Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of California
Estrada v. Royalty Carpet Mills, Inc.
In the Supreme Court of California, the case revolved around the question of whether trial courts have the inherent authority to dismiss a claim under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) on the grounds of manageability. PAGA permits aggrieved employees to act as private attorneys general to recover civil penalties on behalf of the state for Labor Code violations. In this case, defendant Royalty Carpet Mills, Inc. (Royalty) argued that trial courts should have the power to dismiss PAGA claims if they are deemed unmanageable.The Supreme Court of California held that trial courts do not have the inherent authority to dismiss PAGA claims on manageability grounds. The court emphasized that trial courts do not generally possess a broad inherent authority to dismiss claims, nor is it appropriate for them to dismiss PAGA claims by using class action manageability requirements. The court also affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which had reached the same conclusion.The court also discussed the facts of the case. Jorge Luis Estrada and Paulina Medina, former employees of Royalty, brought a PAGA claim against the company for alleged violations of Labor Code provisions requiring the provision of meal periods. The trial court certified a class action suit and later decertified it, dismissing the PAGA claim on manageability grounds. The Court of Appeal reversed this decision, which led to Royalty's appeal to the Supreme Court.The Supreme Court stated that while trial courts may use various tools to efficiently manage PAGA claims, striking such claims due to manageability concerns is not among these tools. It also noted that while trial courts and the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) share discretion in assessing a civil penalty, the trial court's discretion does not extend to determining which cases can be investigated and enforced, a power reserved for the LWDA.The Supreme Court further rejected the argument that the retrial of the plaintiffs' representative PAGA claim would violate Royalty's right to due process. It stated that while defendants have a due process right to present an affirmative defense, this does not include the right to present the testimony of an unlimited number of individual employees. It also concluded that trial courts lack inherent authority to dismiss a PAGA claim on manageability grounds to protect a defendant's due process rights. However, the court left open the possibility that a defendant could show that a trial court's use of case management techniques so abridged the defendant's right to present a defense that its right to due process was violated.The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Estrada v. Royalty Carpet Mills, Inc." on Justia Law
Quishenberry v. UnitedHealthcare, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that because Plaintiff's state-law claims were based on allegations that his father's health maintenance organization (HMO) plan and healthcare services administrator that managed his father's benefits (collectively, Defendants) breached state-law duties that incorporated and duplicated standards established under Medicare Part C, Part C's preemption provision preempted them.Plaintiff brought this action alleging a state statutory claim under the Elder Abuse Act and common law claims of negligence and wrongful death for the alleged maltreatment of his father, a Medicare Advantage (MA) enrollee who died after being discharged from a skilled nursing facility. Plaintiff alleged that the MA HMO and healthcare services administrator breached a duty to ensure his father received skilled nursing benefits to which he was entitled under his MA plan. Defendants demurred, arguing that the claims were preempted by Part C's preemption provision. The trial court sustained the demurrers, and the court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff's state-law claims were based on allegations that Defendants breached state-law duties that incorporate and duplicate standards established under Part C, the claims were expressly preempted. View "Quishenberry v. UnitedHealthcare, Inc." on Justia Law
Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court
Here, the Supreme Court addressed the propriety of a criminal defense subpoena served on Facebook seeking restricted posts and private messages of one of its users, who was a victim and critical witness in the underlying attempted murder prosecution, holding that the trial court erred in denying Facebook's motion to quash the subpoena.Lance Touchstone, the defendant in the prosecution below, argued that the trial court properly denied Facebook's motion to quash. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial court erred by conducting an incomplete assessment of the relevant factors and interests when it found that Defendant established good cause to acquire the communications at issue from Facebook. After highlighting seven factors a trial court should explicitly consider and balance in ruling on a motion to quash a subpoena directed to a third party the Supreme Court vacated the trial court's order denying the motion to quash and remanded the matter to the trial court to conduct further proceedings consistent with the guidelines set forth in this opinion. View "Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia VII) v. Changzhou SinoType Technology Co.
The Supreme Court held that the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (Convention) does not apply when parties have agreed to waive formal service of process in favor of a specified type of notification.Defendant, a company based in China, and Plaintiff entered into a contract providing that the parties would submit to the jurisdiction of California courts and to resolve disputes between them through California arbitration. The parties further agreed to provide notice and service of process to each other through Federal Express or a similar courier. Plaintiff later sought arbitration. Defendant neither responded nor appeared for the arbitration, and the arbitrator awarded Plaintiff $414,601,200. Defendant moved to set aside default judgment for insufficiency of service of process, arguing that Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Convention rendered the judgment confirming the arbitration award void. The motion was denied. The court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Convention applies only when the law of the forum state requires formal service of process to be sent abroad; and (2) because the parties' contract constituted a waiver of formal service under California law in favor of an alternative form of notification, the Convention does not apply. View "Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia VII) v. Changzhou SinoType Technology Co." on Justia Law
K.J. v. Los Angeles Unified School District
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeal dismissing an appeal of an order directing an attorney to pay sanctions because the notice of appeal identified the attorney's client as the appealing party but other indicia made it clear that the attorney was the party seeking review, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the notice of appeal should be construed to include the omitted attorney.Attorney represented K.J. in a negligence action against the Los Angeles Unified School District (collectively, LAUSD). During the litigation, LAUSD filed an application seeking sanctions from Attorney. The trial court awarded sanctions based on its finding that Attorney had violated discovery statutes. A notice of appeal was filed by K.J.'s attorney. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that when a sanctions order is entered against an attorney, the right of appeal is vested in the attorney and not the attorney's client. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that when it is clear from the record that the omitted attorney intended to participate in the appeal and the respondent was not misled or prejudiced by the omission, the rule of liberal construction requires that the notice be construed to include the omitted attorney. View "K.J. v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law
Chen v. Los Angeles Truck Centers, LLC
In this tort action arising out of a fatal tour bus accident in Arizona, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not err by declining to reconsider its prior choice of law ruling after an Indiana defendant was dismissed from this case.The parties in this case initially included plaintiffs from China and defendants from both Indiana and California. The trial court conducted the governmental interest test and concluded that Indiana law governed. Before trial, Plaintiffs accepted a settlement offer from the Indiana defendant. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court should have reconsidered the initial choice of law ruling after the Indiana defendant was dismissed from the case. The court then applied the governmental interest test and concluded that California law governed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) given the importance of determining the choice of law early in a case, the circumstances in which trial courts are required to revisit a choice of law determination should be the exception and not the rule; and (2) the trial court in this case was not required to reconsider the prior choice of law ruling based on the Indiana defendant's settlement. View "Chen v. Los Angeles Truck Centers, LLC" on Justia Law
Melendez v. San Francisco Baseball Associates LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that this lawsuit brought by security guards at Oracle Park (the former AT&T Park in San Francisco) against San Francisco Baseball Associates LLC (the Giants) alleging a violation of Cal. Lab. Code 201, subd. (a) was preempted under federal law and must be submitted to arbitration, holding that the trial court correctly denied the Giants' motion to compel arbitration.In this action, the guards claimed that they were discharged after every Giants homestead, at the end of the baseball season, and after other events at the park, and that they were entitled under section 201 to receive their unpaid wages immediately after each discharge. The Giants moved to compel arbitration, arguing that this action was preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act because the controversy required interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) entered into between the parties. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) while the CBA may be relevant to this lawsuit, the dispute turned on the meaning of "discharge" under section 201 rather than an interpretation of the CBA itself; and (2) therefore, the lawsuit was not preempted, and state courts may decide it on the merits. View "Melendez v. San Francisco Baseball Associates LLC" on Justia Law
Meza v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC
In this question involving one of the economical litigation rules the Supreme Court accepted a request by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to decide a question of state law regarding Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 98(1) and answered that section 98(a) does not categorically require that all affiants be personally present for service at an address within 150 miles of the place of trial for a reasonable period during the twenty days prior to trial.The issue before the Supreme Court arose from a limited civil case. The Ninth Circuit asked the Supreme Court whether, when a party offers into evidence an affidavit or declaration and a copy of affidavit has been served on the party against whom it is offered, section 98(a) requires the affiant to be located and personally available for service at the address provided in the declaration that is within 150 miles of the place of trial. The Supreme Court answered as set forth above, holding that a section 98(a) affiant’s personal availability for service at an address within 150 miles of the place of trial will often be required for her affidavit to be admissible as evidence but that such presence is not invariably necessary for all affiants. View "Meza v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC" on Justia Law
Jameson v. Desta
As applied to in forma pauperis litigants who are entitled to a waiver of official court reporter fees, the San Diego Superior Court’s general policy of not providing official court reporters in most civil trials while permitting privately retained court reporters for parties who can afford to pay for such reporters is invalid, and an official court reporter, or other valid means to create an official verbatim record for purposes of appeal, must generally be made available to in forma pauperis litigants upon request.Plaintiff was statutorily entitled to a waiver of official court reporter attendance fees but did not have a court reporter at a his civil trial because of the San Diego Superior Court’s policy, which provided that a court reporter would be present at a civil trial only if a private court reporter was hired and paid for by a party or the parties to the litigation. Because no court reporter was present at Plaintiff’s trial, the court of appeal rejected Plaintiff’s appeal on the ground that Plaintiff’s legal contentions could not be pursued in the absence of a reporter’s transcript. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court policy was invalid as applied to plaintiff and other fee waiver recipients. View "Jameson v. Desta" on Justia Law
Samara v. Matar
At issue was the claim and issue preclusive significance in future litigation of a conclusion relied on by the trial court and challenged on appeal but not addressed by the appellate court. The Supreme Court overruled People v. Skidmore, 27 Cal. 287 (1865), holding that Skidmore reflects a flawed view of preclusion and that stare decisis does not compel continued adherence to Skidmore.Plaintiff sued both Dr. Haitham Matar and Dr. Stephen Nahigian for professional negligence and alleged that Matar was vicariously liable for Nahigian’s alleged tort. The trial court granted summary judgment for both defendants in two successive judgments. In the first judgment with respect to Nahigian, the trial court concluded that the suit was untimely and that there was no genuine issue regarding causation. In the second judgment, the trial court concluded that the court’s earlier no-causation determination precluded holding Matar liable for Nahigian’s conduct. The court of appeals affirmed the first judgment on statute of limitations grounds without reaching the no-causation ground. As to Matar, the court of appeal reversed, concluding that claim preclusion was unavailable because Plaintiff sued both defendants in a single lawsuit and that Skidmore was inapplicable to issue preclusion. The Supreme Court held that Skidmore must be overruled and that Matar was not entitled to summary judgment on preclusion grounds. View "Samara v. Matar" on Justia Law