Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business Law
Triyar Hospitality Management v. WSI (II) – HWP, LLC
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order amending a judgment to add alter ego judgment debtors. After Triyar entered into a contract to purchase a hotel property from WSI, Triyar filed suit against WSI for causes of action including fraud and specific performance. The trial court found that WSI had not breached the contract, because Triyar's failure to learn of the Hyatt agreement's termination was due to Triyar's fault in failing to conduct a sufficient investigation. The trial court then awarded WSI $2,172,615 in attorney fees and costs. After Triyar appealed, the trial court awarded an additional $193,273.20 in fees and costs. After WSI was unable to collect any amount of the judgment, WSI made a motion to amend the judgment to add Steven Yari and Shawn Yari. The trial court found that Triyar is not capitalized for buying major hotels, and the finding that the Yaris were alter egos was a fair outcome. The trial court also found that even if the alter ego doctrine does not strictly apply, the inequities are such that an exception can be made.Under either de novo or abuse of discretion review, the court held that WSI prevailed on its motion to add the Yaris as judgment debtors. In this case, the Yaris concede that they had control of the underlying litigation and were virtually represented in that proceeding. The court also concluded that there is overwhelming evidence of a unity of interest and ownership such that the separate personalities of the entity and the owners do not exist. Furthermore, it would be inequitable to preclude WSI from collecting its judgment by treating Triyar as a separate entity. View "Triyar Hospitality Management v. WSI (II) – HWP, LLC" on Justia Law
Jones v. Goodman
Trevor Jones contended he was entitled to a percentage of the successful Pura Vida bracelet business established with his former friends and colleagues, defendants Paul Goodman and Griffin Thall. He claimed the parties had formed a partnership regarding a bracelet business and sued Goodman and Thall seeking (among other things) a partnership buyout under California Corporations Code section 16701. Defendants denied Jones’s claims, and judgment was entered in their favor. After trial, Defendants sought to recover attorney fees pursuant to section 16701, which authorized an equitable award of attorney and expert fees “against a party that the court finds acted arbitrarily, vexatiously, or not in good faith.” The trial court denied Defendants’ motion on two grounds: (1) the motion was untimely under applicable rules; and (2) on the merits, the court declined to find that Jones acted arbitrarily, vexatiously, or not in good faith. Defendants appealed, contesting the trial court's sua sponte determination the motion was untimely, and they further challenged the court’s refusal to find Jones acted arbitrarily, vexatiously, or not in good faith. After review, the Court of Appeal concurred with the trial court, rejected Defendants’ claims of error, and affirmed the order. View "Jones v. Goodman" on Justia Law
Levy v. Only Cremations for Pets, Inc.
Plaintiffs Hillarie and Keith Levy appealed the dismissal of their lawsuit filed against defendant, Only Cremations for Pets, Inc. Plaintiffs alleged it agreed to cremate individually two of their dogs, but then intentionally sent them random ashes instead. Plaintiffs sought recovery of emotional distress damages under contract and tort law. The Court of Appeal determined: the complaint failed to state a cause of action under any contract theory; and there were no factual allegations showing the existence of any contract between plaintiffs and defendant. Plaintiffs’ veterinarian, not plaintiffs, contracted with defendant. However, the complaint adequately pled two tort theories: trespass to chattel and negligence. The Court found allegations here "fit comfortably" in a cause of action for trespass to chattel claim, which permitted recovery of emotional distress damages. The allegations also supported a negligence cause of action because defendant advertised its services as providing emotional solace, and thus it was foreseeable that a failure to use reasonable care with the ashes would result in emotional distress. The Court reversed and remanded, giving plaintiffs an opportunity to plead more fully a third-party beneficiary cause of action. View "Levy v. Only Cremations for Pets, Inc." on Justia Law
Quidel Corporation v. Super. Ct.
Quidel Corporation (Quidel) petitioned for a writ of mandate and/or prohibition to direct the trial court to vacate its order granting summary adjudication. Quidel contended the trial court incorrectly concluded a provision in its contract with Beckman Coulter, Inc. (Beckman) was an invalid restraint on trade in violation of Business and Professions Code, section 16600. Quidel argued the trial court improperly extended the holding from Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP, 44 Cal.4th 937 (2008) beyond the employment context to a provision in the parties’ 2003 BNP Assay Agreement (the Agreement). In its original, published opinion, the Court of Appeal concluded it was not, granted the petition and issued a writ instructing the trial court to vacate the December 2018 order granting summary judgment on the first cause of action. The California Supreme Court then granted review of the Court of Appeal's opinion and ordered briefing deferred pending its decision in Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc., S256927. On August 3, 2020, the Supreme Court issued Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc., 9 Cal.5th 1130 (2020), which held “a rule of reason applies to determine the validity of a contractual provision by which a business is restrained from engaging in a lawful trade or business with another business.” The Quidel matter was transferred back to the Court of Appeals with directions to vacate its previous opinion and reconsider the case in light of Ixchel. The appellate court issued a new opinion in which it concluded the trial court’s decision was incorrect. The trial court was directed to vacate the December 7, 2018 order granting summary adjudication on the first cause of action. View "Quidel Corporation v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
Changsha Metro Group Co. v. Xufeng
The trial court found defendants Peng Xufeng and Jia Siyu filed a frivolous anti-SLAPP motion against Changsha Metro Group Co., Ltd. (Changsha). Changsha sued defendants for: (1) breach of fiduciary duty; (2) constructive fraud; (3) aiding and abetting; (4) unjust enrichment; and (5) a constructive trust. Defendants responded with an anti-SLAPP motion. The trial court ordered defendants to pay Changsha $61,915 for Changsha’s attorney’s fees in opposing the anti-SLAPP motion. Defendants contended the trial court erred in awarding attorney’s fees to Changsha because: (1) defendants were not given a 21-day safe harbor period; and (2)Changsha requested attorney’s fees in its opposition to the anti-SLAPP motion, rather than in a separate motion. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Changsha Metro Group Co. v. Xufeng" on Justia Law
Luxury Asset Lending v. Philadelphia Television Network
Two powerful friends decided to take out significant loans in order to invest in a purported business opportunity overseas. The business opportunity was in reality, a scam. The friends offered as collateral assets which were not theirs to encumber. The third party to whom the assets belonged had no idea the assets were being so encumbered. And the "lender" was another investor in the scam intent on recouping its investment. The opportunity was "a complete bust," and the friends were unable to pay the loans back. The lender sued to collect what was owed and foreclose on its secured interest in the offered collateral. The friends failed to answer the lawsuit, and a default judgment was obtained. The lender then began to execute on its judgment. The issues presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on two main issues: (1) whether the default judgment was void; and (2) assuming it was valid, whether the trial court should have vacated the default and default judgment under its statutory and equitable powers. The Court determined the order denying the motion to vacate default judgment should have been reversed, and the matter remanded for the trial court to vacate the default, default judgment and an assignment order (entered April 30, 2018). View "Luxury Asset Lending v. Philadelphia Television Network" on Justia Law
RGC Gaslamp v. Ehmcke Sheet Metal Co.
Subcontractor Ehmcke Sheet Metal Company (Ehmcke) recorded a mechanic’s lien to recoup payment due for sheet metal fabrication and installation work done on a luxury hotel project in downtown San Diego. Project owner RGC Gaslamp, LLC (RGC) secured a bond to release the lien. Thereafter Ehmcke filed three successive mechanic’s liens, each identical to the first, prompting RGC to sue it for quiet title, slander of title, and declaratory and injunctive relief. The trial court granted Ehmke’s special motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute. The trial court found that Ehmcke met its moving burden because the filing of even an invalid lien was protected petitioning activity. Thereafter, the court found that RGC failed to make a prima facie showing that its sole remaining cause of action for slander of title could withstand application of the litigation privilege. RGC appeals both findings, arguing that the duplicative filing of mechanic’s liens after the posting of a bond was not protected activity. The Court of Appeal concluded after review that RGC erroneously imported substantive requirements of the litigation privilege into the first step of the anti-SLAPP inquiry. Ehmcke met that moving burden once its erroneously excluded reply declarations were considered. With the burden shifted on prong two, RGC failed to make a prima facie showing that the litigation privilege did not bar its slander-of-title cause of action. The anti-SLAPP motion was thus properly granted, and Court likewise affirmed the subsequent attorney’s fees and costs award. View "RGC Gaslamp v. Ehmcke Sheet Metal Co." on Justia Law
People v. Uber Technologies, Inc.
The state brought a civil enforcement action against Uber and Lyft, alleging that the companies improperly misclassify drivers using their ride-hailing platforms as independent contractors rather than employees, depriving them of benefits to which employees are entitled. This misclassification, the state alleged, also gives the defendants an unfair advantage against competitors, while costing the public significant sums in lost tax revenues and increased social-safety-net expenditures.The court of appeal affirmed the entry of a preliminary injunction that restrains the companies from classifying their drivers as independent contractors. Based on the breadth of the term “hiring entity” and the absence of an exemption for ride-sharing companies in Labor Code section 2775, there is little doubt the Legislature contemplated that rideshare drivers would be treated as employees. While the defendants’ business models are different from traditional employment, particularly with regard to drivers’ freedom to work as many hours as they wish, when and where they choose, and their ability to work on multiple apps at the same time, the mode in which the drivers are used met the elements of employment. The companies solicit riders, screen drivers, set standards for drivers' vehicles, track information on drivers using the apps, and may use negative ratings to deactivate drivers. Riders request rides and pay for them through defendants’ apps. The remuneration may be seen as flowing from riders to the defendants, then from defendants to drivers, less any fee associated with the ride. View "People v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law
Gruber v. Yelp Inc.
Yelp publishes crowdsourced business reviews and allows businesses to advertise on its Website and mobile app. Yelp employs over 2,000 sales representatives to solicit advertising sales. Gruber, a solo attorney practitioner, was contacted by phone several times by Yelp sales representatives. During these calls, in which the sales representatives’ voices were recorded, Gruber discussed confidential and financial information regarding his law firm. When conversing with one representative, who happened to be his friend, Gruber sometimes joked, discussed private topics, and used profanity. Gruber did not recall that any Yelp sales representative notified him that the conversations were being recorded. Gruber sued under the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) Pen. Code 630, alleging unlawful recording and intercepting of communications; unlawful recording of and eavesdropping upon confidential communications; and unlawful wiretapping.The trial court granted Yelp summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed. While Gruber was not recorded during any calls (only Yelp’s representatives were recorded), CIPA is violated if a defendant records any portion of a conversation between two or more individuals. When the Yelp salespeople spoke during the one-sided recordings of their conversations with Gruber, the recordings revealed firsthand and in real-time their understanding of or reaction to Gruber’s words. Yelp failed to meet its burden of production regarding whether its use of VoIP technology precludes CIPA's application. View "Gruber v. Yelp Inc." on Justia Law
Reales Investment, LLC v. Johnson
Two months before trial, appellant Reales Investment, LLC’s attorney moved to withdraw from the case. Reales did not retain counsel until a few days before trial began, and it did not participate in any of the pretrial proceedings mandated by Riverside County Superior Court Local Rule 3401. On the morning of the first day of trial, Reales’ new attorney orally requested a continuance. The trial court denied the request, and also excluded all documents and witnesses Reales did not disclose in pretrial exchanges between the parties as required by Rule 3401. Because Reales did not disclose anything under Rule 3401, it was precluded from offering any evidence or testimony at trial, so the trial court granted a nonsuit for respondent Thomas Johnson. On appeal, Reales argued the trial court’s pretrial rulings were an abuse of discretion. After review, the Court of Appeal found no abuse of discretion and affirmed the judgment. View "Reales Investment, LLC v. Johnson" on Justia Law