Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Defendants-respondents the City of Davis (City) and the City Council of the City of Davis (City Council) approved a conditional use permit authorizing the use of a single family home in a residential zoning district as professional office space for three therapists. Petitioner-appellant and next door neighbor Michael Harrington, filed a petition for an administrative writ of mandate asking the trial court to set aside the conditional use permit. The trial court denied the petition. Harrington appealed, arguing: (1) the conditional use permit violated an ordinance prohibiting parking in the front yard setback; (2) the issuance of the conditional use permit resulted in a change in occupancy triggering accessible parking requirements under the California Building Standards Code (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 24, pt. 2); (3) the conditional use permit contemplated alterations triggering the accessible parking requirements; (4) the City Council failed to make sufficient findings to support a conclusion that compliance with accessible parking requirements would be technically infeasible, and the findings are not supported by substantial evidence; and (5) the City Council failed to make sufficient findings to support a conclusion that the permitted use is consistent with the zoning designation, and the findings are not supported by substantial evidence. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded: (1) the conditional use permit did not require parking in the front yard setback; (2) the City’s reasonable construction of the Building Code is entitled to deference, and its determination that the issuance of the conditional use permit did not result in a change in occupancy is supported by substantial evidence; (3) Harrington forfeited the argument that the conditional use permit contemplated alterations within the meaning of the Building Code; (4) technical infeasibility findings were not necessary, as the City Council did not rely on that theory; and (5) the City Council’s consistency findings were legally sufficient and supported by substantial evidence. View "Harrington v. City of Davis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff John PD Doe was sexually abused by a Boy Scout master beginning in 1998 and continuing for a number of years at a ranch owned and operated by defendants, San Diego-Imperial Council and Boy Scouts of America. In 2013, after Doe obtained psychological therapy, he filed this action against the defendants. Defendants ultimately demurred to Doe's complaint on the ground that he failed to file a certificate of merit, as required by Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1. The trial court sustained defendants' demurrer on this ground, without leave to amend. Doe appealed the trial court's judgment, and the Court of Appeal court affirmed the judgment in favor of defendants. Following the issuance of the remittitur, defendants moved for an award of attorney fees with respect to the fees incurred in defendant Doe's appeal pursuant to subdivision (q) of section 340.1. The trial court awarded defendants the fees that they requested without analyzing the statutory provision or stating the court's reasoning as to why such fees were appropriate. Doe appealed the trial court's award of attorney fees resulting from the prior appeal, contending section 340.1(q) was designed to permit an award of attorney fees only in situations in which there is some indication that the plaintiff's claim of sexual abuse is without merit, such that the conclusion of the litigation may be deemed to constitute a "[']favorable conclusion of the litigation with respect to[']" the defendants for whom a certificate of merit was filed or should have been filed. Doe asserted that in this case, where the trial court acknowledged that Doe's claim was not frivolous, and there was no indication that the claim lacked merit, defendants were not eligible for an award of attorney fees pursuant to section 340.1(q). Defendants argued that because they obtained a dismissal of the action, and, as a result, they were prevailing parties and were entitled to attorney fees. The Court of Appeal concluded that a defendant is eligible for an award of attorney fees pursuant to section 340.1(q) only where the litigation has resulted in a "favorable conclusion" for that defendant, and that a "favorable conclusion" requires a result that is reflective of the merits of the litigation. In this case, the dismissal of Doe's action was procured as a result of a procedural defect that did not reflect on the merits of the action. As a result, there was no "favorable conclusion" with respect to defendants, and they were therefore not eligible to be awarded their attorney fees. View "Doe v. San Diego-Imperial Council" on Justia Law

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Defendant Darren Rose, a member of the Alturas Indian Rancheria, ran two smoke shops located in Indian country but far from any lands governed by the Alturas Indian Rancheria. In those smoke shops, Rose sold illegal cigarettes and failed to collect state taxes. California brought an enforcement action to stop illegal sales and collect civil penalties. Rose appealed, arguing: (1) California and its courts did not have jurisdiction to enforce California’s civil/regulatory laws for his actions in Indian country; and (2) the amount of civil penalties imposed was inequitable and erroneous. The Court of Appeal concluded: (1) federal law and tribal sovereignty did not preempt California’s regulation and enforcement of its laws concerning sales of cigarettes; and (2) the superior court’s imposition of civil penalties was proper. View "California v. Rose" on Justia Law

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Mainstay Business Solutions (Mainstay), a division of the Blue Lake Rancheria Economic Development Corporation, was a tribal government-sponsored entity of Blue Lake Rancheria, a federally recognized Indian tribe. Mainstay operated a temporary staffing business, assigning temporary workers to its clients. It also operated an employee leasing business in which employees of Mainstay’s clients were placed on Mainstay’s payroll and leased back to the clients. The California Self-Insurers’ Security Fund (SISF) assumed the workers’ compensation obligations when Mainstay defaulted on its obligations to self-insure. SISF then sued Mainstay, Mainstay’s clients and others to recover its costs and liabilities. Among other things, the trial court granted SISF’s motion for judgment on the pleadings against Mainstay’s clients. Mainstay’s clients filed a petition for writ of mandate and/or prohibition to challenge the trial court’s order. SISF argued on appeal: (1) writ review was not appropriate because the main issue presented was rendered moot by the enactment of Labor Code section 3701.9. On the merits, Mainstay’s clients argued: (2) SISF’s claim was subject to the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers Compensation Act and should have been brought before the Workers Compensation Appeals Board; and (3) their agreements with Mainstay in compliance with Labor Code section 3602(d) serve to bar SISF’s civil action. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "American Cargo Express v. Super Ct." on Justia Law

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The petition underlying this appeal challenged a trial court order summarily adjudicating a cause of action under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (the Act), a cause of action for fraud by concealment, and another for medical battery, while allowing other claims, including one for medical negligence, to proceed to trial. Petitioner Maxine Stewart was the representative of Anthony Carter, a man who died after admission to a hospital owned by real parties in interest, St. Joseph’s Health (et al.). She alleged the hospital “denied and withheld from Mr. Carter the right to refuse an unnecessary surgery, denied and withheld from Mr. Carter the right to be involved in secret hospital meetings to invalidate his designated consent, and denied and withheld from Mr. Carter his right to a second opinion prior to proceeding with an unwarranted surgery that resulted in a hypoxic injury, brain damage, cardiac arrest and his untimely death.” Having concluded the petition might have merit, the Court of Appeal stayed the action in the trial court and requested an informal response. Having received and read the “return by verified answer” that was filed by real parties in interest, the Court then set an order to show cause and requested further briefing on a specific issue. Real parties in interest decided to stand on their informal response in lieu of filing another brief, and Stewart declined to file a traverse. After review, the Court then granted the petition: in the published portion of this opinion, the Court discussed the cause of action for elder abuse to explain how, in its view, a substantial impairment of this right can constitute actionable “neglect” of an elder within the meaning of both the little-invoked catchall definition contained in Welfare and Institutions Code section 15610.57(a)(1), and two of the types of neglect set forth in section 15610.57(a)(2). View "Stewart v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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This case involved citations issued to smog technician Marc Madison and his employer Davis Test Only Smog Testing (d/b/a Citrus Heights Star Smog (Star Smog)), after Madison passed an unpassable vehicle brought to the business by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Automotive Repair (Bureau) for a smog inspection. The Bureau had replaced the working air injection system (part of the emissions control system) with a nonworking air injection system and did not attach a belt to the pulley to power the air injection system. Star Smog was assessed a $1,000 fine, and Madison was ordered to complete a Bureau training course. Star Smog and Madison appealed the citations, and the case was heard by an administrative law judge. Star Smog and Madison acknowledged that Madison passed a vehicle that should not have passed the smog inspection, but they argued that the relevant regulations and guidelines from the Bureau were vague and did not give Madison notice that he needed to determine whether a belt was attached to the air injection system. The administrative law judge issued a proposed decision upholding the citations, which proposed decision the Bureau adopted. Star Smog and Madison filed a petition for writ of administrative mandamus, making the same arguments in the superior court. The superior court denied the petition, and Star Smog and Madison appealed, arguing the administrative decision was void because Star Smog and Madison were represented by a non-attorney. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that Star Smog’s decision to send its former secretary/treasurer to represent it in the administrative hearing did not render the decision void, and Madison properly represented himself. View "Davis Test Only Smog Testing v. Dept. of Consumer Affairs etc." on Justia Law

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Francisca Cabandong filed the underlying action in 2012 and served Shawn Higgins with a summons and third amended complaint in August 2016. In this writ proceeding, Higgins challenged the trial court's denial of his motion to dismiss Cabandong's lawsuit on the basis that Cabandong failed to serve Higgins with the summons and complaint within three years of the commencement of the action, as required by the mandatory provisions of Code of Civil Procedure section 583.210(a). In denying Higgins's motion, the court ruled that the three-year period had not expired, since the action had been stayed from March 13, 2014, when codefendant Ronald Powell filed bankruptcy, until July 29, 2016, when the bankruptcy court granted Cabandong's motion to lift the automatic stay that became effective upon the filing of Powell's bankruptcy. The Court of Appeal determined that as a matter of law, the automatic stay that applied to claims against debtor Powell did not apply to Cabandong's claims against nondebtor Higgins. Accordingly, the trial court erred in ruling that Powell's bankruptcy stay affected Cabandong's obligation or ability to serve Higgins in this action. Because Cabandong served Higgins more than three years after commencement of this action, section 583.250 required that Cabandong's underlying lawsuit against Higgins be dismissed. View "Higgins v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Oregon State University (Oregon State) petitioned for a peremptory writ of mandate to direct a California superior court to vacate an order overruling Oregon State's demurrer to George Sutherland's first amended complaint, and to enter a new order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend. Sutherland filed suit sounding in negligence: Sutherland alleged he was severely injured when a crane he was operating tipped over. At the time, he was using the crane to load a stack container owned by Oregon State onto a vessel owned by his employer, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a department of the University of California, San Diego. The stack container's weight was not displayed on its exterior and was not accurately recorded on the bill of lading provided by Oregon State. Oregon State demurred, asserting the complaint failed to state facts sufficient to constitute claims for negligence and negligent misrepresentation against Oregon State because the complaint did not and could not allege compliance with the Oregon Tort Claims Act's claims notice provision. Oregon State argued the Clause requires such compliance. The California trial court overruled the demurrer, acknowledging California and Oregon had similar government claims notice provisions, but found the Oregon Tort Claims Act had a damages cap and California's Government Claims Act did not. The court further found California's public policy of protecting people injured within its borders would not be promoted by applying the Oregon Tort Claims Act because applying it would only benefit Oregon's public fisc and effectively deprive Sutherland of a remedy against Oregon State. The Court of Appeal agreed the superior court should have sustained Oregon State's demurrer without leave to amend because the Oregon Tort Claims Act's claims notice provision was entitled to full faith and credit in California. Contrary to Sutherland's assertions, the provision did not conflict with or violate California's public policy and declining to give the provision full faith and credit would evince an impermissible policy of discriminatory hostility to the provision. The Court, therefore, granted the petition. View "Oregon State University v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The dispute underlying this appeal was between a contractor (respondent) and subcontractor (appellants). The parties sued each other for alleged damages arising out of a construction project on California State Route 91. Respondent moved to disqualify Pepper Hamilton LLP and its individual attorneys (collectively, Pepper Hamilton) from representing appellants in this action and to issue additional injunctive relief pertaining to confidential documents. Respondent claimed that appellants’ litigation counsel, Pepper Hamilton, had improperly accessed documents made available by respondent solely for mediation sessions that preceded the commencement of the action. The court granted the motion, finding disqualification was appropriate to eliminate the possibility that Pepper Hamilton would exploit the unfair advantage. Appellants filed a petition for writ of supersedeas, arguing: (1) their appeal of the disqualification order resulted in an automatic stay of all trial court proceedings; or (2) if there was no automatic stay, the Court of Appeal court should exercise its discretionary power to stay all trial court proceedings. The Court indeed issued a temporary stay of all trial court proceedings and invited further briefing by the parties on the issue of whether an appeal of an order disqualifying counsel result in an automatic stay pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 916? If so, how far does the automatic stay extend: solely to enforcement of the disqualification order or to all trial court proceedings? As a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeal concluded the appeal automatically stayed enforcement of the order disqualifying counsel, but not all trial court proceedings. The Court declined to address appellants’ request for a discretionary stay of all trial court proceedings pursuant to section 923. View "URS Corp. v. Atkinson/Walsh Joint Venture" on Justia Law

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Two cases consolidated for review involved a property where a shooting range had been operated for decades (the Property), its remediation by Plaintiffs Otay Land Company, LLC (OLC) and Flat Rock Land Company, LLC (FRLC) (collectively, Plaintiffs), and their efforts to recover remediation costs from former owners under the Carpenter Presley-Tanner Hazardous Substances Account Act. Defendants were former owner United Enterprises, Inc. (UEI) and its successors, including United Enterprises, Ltd. (UEL) (together, UE Defendants or UE), and former owner Baldwin Vista Associates, L.P. (now The Otay Ranch, L.P.) and certain of its general partners. Plaintiffs also asserted common law claims for continuing nuisance and continuing trespass. The case proceeded to a bench trial. The trial court's Statement of Decision addressed issues regarding whether Plaintiffs had a private right of action, liability, defenses, the allocation of costs, and cost reductions, each in the alternative, and held Plaintiffs should take nothing. The court entered judgment for Defendants. Defendants moved for attorney fees and costs, which the court denied. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing the trial court erred in its interpretation and application of the Carpenter Presley-Tanner Hazardous Substances Account Act. After review, the Court of Appeal affirmed certain rulings, reversed the judgment in all other respects, and remanded with directions. In light of this decision, the Court held defendants’ appeal of fees was moot. View "Otay Land Co. v. U.E. Limited" on Justia Law