Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Sixteen months after a jurisdiction and disposition hearing where the juvenile court placed mother J.A.’s twin children with their nonoffending, noncustodial father and dismissed the dependency with family law exit orders, she challenged the court’s findings and sought to unwind the removal order. Relying on the Court of Appeal's decision in In re A.O., 242 Cal.App.4th 145 (2015), she argued the lateness of her appeal should be excused because the juvenile court failed to advise her of her appellate rights at the close of the hearing, as required by California Rules of Court, rule 5.590(a). The Court concluded A.O. and the line of cases preceding it were distinguishable, and did not apply to this case. The Court therefore dismissed the appeal as unjustifiably late. View "In re J.A." on Justia Law

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Renovate America, Inc. (Renovate) appealed an order denying its petition to compel arbitration of Rosa Fabian's claims related to the financing and installation of a solar energy system in her home. Fabian filed a complaint against Renovate alleging that solar panels she purchased for her home were improperly installed. Fabian alleged that, in early 2017, Renovate made an unsolicited telephone call to her home about financing the solar panels and "signed" her name on a financial agreement. All communications between Fabian and Renovate's representative occurred telephonically and she was never presented with any documents to sign. Fabian claims she did not sign a financial agreement with Renovate; nevertheless, Renovate incorporated the solar panel payments set forth in the financial agreement into her mortgage loan payments. Fabian thus alleged that Renovate violated: (1) the Consumers Legal Remedies Act; (2) the Unfair Competition Law; and (3) the California Contract Translation Act. Renovate petitioned to compel arbitration of Fabian's claims and stay judicial proceedings pending arbitration, supported by an Assessment Contract (Contract) that Renovate claimed Fabian had signed electronically. Renovate contended the trial court erred in ruling that the company failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Fabian electronically signed the subject contract. The Court of Appeal found that by not providing any specific details about the circumstances surrounding the Contract's execution, Renovate offered little more than a bare statement that Fabian "entered into" the Contract without offering any facts to support that assertion. "This left a critical gap in the evidence supporting Renovate's petition." The Court therefore affirmed denial of the petition to compel arbitration. View "Fabian v. Renovate America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The San Diego County (County) Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to the County's general land use plan, which would have allowed for the development of over 2,100 homes in a previously designated rural area of the County. Residents opposed to the change in land use circulated a referendum petition and gathered enough signatures to have the matter placed on an election ballot. To prevent an election, the land developer filed a petition for writ of mandate, contending the referendum petition was illegal and void as a matter of law. The court denied the writ petition. The issues this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review were: (1) whether the referendum petition complied with the full text requirement under Elections Code section 91471; and (2) the referendum petition's legality in challenging a single legislative act even though the Board of Supervisors executed several concurrent, associated legislative acts. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Molloy v. Vu" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants, Highland Springs Conference and Training Center (Highland Springs) and Banning Bench Community of Interest Association (Banning Bench), appealed August 3 and 4, 2017, orders limiting the attorney fees plaintiffs could recover from real parties in interest, SCC/Black Bench LLC (SCC/BB) and SCC Acquisitions, Inc. (SCCA). In cost memoranda, and again in duplicative fee motions, plaintiffs sought to recover fees they incurred in successfully pursuing a motion to amend their October 2008 judgments against SCC/BB, to add SCCA to the October 2008 judgments as an additional judgment debtor. The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded the matter to the trial court with directions to redetermine the amount of each plaintiff’s fee award. "We leave the question of the amount of each plaintiff’s fee award for the court’s redetermination on remand, based on all of the hours claimed by each plaintiff in pursuing the alter ego motion. We observe, however, that fee awards under [Code of Civil Procedure] section 1021.5 should be 'fully compensatory' and should begin with 'a lodestar figure based on the reasonable hours spent, multiplied by the hourly prevailing rate for private attorneys in the community conducting noncontingent litigation of the same type.'” View "Highland Springs Conference etc. v. City of Banning" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Sundar Natarajan filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandate to overturn the November 2015 revocation of his staff membership and privileges at St. Joseph’s Medical Center of Stockton (St. Joseph’s), the fictitious name of an entity defendant Dignity Health owned and operated. In September 2017, the trial court denied the petition, entering judgment in favor of defendant. Before the Court of Appeal, plaintiff claimed he was denied due process, and sought to nullify any preclusive effects the internal decision might have on any subsequent action in court, though he did not explain how he would be entitled to this requested relief. Furthermore, he argued the circumstances of the hearing officer’s relationship with defendant gave rise to an unacceptable risk of bias from a pecuniary interest in future employment with defendant, and the internal decision revoking his staff membership and privileges did not apply objective standards. The Court of Appeal determined the hearing officer's employment did not violated principles of fair procedure, and the ultimate decision was based on objective standards. Therefore, the Court affirmed denial of relief. View "Natarajan v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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GPP employed Le, a scientist, and disclosed to Le the proprietary formula for its trade secret product (a film that preserves lettuce) and the identity of an organic acid used in the product. Le signed a confidentiality agreement. After leaving GPP, Le formed a company and competed with GPP. In 2006, GPP and Le agreed to a stipulated permanent injunction to “fully and finally resolve all existing and potential differences” arising from Le’s use of GPP’s trade secret. In 2016, Le moved to modify or dissolve the stipulated permanent injunction, arguing that newly discovered facts—that citric acid was the previously undisclosed organic acid—demonstrated that GPP’s trade secret did not possess a commercial advantage; that GPP’s trade secret was previously publicly disclosed in a patent; and that the injunction’s language was overly broad and failed to provide adequate notice of the specific actions that were enjoined. The court of appeal affirmed a denial of relief. Le did not meet the requirements of Code of Civil Procedure section 533. There is sufficient evidence to support an implied determination that GPP has a valid trade secret. The injunction did not identify the precise formula or ingredients used in GPP’s trade secret, but its failure to do so did not mean that GPP’s description of its trade secret was not sufficiently clear. View "Global Protein Products, Inc. v. Le" on Justia Law

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Bryan was arrested for resisting arrest after deputies responded to a woman’s call that he had chased her. The court determined that Bryan was not competent to stand trial. He was taken to Napa State Hospital. After treating Bryan for two years, the hospital reported that it was unlikely he would soon regain competency. The public guardian filed a conservatorship petition supported by the report of a clinical psychologist who evaluated Bryan and concluded that he was gravely disabled by schizophrenia. Bryan’s public defender requested a trial. The court suggested scheduling the trial for January 28, 2019. Bryan’s attorney agreed. The parties stipulated that Bryan would appear by videoconference because of health issues. Trial began on January 28; county counsel called Bryan as a witness with no objection from Bryan’s attorney. The clinical psychologist whose report was submitted with the petition testified, as did Bryan’s temporary conservator. The court concluded that the public guardian had established beyond a reasonable doubt that Bryan was gravely disabled and was currently unable to provide for food, clothing, or shelter; appointed the public guardian as the conservator for one year; and imposed legal disabilities on him under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that the commitment term must be shortened because the trial court unlawfully continued the starting date of his trial and that Bryan had an equal protection right to refuse to testify at his trial. View "Conservatorship of Bryan S." on Justia Law

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Brown, a tenant in low-income, rent-controlled housing owned and managed by Upside, filed suit on behalf of herself and other similarly situated persons, alleging violations of Hayward’s Residential Rent Stabilization and Tenant Protection Ordinance. According to Brown, Upside claimed an exemption to the ordinance based upon misleading information and thereafter imposed upon the often non-English-speaking tenants illegal rent increases, charged excessive late fees, and failed to pay required security deposit interest. Upside representatives approached the tenants individually with pre-written releases from the class action along with pre-written checks as “compensation.” The trial court invalidated those releases (signed by approximately 26 tenant putative class members) and required the parties to confer regarding a corrective notice for the putative class. The court found that the releases contained misleading and one-sided information regarding the underlying lawsuit. The court of appeal dismissed Upside’s appeal of the order as taken from a nonappealable order. The court rejected Upside’s argument that the order was appealable as an injunctive order within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure section 904.1(a)(6) because it mandates certain actions on their part with respect to the putative class members. Section 904.1 provides no basis for appealing a standard interlocutory order. View "Brown v. Upside Gading, LP" on Justia Law

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This case arose following the death of Eric, a resident of Chapala House, licensed as a “long-term health care facility” under the Long-Term Care, Health, Safety, and Security Act of 1973 (the Act) - more specifically, as an “[i]ntermediate care facility/developmentally disabled habilitative” (ICF/DD-H). Plaintiff-appellant RSCR Inland, Inc. (ResCare) owned Chapala House. Defendant-appellant California Department of Public Health (the Department) issued a citation and imposed a civil penalty on ResCare in connection with Eric’s death, and ResCare brought this lawsuit to challenge the citation and penalty. The Court of Appeal addressed the scope of the “reasonable licensee defense” through which a California long-term health care facility could show that a citation for a regulatory or statutory violation should be dismissed, even though there was a factual basis for the citation. The Department argued the defense was available only in the event of an “emergency” or “special circumstances.” The Court of Appeal rejected that view, holding that the facility may succeed in dismissing a citation by demonstrating that it did what might reasonably be expected of a long-term health care facility licensee, acting under similar circumstances, to comply with the regulation or statute that allegedly was violated. “This standard differs from the required showing of due care in a typical negligence case because the facility must show reasonable care directed at complying with the regulation or statute, not reasonable conduct in general. But the standard does not require an emergency or an unusual circumstance.” Applying the statutory standard, the Court concluded substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that the facility here had established the reasonable licensee defense. View "RSCR Inland, Inc. v. State Dept. of Public Health" on Justia Law

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Kennith Evans was pulled over for driving with his off-road-only lights illuminated while on a "highway." After exhibiting signs of intoxication, Evans consented to a chemical breath test. Evans was notified his license was being suspended for driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) upheld the suspension after conducting an administrative hearing. Evans filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandate challenging the DMV's decision. Evans the appealed the superior court's denial of his writ petition. In his petition, Evans argued his suspension was not supported by substantial evidence: he contended he was allowed to use off-road lights inasmuch as the road he was on was not a "highway" as defined by section 24411 of the Vehicle Code. In addition, he claimed substantial evidence did not support the finding he was driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more because the time entries on the notice indicate the arresting officer administered two chemical breath tests before he had had the opportunity to observe Evans for 15 minutes, as required by Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations. After review, the Court of Appeal determined Evans’ initial stop was lawful, the DMV and superior court properly considered the dispatch log and breath test results, and substantial evidence supported the superior court’s findings. View "Evans v. Shiomoto" on Justia Law