Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Adolf Gonzalez was shot and killed in an incident with two Anaheim police officers. Plaintiffs were the Decedent’s mother and minor daughter, who filed a complaint in federal court against the City of Anaheim (the City) and the two officers (collectively, Defendants). The Federal Complaint ("F.E.V. I") asserted four claims for violation of civil rights pursuant to title 42 United States Code section 1983 and state law claims for false arrest/false imprisonment, battery, negligence, and violation of the Bane Act, Civil Code section 52.1. The federal district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on the civil rights claims, and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims, dismissing them without prejudice. Following that dismissal, Plaintiffs filed a State Complaint, which overlapped the Federal Complaint, but provided more detail. After the Court of Appeal held oral argument in the prior appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its panel opinion in Gonzalez v. City of Anaheim, 2013 U.S.App. Lexis 9607, affirming F.E.V. I. On its own motion, the Court of Appeal took judicial notice of that opinion, which confirmed what would have been the outcome based on the status of the judgment at the time of oral argument. Based on Hernandez v. City of Pomona, 46 Cal.4th 501 (2009), the Court of Appeal held that the federal court judgment collaterally estopped Plaintiffs from pursuing their state law causes of action based on both the shooting and on theory the officers’ conduct before the shooting was negligent, and their battery and false arrest/false imprisonment causes of action. Nine months after we issued our opinion, the Ninth Circuit issued its en banc opinion reversing the federal court judgment as to claims of excessive force. In February 2015, Plaintiffs filed a new complaint (the Second State Complaint) asserting the same five causes of action as in the first State Complaint. Plaintiffs filed a motion to vacate the prior state court judgment. The trial court denied the motion. Plaintiffs brought a petition for writ of mandate to challenge the order denying their motion to vacate the judgment. A panel of the Court of Appeal summarily denied the writ petition. Defendants demurred to the Second State Complaint on the ground the claims were barred by collateral estoppel, jurisdiction, and the applicable statute of limitations. After oral argument, the trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend. The Court of Appeal found: (1) the Ninth Circuit en banc opinion did not nullify F.E.V. I; (2) plaintiffs could not collaterally attack the judgment affirmed by F.E.V. I; and (3) it would have been manifestly unjust to give claim preclusion effect to the judgement affirmed by F.E.V. I. As such, the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "F.E.V. v. City of Anaheim" on Justia Law

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Defendant Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians (the Tribe) appealed a judgment after trial in favor of plaintiff Sharp Image Gaming, Inc. (Sharp Image), in plaintiff’s breach of contract action stemming from a deal to develop a casino on the Tribe’s land. On appeal, the Tribe argued: (1) the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Sharp Image’s action in state court was preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA); (2) the trial court erred in failing to defer to the National Indian Gaming Commission’s (NIGC) determination that the disputed Equipment Lease Agreement (ELA) and a promissory note (the Note) were management contracts requiring the NIGC’s approval; (3) Sharp Image’s claims were barred by the Tribe’s sovereign immunity; (4) the trial court erred in denying the Tribe’s motion for summary judgment; (5) the jury’s finding that the ELA was an enforceable contract was inconsistent with its finding that the ELA left essential terms for future determination; and (6) substantial evidence does not support the jury’s verdict on the Note. After the parties completed briefing in this case, the United States was granted permission to submit an amicus curiae brief in partial support of the Tribe on the questions of preemption and lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal concluded IGRA preempted state contract actions based on unapproved “management contracts” and “collateral agreements to management contracts” as such agreements are defined in the IGRA regulatory scheme. Thus, the trial court erred by failing to determine whether the ELA and the Note were agreements subject to IGRA regulation, a necessary determination related to the question of preemption and the court’s subject matter jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Court concluded the ELA was a management contract and the Note was a collateral agreement to a management contract subject to IGRA regulation. Because these agreements were never approved by the NIGC Chairman as required by the IGRA and were thus void, Sharp Image’s action was preempted by IGRA. Consequently, the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction. View "Sharp Image Gaming v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians" on Justia Law

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At a special hearing, the juvenile court issued a permanent restraining order prohibiting the child's stepfather from having any contact with the child (C.M.). The child's mother, E.S., appealed an order the juvenile court issued at the same hearing, directing the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) to immediately remove her child from her care if there is "any evidence that the minor has been exposed to [his stepfather] or if mother violates the restraining order." While the Court of Appeal appreciated the juvenile court's assessment of the need to warn E.S. in no uncertain terms there would be serious consequences if C.M. has any contact with the stepfather, the Court concluded issuing a conditional removal order was not the way to warn her. “Removal, including a temporary detention, must be made on a timely assessment of risk to the child. Here, the court may have informed E.S. about the potential legal consequences of exposing C.M. to [the stepfather], including removal from her custody and termination of parental rights. The court may have directed the Agency to immediately bring to its attention any evidence of contact between C.M. and [the stepfather] and to set a hearing to address the issue. However, the conditional removal order disregards the dependency scheme, which is carefully calculated, not only to protect the child, but also to guarantee procedural and substantive due process to the child and the parent.” View "In re C.M." on Justia Law

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Defendant Anice Plikaytis appealed an order awarding her attorneys' fees in a breach of contract action brought by plaintiff Debra Roth. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal agreed with Plikaytis's contention that the trial court erred when it declined to consider previously filed documents she incorporated by reference as part of her motion. In the unpublished portions of the opinion, the Court discussed Plikaytis's arguments that: (1) the court failed to apply the lodestar method; (2) erroneously denied fees for equitable and cross-claims and for obtaining relief from bankruptcy stays; and (3) substantially reduced her award without explanation. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred by denying fees for obtaining bankruptcy stay relief that related to the breach claim and failing to provide an adequate justification for significantly reducing the number of hours allowed. Accordingly, the trial court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the matter remanded with directions. View "Roth v. Plikaytis" on Justia Law

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Johnson was at an Open Door clinics on November 3, 2011, to review test results with a nurse-practitioner. Before she entered the treatment room, her vital signs were taken and she was weighed on a scale located against the wall in the hallway outside of the treatment room. After the consult, Johnson left the treatment room and headed toward the exit, needing no further treatment. On her way out of the treatment room, she tripped on the scale, which she alleges was moved during the consult and was partially obstructing the path from the room to the hall. Johnson fell and suffered serious injuries. Almost two years later, Johnson filed a personal injury lawsuit. The trial court dismissed, citing the one-year limitations period for a “negligent act or omission to act by a health care provider in the rendering of professional services,” Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, Code Civ. Proc., 340.5. The court reversed, finding that the general, two-year statute of limitations for personal injury applied. The injury had no connection to the provision of medical services or the manner in which they were provided. View "Johnson v. Open Door Community Health Centers" on Justia Law

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The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (the Association) brought a grievance on behalf of correctional officer Sammie Gardner, alleging a violation of his rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). The grievance proceeded through the four-step process set forth in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Association and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Corrections). At the fourth step, a hearing before the Department of Personnel Administration (Department), the Department granted the grievance. When Corrections refused to comply with the Department’s decision, the Association petitioned for a writ of mandate to compel compliance, the enforcement provided for in the MOU. The trial court denied the petition, adopting Correction’s position, first raised in the trial court, that the Department lacked jurisdiction to decide the grievance because the State Personnel Board (SPB) had exclusive jurisdiction over appointments and the employment status of civil service employees and the foundation of the Department’s decision was the finding that Gardner was an employee of Corrections in November 2001. The Association appealed, arguing the grievance at issue was not under the exclusive jurisdiction of the SPB because it was not a merit-based grievance. After its review, the Court of Appeal agreed: the grievance at issue did not implicate the merit principle, set forth in the California Constitution, and therefore the SPB did not have exclusive jurisdiction. The MOU expressly provided that a grievance based on a reemployment USERRA claim, the claim actually decided, be appealed to the Department. Further, by acquiescing in the grievance procedure used, Corrections forfeited any claim that it was the wrong procedure. View "CA Correctional Peace Officers Assn v. Dept. of Corrections" on Justia Law

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San Luis Rey Racing, Inc. (SLRR) appealed the denial of its petition for mandamus relief. SLRR wanted the superior court to overturn certain orders of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) regarding the management of a fund established and governed by Business and Professions Code sections 19607 and 19607.1. The superior court determined SLRR did not have standing because it did not have a direct interest in the disbursement of the fund and denied SLRR's petition. The Court of Appeal agreed SLRR did not have standing and affirmed the judgment. View "San Luis Rey Racing, Inc. v. California Horse Racing Board" on Justia Law

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In 2013, plaintiff Direct Capital Corporation (DCC) leased computer equipment to a since-disbarred Kansas attorney (Mary Brooks, with many aliases, hereafter Mary) who practiced immigration law in Stockton. After Mary did not pay, DCC sued her and obtained a judgment for nearly $40,000. DCC later moved to garnish the wages of her husband, attorney Grant Brooks (Grant). DCC alleged that when the debt was incurred, the marriage was intact, and the judgment thereon was a community obligation. At the hearing on DCC’s motion, Grant’s attorney specially appeared and represented to the court that Grant had filed for divorce the day before, and claimed this deprived the trial court of “jurisdiction” to garnish Grant’s wages. After a hearing, the trial court found the debt was a community property obligation, and “there is evidence that the Computers were for necessities of life as it went to the wage earnings for the community.” The court denied the motion to dismiss, and issued a garnishment order. The Court of Appeal determined this appeal turned on the distinction between “necessaries of life” and “common necessaries of life” as those phrases are used in different parts of Family Code section 914, and which of the two governs when a person is or is not liable for a debt incurred by a spouse. Here, the trial court found that a debt incurred by an attorney-spouse for office computer equipment was for the necessaries of life for that particular marriage, in part because that spouse’s law practice generated community property income. The Court of Appeal upheld this finding. View "Direct Capital Corporation v. Brooks" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order setting aside a planned development permit (PDP) issued by the City. The court held that issues regarding the legal status of the individual lots under the Subdivision Map Act were not ripe for judicial review. In this case, the approval of the PDP in Phase 1 of the Project involved only the development of an infrastructure for the land involved, and the SMA was not implicated in Phase 1. View "Save Laurel Way v. City of Redwood City" on Justia Law

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In Romano v. Rockwell Int'l, Inc., 14 Cal.4th 479, the court held that under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code section 12900 et seq., a party alleging that a discriminatory act led to the termination of his or her employment has until one year from the date the employment terminated to file an administrative claim. In light of Romano, the Court of Appeal held that the one year limitations period for plaintiff to file a timely Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) complaint began to run from the last day of his employment. Because he filed his DFEH complaint within that period, his claim was timely. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal reversed the dismissal of the third amended complaint. View "Aviles-Rodriguez v. Los Angeles Community College District" on Justia Law