Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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On February 22, a criminal complaint was filed against the defendant for unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle. On February 26, the defendant was in custody and present in court for a pretrial hearing. The court continued the matter to March 20. The Surety posted a bond of $25,000 for the defendant’s release from custody. At the March 20 pretrial hearing, the defendant was not present. The court told defense counsel “I’ll give you a week to bring him back in. … Bench warrant of 35,000 held … it’s not likely to waste your family and friends money and then FTA on a 10851.” On March 28, the defendant again failed to appear. The court ordered bail forfeited. A notice of forfeiture was mailed to the parties on March 29.On October 2, the Surety moved to vacate, forfeit, and exonerate bail or to extend time, arguing that the court lost jurisdiction over the bond because it failed to declare a forfeiture (Penal Code 13051) when the defendant did not appear on March 20. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the motion. The trial court had a rational basis for believing there may have been an excuse for the defendant’s failure to appear sufficient to warrant continuing the case without declaring a forfeiture and retained jurisdiction to later declare the bail forfeited. View "People v. Bankers Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Robert filed a petition, alleging that Dae violated a “no contest” clause in a family trust by filing a previous petition challenging Robert’s actions as trustee. Dae’s subsequently moved to strike Robert’s petition under the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute (Code Civ. Proc. 425.16.)The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the anti-SLAPP motion. Robert’s No Contest Petition arose from protected petitioning activity under Code of Civil Procedure 425.16(e)(1); to defeat Dae’s motion, Robert was required to show a probability that he would prevail on that Petition. Robert made such a showing. Dae’s petition broadly challenged Robert’s conduct in setting up a financial structure that Robert claimed was designed to avoid estate taxes. If Robert’s claim is true, Dae’s petition would implicate the no-contest provision by seeking to “impair” trust provisions giving Robert the authority to manage trust assets. Dae also challenged his own removal as a beneficiary. Whether that more specific challenge amounts to a “contest” for purposes of the no-contest clause depends upon the trustors’ intent. Robert provided sufficient evidence of the trustors’ intent to allow a change of beneficiary to make a prima facie showing of probability of prevailing on Robert’s contention that Dae’s claims are a “contest.” The court expressed no opinion on the outcome of Robert’s petition. View "Dae v. Traver" on Justia Law

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Harring is serving life without the possibility of parole for a murder he committed in 1997 before he turned 18 years old. The superior court denied his petition to recall his sentence under Penal Code section 1170(d)(2).The court of appeal reversed. Under section 1170(d)(2) petitioners must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that at least one of four mitigating circumstances is true. Harring attested he does “not have juvenile felony adjudications for assault or other felony crimes with a significant potential for personal harm to victims.” Harring had a prior juvenile felony adjudication for second-degree burglary; the court of appeal concluded that courts must consider the felony crime subject to juvenile adjudication and its elements to determine whether it is a crime with “significant potential for personal harm to victims.” The conduct comprising the crime of second-degree commercial burglary is unlike assault in that it does not involve an act that by its nature creates a risk of physical harm to another.The court declined to consider whether Harring is entitled to a "Franklin" proceeding to make a record of youth-related factors relevant to an eventual parole hearing. If Harring wishes to request a Franklin hearing, he may do so with the trial court. View "People v. Harring" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Department filed suit against M&N, alleging numerous causes of action stemming from defendants' operation of a business that purchased retail installment sales contracts from used car dealerships where defendants used a formula that considered the gender of the car purchaser in deciding how much to pay for the contracts. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the Department on the first and second causes of action, which alleged violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code, 51) and Civil Code section 51.5, and assessed over $6 million in statutory damages pursuant to Civil Code section 52, subdivision (a). The trial court dismissed the fifth, sixth, and seventh causes of action, which alleged violations of Government Code section 12940, subdivisions (i) and (k) of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in dismissing the fifth cause of action and otherwise affirmed the trial court's judgment. In the fifth cause of action, the Department alleged that M&N "knowingly compelled and coerced its employees to engage in practices that violated" FEHA and Civil Code sections 51 and 51.5, in violation of section 12940, subdivision (i). The court held that employees who are coerced by their employer to violate Civil Code sections 51 and 51.5 are "aggrieved" within the meaning of section 12965, subdivision (a) and have standing to sue their employer pursuant to section 12940, subdivision (i). Therefore, the employees of M&N who were coerced by M&N into violating Civil Code sections 51 and 51.5 could be individually liable for sex discrimination. The court explained that these employees would necessarily be "aggrieved" by their employer's unlawful employment practice as their personal interests would be affected by their employer's misconduct. Therefore, the Department was authorized to file a civil action on behalf of these employees and the trial court erred by dismissing the fifth cause of action. View "Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. M&N Financing Corp." on Justia Law

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After Holdings defaulted on a loan to purchase a commercial aircraft, Banc filed suit alleging that Holdings breached the terms of the loan documents in various respects. Banc also alleged it had a right to sell the aircraft in the possession of Jet Edge as collateral for the loan and to recover money owed by Jet Edge to Holdings based on a subordination agreement. Furthermore, Banc asserted claims for breach of the aircraft usage agreement and conversion. The trial court granted Holdings and Jet Edge's petition to compel arbitration, finding that the American Arbitration Association (AAA) rules provided for delegation of the determination of whether the parties' dispute arose out of the arbitration clause and thus the arbitrator should decide whether Banc's claims were arbitrable.The Court of Appeal granted Banc's petition for writ of mandate compelling the trial court to vacate its order granting Holdings's petition to compel arbitration. The court agreed with Banc that the trial court erred in relying on the Supreme Court's decision in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer and White Sales, Inc. (2019) ___ U.S. ___ [139 S.Ct. 524, 529]. The court explained that the court, in Schein, considered who should decide whether the parties' dispute arising from a specific contract with an arbitration clause was arbitrable. In this case, however, the question on Holdings's petition to compel arbitration was whether the parties agreed to arbitrate their dispute over the loan documents, which did not have arbitration clauses, a question the court must decide in the first instance. View "Banc of California, NA v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Muskan Food sought a writ of mandate challenging the City's approval of a conditional use permit for the development of a neighborhood shopping center across the street from Muskan Food's gas station and convenience store. The superior court denied the petition after concluding that the City did not misinterpret a city ordinance and substantial evidence supported the City's decision to approve the conditional use permit.The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that Muskan Food did not exhaust the administrative appeal process set forth in the City's municipal code and this failure bars its lawsuit. The court interpreted the word "petition" broadly and concluded that it encompasses oral requests made to the mayor or councilmember. The court also concluded that the subjective intent of the person seeking to exhaust the administrative procedures is not the appropriate test. Rather, the communication should be given an objectively reasonable interpretation. In this case, Muskan Food, which has the burden of proving it exhausted the administrative remedies, has not established that it fulfilled the Municipal Code's petition requirement by orally requesting the councilmember appeal the planning commission's decision approving the conditional use permit. Furthermore, after applying the objectively reasonable standard to an e-mail Muskan Foods' president sent to the mayor, the court concluded that it does not constitute a "petition" for purposes of Municipal Code section 15-5017-A(2). View "Muskan Food & Fuel, Inc. v. City of Fresno" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Mendez was convicted of 12 counts of second-degree robbery and one count of attempted second-degree robbery, with personal weapon use enhancement findings as to 12 of the counts (Penal Code 12022.53(b)). He was sentenced to 164 months for the robbery counts plus 560 months on the weapon enhancements, a total term of 724 months. By letter to the Los Angeles County Superior Court dated 2019, the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation recommended a recall of Mendez’s sentence, noting an amendment to section 12022.53(h), effective January 2018, giving courts discretion to strike or dismiss a personal use firearm enhancement at sentencing or resentencing. The trial court declined.Mendez argued the trial court failed to adequately weigh his postconviction record and afforded him no opportunity to be heard regarding the CDCR recommendation. The court of appeal reversed. In view of the substantial liberty interest at stake, the court remanded to the trial court to give notice to the parties, to allow the parties the opportunity to supplement the CDCR’s recommendation with additional relevant information, and to enable the trial court to exercise its discretion whether to recall Mendez’s sentence in light of such information as well as any briefing the parties might choose to submit. View "People v. Mendez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In April 2018, Cavey filed a personal injury action for injuries sustained in a traffic accident involving a vehicle driven by a School District employee. Citing the six-month statute of limitations, Government Code 945.6,(a)(1), the trial court dismissed. The theory of untimeliness was based on the District’s July 19, 2017 notice rejecting a claim presented without Cavey’s authorization by a chiropractic firm that was treating her injuries, which, allegedly, started the statute of limitations.The court of appeal reversed. The claim submitted by the chiropractic firm was not presented “by a person acting on … her behalf” for purposes of section 910. The limitations period did not begin to run until the authorized claim submitted by Cavey’s lawyers was deemed rejected in November 2017. Using a November 2017 start date, the April 2018 complaint was timely under the six-month statute of limitations. In addition, the District’s notice of rejection was mailed to the wrong address, so the two-year statute of limitations in section 945.6(a)(2) applies. View "Cavey v. Tualla" on Justia Law

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Three appeals arose from an insurance coverage dispute following a wildfire that burned in Siskiyou County, California. In September 2014, the Boles Fire damaged and destroyed numerous homes in the town of Weed, including the homes owned by plaintiffs Gary Andrighetto, James Dalin, and Matthew Vulk. Plaintiffs and others filed suit against their insurance company, defendant State Farm General Insurance Company, alleging various claims, including breach of contract and negligence. Central to the parties’ dispute was whether State Farm intentionally or negligently underinsured plaintiffs’ homes. Plaintiffs argued their homes were insufficiently insured due to State Farm’s alleged failure to calculate reasonable or adequate policy limits on their behalf for the full replacement cost of their homes. After the trial court granted State Farm’s motion for summary judgment against Andrighetto, Dalin and Vulk stipulated to entry of judgment in favor of State Farm. Each plaintiff timely appealed, and the Court of Appeal consolidated the appeals for argument and disposition. Thereafter, the Court requested that the parties discuss in their briefing whether the judgments in the Dalin and Vulk matters needed to be reversed pursuant to Magana Cathcart McCarthy v. CB Richard Ellis, Inc., 174 Cal.App.4th 106 (2009). After review, the Court affirmed the trial court in the Andrighetto matter; the Court reversed in the Dalin and Vulk matters, and remanded those for further proceedings. View "Vulk v. State Farm General Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Cheryl Thurston was blind and used screen reader software to access the Internet and read website content. Defendant-respondent Omni Hotels Management Corporation (Omni) operated hotels and resorts. In November 2016, Thurston initiated this action against Omni, alleging that its website was not fully accessible by the blind and the visually impaired, in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. By way of a special verdict, the jury rejected Thurston’s claim and found that she never intended to make a hotel reservation or ascertain Omni’s prices and accommodations for the purpose of making a hotel reservation. On appeal, Thurston contended the trial court erred as a matter of law: (1) by instructing the jury that her claim required a finding that she intended to make a hotel reservation; and (2) by including the word “purpose” in the special verdict form, which caused the jury to make a “factual finding as to [her] motivation for using or attempting to use [Omni’s] Website.” Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Thurston v. Omni Hotels Management Corporation" on Justia Law