Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Plaintiff Sacramentans for Fair Planning contended the City of Sacramento violated zoning law and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it approved entitlements for real party 2500 J Owners, LLC, to construct a high-rise condominium building in the City’s Midtown area. The project was not consistent with the general plan and zoning code standards for building intensity and height. But the City approved it pursuant to a general plan policy authorizing more intense development than zoning otherwise allowed if the project provided a significant community benefit. The City also conducted a streamlined CEQA review. CEQA authorized the less intense review for a type of residential mixed-use development such as the proposed project which, because of its proximity to mass transit services, may help reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by generating less use of motor vehicles. In a petition for writ of mandate, plaintiff argued that approving the project under the general plan policy violated constitutional law and an implied-in-law zoning contract that required identical uses in a zoning district to be treated uniformly and prohibited a delegation of legislative authority without sufficient standards to govern its use. Plaintiff also claimed the City violated CEQA because the streamlined review did not analyze all of the project’s environmental effects. The trial court denied plaintiff’s petition. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order and judgment. View "Sacramentans for Fair Planning v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Nancy Ortiz sued her former employer and former supervisor, Dameron Hospital Association (Dameron) and Doreen Alvarez (collectively defendants), alleging that she was discriminated against and subjected to harassment based on her national origin (Filipino) and age (over 40) at the hands of Alvarez, and that Dameron failed to take action to prevent it in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the FEHA). Ortiz claimed she was forced to resign due to the intolerable working conditions created by Alvarez in order to accomplish Alvarez’s goal of getting rid of older, Filipino employees, like Ortiz, who, in Alvarez’s words, “could not speak English,” had “been there too long,” and “ma[d]e too much money.” Defendants moved for summary judgment, or in the alternative summary adjudication. The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that Ortiz could not make a prima facie showing of discrimination because she could not show that she suffered an adverse employment action, and could not make a prima facie showing of harassment because she cannot show that any of the complained of conduct was based on her national origin or age. The trial court determined that the remaining causes of action as well as the claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages were derivative of the discrimination and harassment causes of action and thus had no merit. Ortiz appealed, contending there were triable issues of material fact as to each of her causes of action, except retaliation, and her claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages. The Court of Appeal agreed in part, and reversed judgment. The trial court was directed to vacate its order granting summary judgment, and to enter a new order granting summary adjudication of Ortiz’s retaliation cause of action and request for punitive damages as to Dameron but denying summary adjudication of her discrimination, harassment, and failure to take necessary steps to prevent discrimination and harassment causes of action, her claim for injunctive relief, and her request for punitive damages as to Alvarez. View "Ortiz v. Dameron Hospital Assn." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Shirley Galvan sued her former employer and former supervisor, Dameron Hospital Association (Dameron) and Doreen Alvarez (collectively defendants), alleging that she was discriminated against and subjected to harassment based on her national origin (Filipino) and age (over 40) at the hands of Alvarez, and that Dameron failed to take action to prevent it in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the FEHA). Galvan claimed she was forced to resign due to the intolerable working conditions created by Alvarez in order to accomplish Alvarez’s goal of getting rid of older, Filipino employees, like Galvan, who, in Alvarez’s words, “could not speak English,” had “been there too long,” and “ma[d]e too much money.” Defendants moved for summary judgment, or in the alternative summary adjudication. The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that Galvan could not make a prima facie showing of discrimination because she could not show that she suffered an adverse employment action, and could not make a prima facie showing of harassment because she cannot show that any of the complained of conduct was based on her national origin or age. The trial court determined that the remaining causes of action as well as the claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages were derivative of the discrimination and harassment causes of action and thus had no merit. Galvan appealed, contending there were triable issues of material fact as to each of her causes of action, except retaliation, and her claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages. The Court of Appeal agreed in part, and reversed judgment. The trial court was directed to vacate its order granting summary judgment, and to enter a new order granting summary adjudication of Galvan's retaliation cause of action and request for punitive damages as to Dameron, but denying summary adjudication of her discrimination, harassment, and failure to take necessary steps to prevent discrimination and harassment causes of action, her claim for injunctive relief, and her request for punitive damages as to Alvarez. View "Galvan v. Dameron Hospital Assn." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Wendell Brown sued his employer, the City of Sacramento (City), for racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). A jury returned a verdict in Brown’s favor. The City moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a new trial. The trial court granted the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in part, finding that Brown failed to exhaust administrative remedies with respect to some of the acts found to be retaliatory. The trial court denied the motion with respect to other acts and effectively denied the motion for a new trial. The City appealed that part of the trial court's order partially denying the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing the remaining retaliation and discrimination claims were time-barred and barred for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The City also appealed that part of the order partially denying the motion for a new trial, arguing that juror misconduct deprived the City of a fair trial, and the trial court prejudicially erred in admitting evidence of the purportedly unexhausted and time-barred claims. Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Brown v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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After a valve assembly blew off a pump station pipe and injured plaintiff, he filed suit against Cal West on a theory of negligent design and construction. The jury returned a 9-3 special verdict that Cal West was not negligent. Plaintiff then moved for a new trial based on juror misconduct, and the trial court found that the juror misconduct did not prejudice plaintiff. The Court of Appeal held that the juror misconduct raised a presumption of prejudice, which was not rebutted by Cal West. The court held that jurors are not permitted to inject extraneous evidence, standards of care, or defense theories into deliberations. In this case, the juror at issue said that the Cal West design and construction met the "industry standard" and that anybody would have put the system together in the exact same way, and that anything that happened after the system was put together and tested was the vineyard's responsibility. However, there was no evidence of that, and the juror vouched for the design and construction based on his expertise as a pipefitter and farmer. But this case was tried on a negligent design and construction theory, and it did not matter whether ownership of the irrigation system transferred to the vineyard owner after Cal West built the system. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded. Finally, the court denied the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. View "Nodal v. Cal-West Rain, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Court of Appeal held that Local Rule Seven of the McCourtney Courthouse Policies, effective August 13, 2019, is invalid; the rule was adopted in violation of state law; the local rule conflicts with California law; the goal of expediting proceedings cannot justify denying mother the opportunity to present relevant evidence; and the court may control courtroom proceedings through case-specific orders. In this case, the juvenile court refused to permit mother to testify or to call witnesses in a juvenile dependency matter set for a contested dispositional hearing, because her counsel had not filed a joint trial statement as required by the local rule. The court also held that, even had the local rules here been properly adopted and enforceable, the juvenile court's ruling barring mother from testifying and examining her daughter on the statements contained in a report to the court because she had failed to submit the joint trial statement would run afoul of Code of Civil Procedure section 575.2. Furthermore, the sanction imposed was disproportionate to the conduct it punished. Accordingly, the court reversed the dispositional orders and remanded to the juvenile court with instructions to conduct a new dispositional hearing without reference to the local rule. View "In re Harley C." on Justia Law

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SoCalGas pleaded no contest to a charge of failure to immediately report the release of a hazardous material, and obtained dismissal of other charges, including a count alleging the discharge of air contaminants. Petitioners, residents of the Porter Ranch community, sought to set aside the plea agreement and obtain restitution under the California Constitution, which gives victims the right to seek and secure restitution from the persons convicted of the crimes causing the losses they suffer. The trial court denied petitioners' motion to vacate the plea and require restitution. The Court of Appeal held that the Victim's Bill of Rights in the California Constitution, as amended in 2008 by Proposition 9, does not authorize a victim to appeal from a judgment or order in a criminal case. However, in those rare cases where the trial court fails in its duty to order restitution from the convicted wrongdoer to the victims of the crime, the victims may do what petitioners have done in this case by seeking a writ of mandate. The court held that the trial court did not fail in its duty when it refused to order restitution for all losses caused by the gas leak. The court declined to extend the right to restitution to dismissed charges that are "transactionally related" to the crime of which defendant was convicted. Although the court found no error in the trial court's conclusion that there was no evidence or proffer of evidence to establish that defendant's failure to report the gas leak for three days was a substantial factor in causing the harm victims suffered from the gas leak, the court remanded for a hearing on whether petitioners can prove damages from the three-day delay in reporting the leak, as charged in the criminal complaint. View "Crump v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the order awarding sanctions and held that there was no evidence to support finding that the attorney violated Code of Civil Procedure section 128.7. The court held that there was no evidence that the attorney presented the complaint to the court within the meaning of section 128.7 before he was served with the motion for sanctions; a new attorney's filing of a declaration merely notifying the court of a change in counsel does not constitute presenting the complaint to the court under section 128.7; and a sanctions order cannot be supported solely by evidence of conduct occurring after the motion is served, because a motion for sanctions under section 128.7 must describe the specific conduct taken by the party to be sanctioned and allow a safe harbor period to withdraw or appropriately correct the sanctionable conduct. View "Primo Hospitality Group, Inc. v. Haney" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed three postjudgment orders thwarting New Start's attempts to collect on a judgment against defendant, and imposing sanctions against it. The rulings were based on the trial court's conclusion that there was no enforceable judgment, because the court had granted defendant's motion for a new trial of punitive damages. The court held that plaintiff's claim of error regarding the August 23 order was not cognizable on appeal. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that the partial granting of a new trial of punitive damages did not vacate the entire judgment. The court held that, when a court grants a partial new trial, the new trial order has the effect of vacating the entire judgment and holding in abeyance the portions which are not subject to a new trial until one final judgment can be entered. In this case, there was no final judgment; it was vacated by operation of law. Furthermore, even if the compensatory damages award remained enforceable, plaintiff's writ of execution sought to collect on the entire judgment, including punitive damages, which unquestionably had been vacated. Finally, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding sanctions. View "Newstart Real Estate Investment LLC v. Huang" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Defendant Native Wholesale Supply Company (NWS), an Indian-chartered corporation headquartered on a reservation in New York, sold over a billion contraband cigarettes to an Indian tribe in California, which then sold the cigarettes to the general public in California. The cigarettes were imported from Canada, stored at various places in the United States (not including California), and then shipped to California after they were ordered from the reservation in New York. The California Attorney General succeeded on his motion for summary judgment holding NWS liable for civil penalties in violation of two California cigarette distribution and sale laws and Business and Professions Code section 17200 (the unfair competition law), and obtained a permanent injunction precluding NWS from making future sales. The Attorney General further obtained an award of attorney fees and expert expenses. NWS appealed the judgment and the attorney fee order. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Native Wholesale Supply Co." on Justia Law