff was entitled to fees, the Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for : (1) a determination of the amount of costs to be awarded to plaintiff, if any, in accordance with section 1032 and the applicable legal principles; and (2) a determination whether the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement renders an attorney fee award appropriate and, if so, the amount to be awarded. View "Friends of Spring Street v. Nevada City" on Justia Law

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Ryze’s headquarters and principal place of business was in Noblesville, Indiana. In 2014, Ryze hired Nedd, a California resident, to work for Ryze in El Cerrito. In 2017, Ryze terminated Nedd’s employment. Nedd filed a wrongful termination suit in Contra Costa County, under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The Employment Agreement between Ryze and Nedd contained a forum selection clause, stating that “any claim of any type brought by Employee against [Ryze] … must be maintained only in a court sitting in" Indiana. The court declined to stay or dismiss the case, stating that forum selection clauses will not be enforced when contrary to California public policy and that enforcing the forum selection clause would be contrary to Labor Code section 925 and Government Code section 12965 (governing venue in FEHA cases). The court of appeal directed the trial court to vacate its order. Labor Code section 925 establishes a policy prohibiting employers from requiring California employees from agreeing to litigate in a different forum as a prerequisite to employment, but by its plain language states that it applies to agreements “entered into, modified, or extended on or after January 1, 2017.” The FEHA venue statute has no bearing on the forum selection clause. View "Ryze Claim Solutions LLC v. Superior Court" on Justia Law