Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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In 2012, appellant Stephen Taulbee suffered catastrophic injuries after driving his Jeep into the back of a truck parked in a triangular-shaped zone demarcated by the freeway and the exit ramp (gore point). Taulbee and his wife (collectively “appellants”) sued respondent Carlos Aldana, the truck driver, and his employer, respondent EJ Distribution Corporation (collectively “respondents”). The trial court instructed the jury that it could find Aldana negligent per se for parking in the gore point, and that Taulbee could be found negligent per se for driving into the gore point. The court declined to instruct the jury that Aldana also could be found negligent per se for driving into the gore point to park his vehicle, although appellants requested the instruction. After the jury found Aldana was not negligent for parking in the gore point, the court entered judgment for respondents. Appellants argued the trial court erred in refusing to give their requested jury instruction, and that substantial evidence supported their theory Aldana was liable for the traffic collision by driving into the gore point. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court properly declined to give the requested instruction because Aldana’s negligent driving into the gore point was not a proximate cause of the traffic accident. In any event, the Court concluded any instructional error in failing to give the instruction was harmless given the jury’s finding that Aldana was not negligent for parking in the gore point. View "Taulbee v. EJ Distribution Corp." on Justia Law

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Richard Molina challenged a trial court’s order denying his petition for writ of mandate to vacate his conviction pursuant to California v. Rodriguez, 55 Cal.4th 1125 (2012). Molina argued, and the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) conceded, the court erred by denying the petition because Molina acted alone. The Court of Appeal determined mandate was not the proper vehicle to seek relief and although based on the record before the Court, it appeard Molina was entitled to relief, but not by a petition for writ of mandate. The Court declined to suggest to the parties what might be a better vehicle. The case was dismissed without prejudice. View "Molina v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Plaintiff-appellant Patrick Barber's second appeal in this case raised an issue of first impression for the Court of Appeal's review. Upon remand from Barber’s first appeal (Barber I), defendant-respondent, the California State Personnel Board (SPB), awarded Barber a lump sum back pay award, which resulted in Barber incurring increased income tax liability. SPB denied Barber’s motion for recovery for increased tax liability. The trial court upheld SPB’s decision and denied Barber’s petition for writ of mandamus. Barber appealed the denial of his writ petition and motion for increased tax liability recovery, contending he was entitled to recover damages for incurring increased tax liability because his increased tax liability was caused by real party in interest and respondent, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) improperly terminating his employment. Barber argued awarding him such relief was consistent with the remedial statutory purpose of Government Code section 19584,2 of making an improperly terminated employee whole by restoring the employee to the financial position he or she would otherwise have occupied had employment not been wrongfully interrupted. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding Barber was not entitled to increased tax liability recovery under section 19584 or to such recovery as equitable relief, because such relief was not statutorily authorized. View "Barber v. CA State Personnel Bd." on Justia Law

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Appellant Molly Kent challenged a specific ruling of the family court on her request to modify a child custody and child support order issued by a North Carolina court. The family court granted in part and denied in part the appellant's request, without first determining whether the California court had jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Accordingly, without reaching the merits of the arguments related to the substantive ruling on appeal, the California Court of Appeal reversed the order because, based on the record before the family court at the time it ruled, the court lacked jurisdiction to modify the North Carolina order. View "In re Marriage of Kent" on Justia Law

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in 2005, the plaintiff in this matter, Ralph Colombo, was sued by his homeowners association, Nellie Gail Ranch Owners Association (Nellie Gail), in Orange County Superior Court. In March 2007, Nellie Gail obtained a judgment and injunction preventing Colombo from continuing construction of certain improvements on his property until he obtained approval for, and completed the construction of, a single-family residence. Colombo's attorney withdrew from the case in September 2008, and Colombo began to represent himself. Colombo's request to sue his attorneys for legal malpractice was denied by the superior court, as was his motion for reconsideration of that request. The Court of Appeal denied extraordinary relief. Undaunted, the vexatious litigant asked a different presiding judge to give him leave to file the identical legal malpractice complaint. This time, his request was granted and the action at issue here was filed. The trial court granted a defense motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissed the action. The Court of Appeal held that as a matter of both substantive legal doctrine and fundamental fairness, litigants are only entitled to "one bite at the apple. But this vexatious litigant refuses to stop biting." The Court concluded the doctrine of res judicata precludes a litigant from filing successive prefiling requests, and therefore affirmed the judgment. View "Colombo v. Kinkle, Rodiger & Spriggs" on Justia Law

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The Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission's special and limited jurisdiction does not extend to matters not delegated to it by the Charter of the County of Los Angeles. Real party in interest, who worked for the County for 30 years, challenged the trial court's judgment reversing the Commission's order entitling her to a medical reevaluation under Civil Service Rule 9.07B. The Court of Appeal held that the Commission lacked jurisdiction over real party's appeal where there is no Charter provision or rule permitting the Commission to hear appeals related to Rule 9.07. In the interests of justice and because the purely legal issue may arise again, the court held that an employee is not entitled by law to a medical reevaluation under Rule 9.07B. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment and remanded. View "County of Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services v. Civil Service Commission of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Code of Civil Procedure 418.10 applies before a defendant has made a general appearance. It allows a defendant filing a motion to dismiss an action for lack of personal jurisdiction to file simultaneously a motion to stay or dismiss the action for inconvenient forum, without having the latter motion constitute a general appearance. Section 410.30 applies after a defendant has made a general appearance. The Court of Appeal granted defendants' petition for writ of mandate challenging the trial court's order denying the motion to stay or dismiss as untimely under section 418.10, subdivision (e). The court held that defendants filed their motion to stay or dismiss on the ground of inconvenient forum after they had appeared in the action by filing demurrers, and thus section 410.30 applied and the motion was not untimely. View "Global Financial Distributors v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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In two unrelated transactions, Front Line Motor Cars (Dealer), a used car dealer licensed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), repossessed cars after the buyers failed to obtain financing. Dealer then refused to return the buyers’ down payments. The buyers complained to DMV. DMV instructed Dealer to refund the buyers’ down payments. Dealer refused, asserting its actions were proper under the Rees-Levering Motor Vehicles Sales and Finance Act and that DMV lacked the power to sanction Dealer. DMV then brought a disciplinary action against Dealer. DMV accused Dealer of violating Civil Code sections 2982.5, 2982.7, and 2982.9, which were the only sections of the Act which required a seller to refund a buyer’s down payment upon the buyer’s failure to obtain financing. After an administrative hearing, DMV adopted the administrative law judge’s proposed order that Dealer’s license be conditionally revoked for two years due to Dealer’s violation of the Act. Dealer petitioned the superior court for a writ of administrative mandate, which the superior court denied. On appeal Dealer repeated its earlier arguments. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding the unique facts in this case (which revealed Dealer lacked a good faith intent to enter into bona fide credit sales with the buyers), revealed the transactions involved seller-assisted loans subject to section 2982.5 of the Act, which expressly required Dealer to return the buyers’ down payments. View "Front Line Motor Cars v. Webb" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Ricardo Lara, the California Insurance Commissioner, filed a notice of noncompliance against plaintiffs-respondents Mercury Insurance Company, Mercury Casualty Company, and California Automobile Insurance Company (collectively Mercury) alleging Mercury charged rates not approved by the California Department of Insurance (CDI) and that the rates were unfairly discriminatory in violation of Insurance Code sections 1861.01 (c) and 1861.05 (b). The allegedly unapproved rates were in the form of broker fees charged by Mercury agents, which should have been disclosed as premium. After prevailing at an administrative hearing, the Commissioner imposed civil penalties against Mercury totaling $27,593,550 for almost 184,000 unlawful acts. Mercury filed a petition for writ of mandate, which the court granted, reversing the Commissioner’s decision. The court found the “broker fees” were not premium because they were charged for separate services. The court also rejected the Commissioner’s interpretation of the term premium under the Insurance Code and regulations. In addition, the court ruled Mercury did not have proper notice it was subject to penalties, in violation of due process, and the action was barred by laches because CDI had unduly delayed in bringing the action. Commissioner and intervener-appellant, Consumer Watchdog (CWD), appealed on several grounds, among them: (1) the trial court did not use the proper standard of review; (2) failed to give the Commissioner’s findings a strong presumption of correctness and failed to put the burden of proof on Mercury to show the findings were against the weight of the evidence; (3) the trial court’s finding the fees were charged for separate services was precluded by collateral estoppel; (4) Mercury received proper notice of the potential imposition of a penalty; and (5) laches did not bar the action. The Court of Appeal agreed with Commissioner and CWD the writ was issued in error and reversed the judgment. View "Mercury Insurance Co. v. Lara" on Justia Law

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In February 2013, plaintiff, an attorney acting in pro per, filed suit, claiming breach of fiduciary duty and conversion. In May 2013, attorney Mencher filed a general denial answer on behalf of the defendants, asserting 29 affirmative defenses. In July, at the first case management conference, both sides stated they were agreeable to mediation and that the case was too complex to be ready for trial within 12 months. At a November 2013 conference, it was reported that plaintiff had been ill since July. The years that followed involved extensive discovery, three judges, continuing health problems, attempts at mediation, and complications involving the related cases. On July 15, 2016, trial was set for June 26, 2017. In March 2017, plaintiff paid jury fees. The following month, he moved by stipulation to change the trial date based on health problems. The court re-set the trial date to January 22, 2018. The case was dismissed in December 2017 for failure to prosecute. (Code Civ. Proc., 583.410–583.430.). The court of appeal reversed, finding the dismissal constituted an abuse of discretion. Plaintiff served discovery and responded to defendants’ discovery and was actively involved in the related cases. Plaintiff paid jury fees, disclosed his expert witnesses, retained lawyers to assist him and filed a declaration of counsel attesting that he was ready to try this case. The defendants acknowledged repeatedly that plaintiff was ill during the discovery phase and discovery was ongoing. View "Corrinet v. Bardy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure