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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant for causes of action arising out of defendant's breach of contract, and for fraud. Plaintiff and defendant had entered into a contract under which plaintiff paid the purchase price for a Malibu residence to be held by defendant as the "nominal owner." The trial court rejected plaintiff's fraud claim, but found that defendant had breached the contract. The trial court denied plaintiff's request for rescission, but ordered that the property be sold and the proceeds apportioned between the parties in accordance with the contract. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court did not err by granting plaintiff relief based on defendant's breach of contract; defendant's challenge to particular provisions of the judgment were rejected; and plaintiff's appeal from an order denying his motion for leave to amend was moot. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Guan v. Hu" on Justia Law

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BNSF Railway proposed a new railyard approximately four miles from the Port of Los Angeles. Environmental analysis of the project began no later that 2005. The final environmental impact report (FEIR) prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000) exceeds 5,000 pages. The trial court held that the Attorney General, who intervened in the City of Long Beach petition, was entitled to assert objections to the sufficiency of the FEIR that were not raised by any party in the administrative proceedings. BNSF challenged the trial court’s conclusion that the FEIR was deficient for failing to analyze the impact of rendering capacity at BNSF’s existing Hobart yard in the City of Commerce, 24 miles from the port, available to handle additional traffic. The court of appeal affirmed, first holding that the exhaustion requirement that generally apply to parties contesting the adequacy of an environmental impact report do not apply to the Attorney General. The FEIR failed to adequately consider air quality impacts of the project, particularly impacts to ambient air pollutant concentrations and cumulative impacts of such pollutant concentrations. View "City of Long Beach v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Manuel Saldana was a 58-year-old legal Mexican immigrant with a sixth grade education who, with no notable criminal history, was charged with committing lewd acts on three girls, G.H. (age 11), M.H. (age 8), and Y.H. (age 6) (collectively the children), who lived in the trailer park where he resided. The veracity of the children's claims was open to question. Left mostly unsupervised, the eight-year-old and the 11-year-old​ watched a daily television soap opera which frequently depicted adult themes. After watching, the girls acted out episodes themselves. The day before accusing Saldana of molesting them, they watched an episode involving child molestation. In a police station interrogation (with no Miranda advisements) Saldana confessed to inadvertently touching G.H. and M.H. on the vagina, outside their clothes. The jury watched a video of his confession and during deliberations asked to watch it again. About two hours later, the jury found Saldana guilty of four counts of committing lewd acts, violating Penal Code section 288(a). The court sentenced Saldana to six years in prison. Saldana raised numerous issues on appeal; however, the crux of this case was whether Saldana was subjected to a custodial interrogation. Saldana denied the accusations more than 25 times, but ultimately, he confessed, stating he inadvertently touched M.H. and G.H. twice on the vagina, over their clothes. In response to the prosecutor's question, Saldana testified he believed he could not leave the police station unless he confessed. The Court of Appeal found it appropriate for police to use the kind of interrogation techniques used in this matter. "However, when police create an atmosphere equivalent to that of formal arrest by questioning a suspect who is isolated behind closed doors in a police station interrogation room, by repeatedly confronting him with the evidence against him, repeatedly dismissing his denials, and telling him at the outset he is free to leave, when all the objective circumstances later are to the contrary, Miranda is triggered." The Court of Appeal found the trial court prejudicially erred in receiving Saldana's confession into evidence. Accordingly, it reversed the judgment. View "California v. Saldana" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Golden Eagle Land Investment, L.P. (Golden Eagle) and its coplaintiff-appellant Mabee Trust owned real property in the vicinity of Rancho Santa Fe. Appellants sought approvals for a joint development project (the project) from San Diego County land use authorities. At the same time, they began the process of seeking land use approvals for the project from defendant, respondent and cross-appellant, the Rancho Santa Fe Association (the Association or RSFA), whose activities in this respect were governed by a protective covenant and bylaws, as well as County general planning. Appellants sued the Association on numerous statutory and tort theories, only some of which were pled by the Trust, for injuries caused by allegedly unauthorized discussions and actions by the Association in processing the requested approvals, in communicating with County authorities and others. Appellants contended that these Association activities and communications took place without adequate compliance with the Common Interest Development Open Meeting Act. Appellants challenged the trial court's order granting in large part (eight out of nine causes of action) the Association's special motion to strike their complaint, based on each of the two prongs of the anti-SLAPP test. Appellants contended that none of these related tort and bylaws claims arose out of or involved protected Association activity, but rather they were mixed causes of action that were "centered around" alleged earlier false promises by Association representatives to abide by the provisions of the Open Meeting Act. The trial court denied the Association's motion as to one remaining cause of action, in which Golden Eagle alone alleged violations of the Open Meeting Act. The court ruled that the Association's challenged conduct in that respect was not on its face entitled to the benefits of Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, because it did not fall within the statutory language that defined protected communications during "official" proceedings. On that cause of action only, the trial court did not find it necessary to reach the second portion of the statutory test under the anti-SLAPP statute, on whether Appellants are able to establish a probability that they will prevail on their claims. The Association cross-appealed that portion of the order, arguing the trial court erred as a matter of law in finding the anti-SLAPP statute was inapplicable by its terms. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court correctly applied the anti-SLAPP statutory scheme in granting the Association's motion to strike the second through ninth causes of action, as variously alleged by one or both Appellants. In addition, the Court reversed the order in part, concluding that the trial court should have granted the motion to strike the first cause of action regarding alleged violations of the Open Meeting Act. View "Golden Eagle Land Inv. v. Rancho Santa Fe Assn." on Justia Law

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Halus owned land in a San Leandro industrial zone, where it designed and manufactured wind turbines. It proposed to install a 100-foot-tall wind turbine to generate energy and conduct research and development; it sought a variance from zoning restrictions on height. San Leandro conducted an analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) (CEQA). The turbine would have been within the San Francisco Bay Estuary, a major refuge for many species, including threatened or endangered species, and 500 feet from a residential development. The city proposed a mitigated negative declaration (MND) allowing the project to go forward with mitigation measures. In response to comments and objections, San Leandro released a revised MND adding mitigation or monitoring recommended by the Department of Fish and Game, without requiring an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). HOA filed suit. The court held that San Leandro failed to comply with CEQA. San Leandro set aside its approval. The project did not proceed. The court granted HOA attorneys’ fees, Code of Civil Procedure 1021.5. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the action resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest, a significant benefit was conferred on the general public or a large class of persons, and the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement made the award appropriate. View "Heron Bay Homeowners Association v. City of San Leandro" on Justia Law

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Defendants Rodolfo Villa and Michael Almeda appealed their convictions of first degree murder. They both contended the trial court erred by admitting evidence of Villa’s jailhouse confession and by failing to instruct on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter. Villa also contended the court erred by admitting uncharged offense evidence. Almeda also contended the court erred by denying his motion for severance. Both defendants claimed cumulative error. Finding no reversible errors leading to cumulative error, the Court of Appeal affirmed both defendants’ convictions. View "California v. Almeda" on Justia Law

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The Department moved to determine the amount of a Medi-Cal lien on the settlement of plaintiff's medical malpractice action. The Court of Appeal reduced the trial court's determination of the amount of the lien by 25 percent for statutory attorney fees. The court held that plaintiff's claim that the trial court erred in not valuing his noneconomic damages at $2.5 million was unsupportable. The court reasoned that crediting plaintiff with more in noneconomic damages than he could possibly have recovered was not a rational approach required by the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services v. Ahlborn, 547 U.S. 268. The court rejected the remaining claims and affirmed in all other respects. View "Martinez v. Department of Health Care Services" on Justia Law

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Defendant was stopped for a traffic infraction. The vehicle was searched following the deputy’s decision to impound it. Methamphetamine was found in a hidden compartment. Defendant was charged with possession for sale and transportation of methamphetamine and driving with a suspended license, with four prior narcotics convictions. Deputy Dorsey testified that the deputy who had initiated the stop found four blue baggies of equal size filled with a white substance in a paper bag under the driver’s seat. She showed those baggies to Dorsey. After field testing for cocaine produced negative results, Dorsey concluded it was a cutting agent, then noticed that the radio console “looked loose,” and suspected a hidden compartment. Using his pocket knife, Dorsey removed the loose console and between the air conditioning ducts behind the stereo, found bags of a white crystalline substance that he recognized as methamphetamine. Dorsey was trained in recognizing how illegal drugs are packaged and transported and was accepted as an expert. The court denied the motion to suppress. Defendant pleaded no contest. The court of appeal affirmed. While removal of the console exceeded the scope of a permissible inventory search, the search was supported by probable cause, based on the discovery of the baggies, and was lawful under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. View "P.eople v. Zabala" on Justia Law

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In an eminent domain matter, the condemning agency, Tri-City Healthcare District (Tri-City), made a pretrial deposit of $4.7 million and sought to take immediate possession of the subject property, a partially completed medical building. Medical Acquisition Company, Inc. (MAC) stipulated to Tri-City's possession of the building and withdrew the $4.7 million deposited under the "quick-take" provision of the California Constitution. The eminent domain matter was consolidated with another case involving a lease between the parties and ultimately proceeded to trial where a jury determined just compensation for the taking was nearly $17 million. The court subsequently ordered Tri- City to increase its deposit by about $12.2 million. Among other procedural maneuvers, Tri-City filed a notice of abandonment of the eminent domain proceeding. However, the superior court granted MAC's motion to set aside the abandonment. Tri-City appealed that order in addition to the judgment. MAC argued that after judgment, withdrawing a deposit made in an eminent domain action was governed solely by Code of Civil Procedure section 1268.140. Under that section, MAC contended the superior court could not impose any undertaking regarding the prompt release of a deposit to a single claimant after judgment has been entered. In addition, MAC argued the bonding requirement here frustrated the purpose of the quick-take provision of the California Constitution, and thus, should be declared unconstitutional. This was a matter of first impression for the Court of Appeal. After review, the Court concluded MAC was correct that any postjudgment withdrawal of a deposit in an eminent domain case was governed by section 1268.140. However, that provision allowed a court, in its discretion, to impose an undertaking upon objection by any party to the proceeding. The Court concluded MAC did not show how the trial court abused its discretion under section 1268.140. Additionally, the Court determined that MAC's contention that the bonding requirement was unconstitutional was without merit. As such, the Court of Appeal denied the requested relief. View "Medical Acquisition Company v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Dentsply, Cavitron's manufacturer and marketer, on behalf of California dentists who purchased the Cavitron ultrasonic scaler for use during oral surgical procedures, under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) (Bus. & Prof. Code, 17200) and for breach of express warranty. Plaintiffs claim that the Directions for Use indicate Cavitrons can be used in “[p]eriodontal debridement for all types of periodontal diseases,” which by implication included oral surgery; in fact, they cannot because the device accumulates biofilm in its waterlines and is incapable of delivering sterile water during surgical procedures. Following a remand, the trial court certified the class, conducted a bench trial, and rejected all claims. The court of appeal affirmed, agreeing that plaintiffs, as licensed dentists, were well aware that biofilm forms in all dental waterlines and that Cavitrons do not produce sterile water. The evidence failed to establish that the class was likely to be misled. The weight of the evidence established that dental professionals did not understand the warranty that the Cavitron was suitable for use in “[p]eriodontal debridement for all types of periodontal diseases,” as a statement that the Cavitron delivered sterile water or water without biofilm. View "Patricia A. Murray Dental Corp. v. Dentsply International., Inc." on Justia Law