Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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Pillar hired Epiphyte to convert its cryptocurrency into Euros. Epiphyte informed Pillar that it used Payward’s online exchange to convert its clients’ cryptocurrencies. Pillar transferred its cryptocurrency into Epiphyte’s account on Payward’s platform. After Epiphyte converted the currency but before the exchanged funds were transferred to Pillar’s bank account, four million Euros belonging to Pillar were stolen from Epiphyte’s account.Pillar sued Payward, alleging Payward knew or should have known that Epiphyte was using its Payward account on Pillar's behalf, failed to use standard security measures that would have prevented the theft, and falsely advertised that it provided the best security in the business. Payward moved to compel arbitration, claiming that Epiphyte agreed to Payward’s “Terms of Service” when it created an account, as required for all users, that those Terms included an arbitration agreement, and that Pillar was bound by that agreement.The court of appeal affirmed the denial of Payward’s motion. There is no evidence Epiphyte was acting as Pillar’s agent when it agreed to the Terms two years before Pillar hired it or that the agency relationship automatically bound the principal to the agent’s prior acts. There is no evidence Pillar knew the arbitration agreements existed or had a right to rescind them. No ratification occurred. There was no intent to benefit Pillar or similar parties. Pillar’s claims are not inextricably intertwined with the Terms. View "Pillar Project AG v. Payward Ventures, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2014, ALADS filed suit against defendants for breaches of their fiduciary duty to ALADS as members of its board of directors. ALADS obtained a temporary restraining order requiring the return of $100,000, and several weeks later a preliminary injunction preventing Defendant Macias from claiming to be a director. In 2018, the trial court entered judgment for ALADS, awarding damages sustained by ALADS and a permanent injunction, but found ALADS did not have standing to recover monetary compensation for its members. Afterwards, ALADs sought cost-of-proof sanctions, which the trial court denied. Both parties appealed.The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court did not err in its conclusion that defendants breached their fiduciary duties to ALADS, or in its award of damages for harm to ALADS (except in one very minor respect), or in its award of a permanent injunction. However, the trial court did err when it concluded that ALADS did not have standing to seek the $7.8 million in damages on behalf of its members. The court explained that ALADS proved those damages without objection from defendants and had standing to do so. The court further concluded that ALADS was entitled to cost-of-proof sanctions. Accordingly, the court amended the judgment to include the $7.8 million in damages to ALADS's members, affirmed the judgment as amended, and remanded for the trial court to determine the appropriate amount of cost-of-proof sanctions. View "Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. Macias" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, cross-defendant and appellant Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation (NMAC) was a subsidiary of nonparty Nissan Motors of North America. NMAC was a specialty lender that loaned money to Nissan automobile dealers. Defendants, cross-complainants and appellants, Michael A. Kahn (Kahn) and his wife Tami L. Kahn, plus a group of now defunct limited liability company auto dealerships they owned, were NMAC borrowers (collectively, “Superior”). This appeal and cross-appeal stemmed from the retrial of Superior’s cross-claims against NMAC. The jury awarded Superior $256.45 million in compensatory and punitive damages based on two promissory fraud theories: negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment. The trial court granted NMAC’s motion for new trial based on juror misconduct, but denied NMAC’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). Superior contended NMAC forfeited its right to complain about juror misconduct. It also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court’s discretionary decision to grant NMAC’s new trial motion. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded NMAC did not forfeit the basis for its new trial motion and substantial evidence supported the court’s juror misconduct findings. And contrary to Superior’s claim, the Court found nothing arbitrary or capricious in its prejudice ruling. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the new trial order. View "Nissan Motor Acceptance Cases" on Justia Law

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The Contractors’ State License Law (Bus. & Prof. Code 7031), allows any person who utilizes the services of unlicensed building contractors to sue for disgorgement of all compensation paid for the performance of any act or contract, even when the work performed is free of defects. CDC brought a section 7031(b) claim for disgorgement against Obayashi in 2017, more than eight years after the completion of construction of the InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco. The issue of licensure came to light during litigation concerning construction defects.The trial court dismissed, citing Code of Civil Procedure 340(a), the one-year limitations period for statutory forfeiture or penalty causes of action. The court of appeal affirmed. The one-year statute of limitations applies to disgorgement claims brought under section 7031, and the discovery rule and other equitable doctrines do not. Even if such doctrines applied to statutory disgorgement claims, they would not apply under the circumstances presented under the pleadings. The court also upheld the trial court’s award of $231,834 in contractual attorney fees; the parties’ agreement contemplated the recovery of attorney fees for non-contractual causes of action that are initiated because of an alleged breach of the parties’ contract. View "San Francisco CDC LLC v. Webcor Construction L.P." on Justia Law

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An electronic gaming device designed and supplied by Planet Bingo, LLC caused a fire in the United Kingdom. Several third parties made demands that Planet Bingo pay their damages resulting from the fire. However, Planet Bingo’s liability insurer, the Burlington Insurance Company (Burlington), denied coverage. Planet Bingo filed this action for breach of contract and bad faith against Burlington. In a previous appeal, the Court of Appeal held that Burlington’s policy did afford coverage, though only if one of the third-party claimants filed suit against Planet Bingo in the United States or Canada. Such a suit was then filed. Burlington accepted the defense and managed to settle the suit for its policy limits. In this action, the trial court granted summary judgment for Burlington, ruling that Burlington had provided all of the benefits due under the policy. Planet Bingo appealed, contending that Burlington conducted an inadequate investigation, and that Burlington wrongfully failed to settle the third-party claims, instead, denying coverage in the hope that the claimants would sue Planet Bingo in the United Kingdom, which would have let Burlington off the coverage hook. Planet Bingo claimed (and Burlington did not dispute) that it lost profits because the fire claims remained pending and unsettled. The Court of Appeal held Planet Bingo made out a prima facie case that Burlington was liable for failure to settle. Even though none of the claimants made a formal offer to settle within the policy limits, one subrogee sent a subrogation demand letter; according to Planet Bingo’s expert witness, in light of the standards of the insurance industry, this represented an opportunity to settle within the policy limits. The Court therefore did not address Planet Bingo’s claim that Burlington conducted an inadequate investigation. The Court also did not decide whether lost profits were recoverable as damages, because this issue was not raised below. View "Planet Bingo LLC v. The Burlington Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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California residents who sell goods on eBay, an online marketplace, as part of their online businesses and use PayPal to receive payments for many of their sales filed a putative class action. The suit challenged provisions of the user agreements, including PayPal’s policy of placing a temporary hold on funds in a user’s account when PayPal believes there is a high level of risk associated with a transaction or a user’s account; PayPal’s retention of interest on users’ funds that are placed in pooled accounts when users maintain a balance in their PayPal accounts; PayPal’s buyer’s protection policy, which allows buyers, under certain circumstances, to dispute transactions up to 180 days after the date of purchase; and a claim that PayPal aids and abets buyers in defrauding sellers by the manner in which it resolves disputes. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the claims against PayPal, without leave to amend. The challenged practices are not unconscionable. The degree of procedural unconscionability that arises from the fact that a contract is one of adhesion is ‘minimal.” View "Chen v. Paypal, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that defendant transferred his ownership in the LLC, a medical marijuana dispensary, to her in April 2015. Unbeknownst to plaintiff and despite that alleged transfer, defendant later converted the LLC from a limited liability company to a corporation and then a mutual benefit corporation in his name called Holistic Supplements Inc. (the corporation) and changed the business address. Defendant also claimed rights to a Business Tax Registration Certificate, a city-issued tax document that enabled the dispensary to operate. Plaintiff and the LLC filed suit against defendant and the corporation for conversion, unfair competition, and declaratory relief, among other claims.The Court of Appeal concluded that nonsuit was erroneous on plaintiff's individual claims because she has standing to sue for conversion of her personal property membership interest in the LLC; nonsuit was erroneous on claims against defendant in his individual capacity, since he can be held liable for personally participating in the tortious conduct of the corporation; nonsuit was erroneous on the unfair competition law claims because the court rejected the only two grounds for nonsuit defendants raise on appeal; and the Business Tax Registration Certificate is property subject to conversion, so the trial court prejudicially erred when it instructed the jury it was not. The court also rejected defendant's contention that plaintiff lacked standing because she failed to file a petition for reinstatement of the LLC pursuant to Government Code section 12261. The court explained that plaintiff and the LLC permissibly sought reinstatement as part of this lawsuit, so they did not need to file a separate petition in the superior court. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Holistic Supplements, LLC v. Stark" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law
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Putnam purchased a service-only (satellite) Subaru facility in San Francisco. Putnam entered into a temporary “Dealer Candidate Satellite Service Facility Agreement.” Subaru and Putnam subsequently executed a Subaru Dealer Agreement for the sale and service of vehicles at a Burlingame dealership and a five-year (renewable) Satellite Service Facility Agreement, which contained an arbitration provision. In 2017, Subaru stated that it would not approve Putnam’s proposed relocation of the satellite facility and would not renew the Satellite Agreement in 2019. Putnam filed protests with the New Motor Vehicle Board. Subaru moved to compel arbitration.The trial court found that the Satellite Agreement did not come within the Motor Vehicle Franchise Contract Arbitration Fairness Act, an exception to the Federal Arbitration Act. Putnam was compelled to arbitrate claims arising from that agreement. The court denied Subaru’s request to compel Putnam to dismiss its Board protests, which were stayed pending arbitration. An arbitrator found that the Satellite Agreement was a franchise, that Subaru was required to show good cause, and that Subaru had established good cause for terminating the Satellite Agreement.The court of appeal affirmed the confirmation of the arbitration award, rejecting arguments that the arbitrator lacked jurisdiction to make a good cause determination; enforcement of the arbitration provision was illegal under the Vehicle Code; public policy underlying California’s New Motor Vehicle Board Act precluded the arbitrator from making a good cause determination; and that Putnam’s due process rights were violated when Subaru failed to provide the required notice of the reasons for termination. View "Subaru of America, Inc. v. Putnam Automotive, Inc." on Justia Law

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By statute, a trial court has the discretion to appoint a receiver to aid in the collection of a judgment if doing so "is a reasonable method to obtain the fair and orderly satisfaction of the judgment." The Court of Appeal held that a trial court abuses that discretion if it appoints a receiver to aid in the collection of a money judgment where the record contains no evidence that the judgment debtors had obfuscated or frustrated the creditor's collection efforts and no evidence that less intrusive collection methods were inadequate or ineffective.The court reversed the trial court's order order appointing a receiver and its subsidiary injunction obligating the judgment debtors to cooperate with the receiver. In this case, the trial court abused its discretion in appointing a receiver to enforce Medipro's money judgment because there was no evidence—let alone the substantial evidence necessary to sustain a proper exercise of discretion—that Certified or Defendant Sy had engaged in obfuscation or other obstreperous conduct to the degree that the other collection mechanisms available under the Enforcement of Judgments Law were ineffective. View "Medipro Medical Staffing, LLC v. Certified Nursing Registry, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order dismissing with prejudice plaintiffs' claims against defendants for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (bad faith claim) and violation of the Unfair Competition Law, Bus. & Prof. Code, section 17200 et seq. (UCL claim).The court concluded that an evaluation of the policy considerations underlying tort liability in the traditional insurance context demonstrates that home protection contracts are not sufficiently analogous to insurance to support the imposition of tort liability. Furthermore, the fact that the Insurance Code may regulate a company is not dispositive of whether that company should be subject to the same tort liability as traditional insurance companies. Rather, that issue is determined based on the policy considerations set forth in Cates Construction, Inc. v. Talbot Partners (1999) 21 Cal.4th 28, 43–44, and regardless of whether home protection companies are subject to certain Insurance Code regulations. The court also concluded that plaintiffs forfeited their judicial estoppel argument by failing to timely or adequately raise it in opposition to the demurrer. Finally, the court rejected plaintiffs' unfair competition claims, concluding that California Code of Regulations, title 10, section 2695.9 does not apply to defendant. View "Chu v. Old Republic Home Protection Company, Inc." on Justia Law