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In 2012, appellant Stephen Taulbee suffered catastrophic injuries after driving his Jeep into the back of a truck parked in a triangular-shaped zone demarcated by the freeway and the exit ramp (gore point). Taulbee and his wife (collectively “appellants”) sued respondent Carlos Aldana, the truck driver, and his employer, respondent EJ Distribution Corporation (collectively “respondents”). The trial court instructed the jury that it could find Aldana negligent per se for parking in the gore point, and that Taulbee could be found negligent per se for driving into the gore point. The court declined to instruct the jury that Aldana also could be found negligent per se for driving into the gore point to park his vehicle, although appellants requested the instruction. After the jury found Aldana was not negligent for parking in the gore point, the court entered judgment for respondents. Appellants argued the trial court erred in refusing to give their requested jury instruction, and that substantial evidence supported their theory Aldana was liable for the traffic collision by driving into the gore point. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court properly declined to give the requested instruction because Aldana’s negligent driving into the gore point was not a proximate cause of the traffic accident. In any event, the Court concluded any instructional error in failing to give the instruction was harmless given the jury’s finding that Aldana was not negligent for parking in the gore point. View "Taulbee v. EJ Distribution Corp." on Justia Law

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Richmond Police Officer Gault and his colleagues conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by Navarro. Reyes sat in the front passenger seat with a lunch pail on his lap. Gault suspected Reyes “was trying to hide something because he wouldn’t move and he was breathing heavily,” so he asked Reyes to step out of the car and pat-searched him. Gault then leaned into the car and noticed a backpack unzipped with a loaded firearm inside, on the “[p]assenger floorboard to the feet of Mr. Reyes leaning against the center console.” There were at least 40 rounds of ammunition in the magazine. The firearm was not registered to either Reyes or Navarro. Reyes and Navarro were charged with receiving a large-capacity magazine (Pen. Code 32310(a)), and Reyes was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon (section 29800(a)(1)). It was further alleged that Reyes was on bail. A jury found Reyes guilty. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court committed prejudicial error in excluding Navarro’s hearsay declaration against penal interest, claiming ownership of the gun, which should have been admitted under Evidence Code section 1230 and in admitting evidence of a prior uncharged incident in which Reyes was found with firearms in his car. View "People v. Reyes" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiff Dr. Robert Paxton reviewed claims for disability benefits for the Department of Social Services, where he worked. This dispute arose after the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) determined that compensation Paxton received as part of a bonus program would not be considered when calculating his future pension benefit. He appealed a judgment denying his petition for writ of administrative mandamus challenging a decision by the Board of Administration of CalPERS upholding this interpretation. The trial court’s conclusion that the bonuses Paxton earned were for performing additional services outside his regular duties, and thus not appropriate for consideration when calculating his pension benefit, was supported by substantial evidence. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Paxton v. Bd. of Admin., CalPERS" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether a school district may be permitted to avoid its responsibility to provide special education and related services to an eligible student to fund the placement of a child with severe disabilities in a residential treatment center, where that placement was necessary to enable the child to access a meaningful educational benefit, because the child's adoptive parents happened also to have funding available for that residential placement through a noneducational governmental agency program. The Court of Appeal held that the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is not a "public agency, other than an educational agency" under Education Code section 56155; DCFS did not "place" the student in the Sonoma facility by providing Adoptive Assistance Program (AAP) assistance; and therefore Education Code section 56156.4, subdivision (a), did not provide the school district with an exception to the rule that the school district of the parents' residence is responsible for the costs of a disabled student's education. The court also disapproved of the Office of Administrative Hearings's decision in Parent v. Elk Grove Unified Sch. Dist., to the extent it is inconsistent with this decision. Therefore, the court held that the school district was responsible for the cost of the parents' transportation relating to the student's placement in the Sonoma facility. The court reversed and remanded. View "B.H. v. Manhattan Beach Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Richard Molina challenged a trial court’s order denying his petition for writ of mandate to vacate his conviction pursuant to California v. Rodriguez, 55 Cal.4th 1125 (2012). Molina argued, and the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) conceded, the court erred by denying the petition because Molina acted alone. The Court of Appeal determined mandate was not the proper vehicle to seek relief and although based on the record before the Court, it appeard Molina was entitled to relief, but not by a petition for writ of mandate. The Court declined to suggest to the parties what might be a better vehicle. The case was dismissed without prejudice. View "Molina v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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This case involved a crime that started as an attempted robbery, and ended in the death of three individuals: the victim of the attempted robbery and two of the defendants' cohorts involved in that crime. A jury convicted defendant Steven Carter of one count of first degree murder and one count of attempted robbery. Defendant Michael Hall pled no contest to voluntary manslaughter, robbery, and an enhancement. Defendants raised separate sentencing challenges on appeal: Carter argued the court violated Penal Code section 654 when it sentenced him to consecutive terms for attempted robbery and first degree murder of the robbery victim; Hall argued the court abused its discretion in imposing a 12-year sentence under the terms of his plea agreement, and that errors were made in calculating his sentence. The Court of Appeal agreed the trial court erred in Hall's subsequent resentencing, but disagreed with Carter's and Hall's remaining sentencing challenges. California Senate Bill No. 1437 amended the murder statutes, sections 188 and 189, and enacted a new statute, section 1170.95 (Stats. 2018, ch. 1015, sections 2-4), establishing procedures for eligible defendants to seek resentencing. The Court concluded Carter and Hall could not raise their claims in this appeal; they had to first petition the superior court for relief under section 1170.95. Judgment as to Carter was affirmed; judgment as to Hall was affirmed as modified. View "California v. Carter" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Patrick Barber's second appeal in this case raised an issue of first impression for the Court of Appeal's review. Upon remand from Barber’s first appeal (Barber I), defendant-respondent, the California State Personnel Board (SPB), awarded Barber a lump sum back pay award, which resulted in Barber incurring increased income tax liability. SPB denied Barber’s motion for recovery for increased tax liability. The trial court upheld SPB’s decision and denied Barber’s petition for writ of mandamus. Barber appealed the denial of his writ petition and motion for increased tax liability recovery, contending he was entitled to recover damages for incurring increased tax liability because his increased tax liability was caused by real party in interest and respondent, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) improperly terminating his employment. Barber argued awarding him such relief was consistent with the remedial statutory purpose of Government Code section 19584,2 of making an improperly terminated employee whole by restoring the employee to the financial position he or she would otherwise have occupied had employment not been wrongfully interrupted. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding Barber was not entitled to increased tax liability recovery under section 19584 or to such recovery as equitable relief, because such relief was not statutorily authorized. View "Barber v. CA State Personnel Bd." on Justia Law

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Appellant Molly Kent challenged a specific ruling of the family court on her request to modify a child custody and child support order issued by a North Carolina court. The family court granted in part and denied in part the appellant's request, without first determining whether the California court had jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Accordingly, without reaching the merits of the arguments related to the substantive ruling on appeal, the California Court of Appeal reversed the order because, based on the record before the family court at the time it ruled, the court lacked jurisdiction to modify the North Carolina order. View "In re Marriage of Kent" on Justia Law

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In this dissolution proceeding, Stephanie George appeals an order requiring her to pay $10,000 in sanctions pursuant to Family Code section 271 to her ex-husband Daniel Deamon after Deamon was required to file a motion for entry of judgment pursuant to the terms of the parties' settlement. George contends that the family court erred by awarding sanctions without considering any oral testimony, relying instead on documents submitted in support of the sanctions motion. The Court of Appeal concluded George's argument lacked merit, and accordingly affirm the order. View "In re Marriage of George & Deamon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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GEICO appealed a judgment awarding punitive damages to plaintiff for GEICO's bad faith breach of an insurance contract. The Court of Appeal affirmed the punitive damages award and held that there was sufficient evidence in the record to show that GEICO's managing agent ratified conduct warranting punitive damages. In this case, GEICO concluded that plaintiff's claim was worth far less than the policy limits by disregarding information provided by plaintiff showing that he had a permanent, painful injury, and instead selectively relied on portions of medical records that supported GEICO's position that plaintiff had fully recovered. Furthermore, the $1 million in punitive damages was within the constitutionally permitted range in view of the degree of reprehensibility of GEICO's conduct. View "Mazik v. GEICO General Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law