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Plaintiff appealed the probate court's order striking her petition to enforce a no contest clause in a trust under the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16, and denying her motion to recover attorney fees. The Court of Appeal agreed with the probate court, and with a recent decision by Division Five of this district, that the anti-SLAPP statute applies to a petition such as plaintiff's seeking to enforce a no contest clause. However, the court held that plaintiff adequately demonstrated a likelihood of success under the second step of the anti-SLAPP procedure. In this case, defendant's judicial defense of the 2007 Amendment to the Trust that she procured through undue influence met the Trust's definition of a contest that triggered the no contest clause. Furthermore, under sections 21310 and 21311, that clause was enforceable against defendant. The court also held that plaintiff provided sufficient evidence that defendant lacked probable cause to defend the 2007 Amendment. The court held that the findings of the probate court concerning defendant's undue influence, which this court affirmed, provided a sufficient basis to conclude that plaintiff has shown a probability of success on her No Contest Petition. Finally, the court held that plaintiff had the contractual right to seek reimbursement of her attorney fees incurred in resisting defendant's appeal of the probate court's ruling invalidating the 2007 Amendment. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Key v. Tyler" on Justia Law

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In 1991, 70-year-old Cary was shot and killed as she made a night deposit of the receipts from the liquor store where she worked. Davis, Taylor, Shackelfoot, and Lawless had planned the robbery. Davis attempted the robbery and shot Cary while the others waited in a car driven by Taylor. A jury convicted Taylor of first-degree felony murder and found that the killing occurred in the commission of an attempted robbery that he aided and abetted “as a major participant” and “with reckless indifference to human life,” a special circumstance requiring a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole (Penal Code 190.2(d)). The reckless indifference finding was based on the fact that after the shooting, Taylor simply drove off, later stating, “Fuck that old bitch.” In 2018, Taylor sought habeas corpus relief to have the special circumstance vacated under the California Supreme Court’s “Banks” and “Clark” decisions, which clarified what it means for an aiding and abetting defendant to be a major participant who acted with reckless indifference to human life. A defendant acts with reckless indifference to human life when he “knowingly creat[es] a ‘grave risk of death.’” The court of appeal granted his petition. Evidence of a defendant’s actions after a murder betraying an indifference to the loss of life does not, alone, establish that the defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death. There was no other evidence that Taylor had such intent. . View "In re Taylor" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Krein, a Tuolomne Water District employee, fell from a bridge and “sustained paraplegic injuries.” Du-All had contracted to periodically inspect the wastewater treatment plant, including the Bridge. Plaintiffs sued multiple defendants. All parties apparently fully complied, without compulsion, in discovery. On May 7, 2018, Du-All served its expert witness disclosure, identifying the two experts it expected to call at trial and plaintiffs served their expert witness disclosure. Following receipt of plaintiffs’ expert disclosure and the life care plan, Du-All retained supplemental experts to rebut the anticipated testimony. On May 25, Du-All served its supplemental expert disclosure (Code of Civil Procedure 2034.280), listing five experts. On June 4, plaintiffs moved to strike Du-All’s supplemental disclosure, arguing that Du-All should have disclosed all the experts in its original disclosure because these types of experts are commonly used in personal injury cases. Expert discovery had not begun. The parties stipulated to continue the trial date to October 29. The trial court ruled that four experts could not testify because they are not disclosed. The court of appeal vacated. Du-All disclosed the experts it expected to call at trial; when plaintiffs disclosed five other experts and a life care plan, Du-All designated experts to rebut plaintiffs’ position. "This is the precise reason why the Legislature codified the right to designate rebuttal experts." The trial court denied that right by placing limitations not found in the Code of Civil Procedure. View "Du-All Safety, LLC v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of aggravated arson, arson of a structure, arson of an inhabited structure, possession of flammable material, and second degree burglary arising from the 2011 burning down of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Hacienda Heights. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the crimes of arson of an inhabited structure and arson of a structure under Penal Code section 451, subdivisions (b) and (c), respectively, are forms of the same offense of simple arson. Therefore, defendant was erroneously convicted of both crimes and the court reversed his convictions on counts 2 and 5. The court remanded for the People to elect on which count they want to proceed. Finally, the court held that defendant can commit aggravated arson without necessarily committing arson, whether of a structure or an inhabited structure. View "People v. Shiga" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's two convictions for using his car in an assault with a deadly weapon. The court held that substantial evidence supported defendant's conviction where he raced across an intersection without breaking and defendant's relationship with his victims was immediate; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding no discoverable documents from in camera proceedings; the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's second Pitchess motion requesting personnel records of two additional deputies; the abstract of judgment must be corrected for errors; because defendant's case was not final when Senate Bill No. 1393 took effect and is not final now, the court remanded for the trial court's discretion as to the felony enhancement; and defendant's Duenas issues were forfeited. View "People v. Bipialaka" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In 2008, Lucinda Cox and Hollis Griffin, who had been friends for over 20 years, opened a cosmetology school together. Cox was one of the school's teachers and Griffin handled administration. The relationship deteriorated over time: Cox alleged Griffin intentionally filed a false police report accusing Cox of forgery and embezzlement, leading to Cox's arrest and seven-day incarceration. Cox's attorney asked the court to instruct the jury on false arrest (false imprisonment) and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Cox's complaint did not allege a cause of action for malicious prosecution, and the court did not instruct on malicious prosecution. After the jury awarded Cox $450,000 in a general verdict, the trial court granted Griffin's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) because under Hagberg v. California Federal Bank, 32 Cal.4th 350 (2004), citizen reports of suspected criminal activity can only be the basis for tort liability on a malicious prosecution theory. When a citizen contacts law enforcement to report a suspected crime, the privilege in Civil Code section 47(b) barred causes of action for false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, even if the police report was made maliciously. Cox's only argument on appeal was the JNOV should have been reversed because "the elements of malicious prosecution were supported by substantial evidence in the record." The Court of Appeal rejected Cox's argument because an appellant "cannot challenge a judgment on the basis of a new cause of action [she] did not advance below." The Court found an exception to that rule allowing a change in theory on appeal if the new theory involves a question of law on undisputed facts. But that exception did not apply here because the record did not contain undisputed evidence establishing all elements of malicious prosecution. Accordingly, although the jury found that Griffin intentionally filed a false police report causing Cox emotional distress, the Court of Appeal was compelled to affirm the defense judgment. View "Cox v. Griffin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former and current members of the band WAR, filed suit for breach of contract, alleging that their music publisher failed to pay them a share of the royalties generated from public performances of the band's songs. Plaintiffs alleged that paragraph 22 of the 1972 Agreement defined Composition Gross Receipts to include "all moneys" FOM had received from the sale, lease or license of the compositions. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the publisher and held that the language of the 1972 Agreement, considered in conjunction with plaintiffs' extrinsic evidence, demonstrated that the contract was reasonably susceptible to plaintiffs' proposed interpretation. The court also held that plaintiffs' interpretation was more reasonable than the interpretation FOM has proposed. In this case, FOM chose not to submit any extrinsic evidence that contradicted or otherwise responded to plaintiffs' extrinsic evidence. Rather, FOM relied solely on the text of the 1972 Agreement and asserted that it unambiguously excluded performance royalties from the revenue-sharing provision described in paragraph 22. View "Brown v. Goldstein" on Justia Law

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In the underlying actions, the People asserted claims under Business and Professions Code section 17501 against real parties in interest and alleged that real parties sold products online by means of misleading, deceptive or untrue statements regarding the former prices of those products. The trial court sustained real parties' demurrer without leave to amend on the ground that the statute was void for vagueness as applied to real parties. The Court of Appeal granted the petition for writ of mandate seeking relief from the ruling regarding the section 17501 claims, and held that real parties failed to demonstrate any constitutional defect on demurrer. Regarding real parties' challenge to section 17501 as an unconstitutional regulation of free speech, as a preliminary matter, the court rejected petitioner's contention that the statute targets only false, misleading or deceptive commercial speech; the plain language of the statute restricts protected commercial speech and thus, the statute was subject to the test for constitutional validity set forth in Central Hudson Gas & Elec. v. Public Serv. Comm'n (1980) 447 U.S. 557, 566; and, because the undeveloped record was inadequate to apply the test, real parties' "free speech" challenge necessarily failed on demurrer. The court also rejected real parties' contention that section 17501 was void for vagueness, and rejected the facial and as-applied challenges. View "People v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, while a director of a nonprofit public benefit corporation called Wildlife Waystation, filed suit against defendants alleging claims of self-dealing and misconduct. The trial court sustained defendants' demurrers to the complaint, which claimed that plaintiff no longer had standing when the Waystation board of directors removed her as a director. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that plaintiff did not lose standing to maintain this action when Waystation removed her as a director. Rather, she had standing under Corporations Code sections 5233, 5142, and 5223 at the time she instituted this action, and her subsequent removal as director did not deprive her of standing. The court also held that the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend for failing to join the Attorney General as a indispensable party and notifying the Attorney General of the action. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions. View "Summers v. Colette" on Justia Law

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Burch contracted mesothelioma following many years of installing asbestos-cement (A/C) pipe throughout California. Burch sued CertainTeed, an A/C pipe manufacturer, and won a verdict on claims for negligence, failure to warn, strict product liability, intentional concealment, and intentional misrepresentation. The court entered a judgment holding CertainTeed 100 percent liable for Burch’s economic damages and 62 percent liable for the noneconomic damages according to the jury’s fault apportionment. The court later granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on the intentional misrepresentation claim and denied JNOV on the intentional concealment claim. The court of appeal affirmed the JNOV order and upheld the trial court’s refusal to give a special jury instruction on the duty of Burch’s employers to provide a safe workplace and refusal to compel Burch to execute an acknowledgment of partial satisfaction of the judgment. The court reversed the original judgment and remanded with directions to enter a new judgment for Burch, holding CertainTeed jointly and severally liable for all of Burch’s economic and noneconomic damages. The trial court erred in allocating noneconomic damages according to CertainTeed’s proportion of fault because Civil Code section 1431.21 (Proposition 51) does not eliminate an intentional tortfeasor’s joint and several liability for noneconomic damages. View "Burch v. CertainTeed Corp." on Justia Law