Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Nelson, an attorney specializing in asbestos defense, was employed by Tucker Ellis. In 2009, Nelson became a “non-capital partner.” Gradient was retained by Tucker Ellis to assist in litigation. Nelson exchanged emails with Gradient consultants about medical research articles relating to smoking and/or radiation (rather than asbestos) as causes of mesothelioma. After Nelson left Tucker Ellis in 2011, the law firm was served with a subpoena, seeking the production of all communications between Tucker, Ellis and Gradient regarding the research. Tucker Ellis produced the attorney work product emails authored by Nelson. After Nelson was subpoenaed for deposition, he wrote a “clawback” letter to Tucker Ellis, asserting the emails contained his privileged attorney work product and demanding they be sequestered and returned to him. Nelson sought a determination that Tucker Ellis had a legal duty to protect his attorney work product from improper disclosure to third parties Code of Civil Procedure section 2018.030. The court of appeal reversed the trial court, concluding that the holder of the attorney work product privilege is the employer law firm, Tucker Ellis, not Nelson, and had no legal duty to secure Nelson’s permission before it disclosed documents he created in the scope of his employment. View "Tucker Ellis LLP v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Carmen Zubillaga was injured in an automobile accident. The other driver was at fault. Her insurer, defendant Allstate Indemnity Company (Allstate), rejected her demand for $35,000, the full amount of her remaining underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, although it made her a series of offers increasing to $15,584 instead. After an arbitrator awarded plaintiff $35,000, the amount of her demand, she sued Allstate for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. While an insurance company has no obligation under the implied covenant of good faith to pay every claim its insured makes, the insurer cannot deny the claim, without fully investigating the grounds for its denial. To protect its insured’s contractual interest in security and peace of mind, it is essential that an insurer fully inquire into possible bases that might support the insured’s claim before denying it. The Court of Appeal found the problem in this case was that the undisputed facts showed the insurer’s opinions were rendered in October and November 2012, but insurer continued to rely on them through the arbitration in September 2013, without ever consulting with its expert again or conducting any further investigation. Summary judgment in favor of the insurer was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Zubillaga v. Allstate Indemnity Company" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Walton sued Rossdale. Walton, a California attorney, maintained a “litigation factory” by placing dozens of email addresses on the Internet, collecting spam messages sent to those addresses, and then demanding compensation for supposed violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Civil Code 1750. Walton‘s lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice in 2012. The same day, Rossdale sued Walton, alleging malicious prosecution. Rossdale was a fictitious business name registered in Florida to a Florida limited liability company, Miami Legal. In 2016, Walton argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because Rossdale was "a fictitious business name registered by a company that has now dissolved.” Miami Legal argued that all of its assets and liabilities had been transferred to Rossdale Delaware, which Miami Legal called its “successor in interest to the causes of action.” The trial court dismissed for lack of standing. The court of appeals reversed. Rossdale was only a fictitious business name; no legitimate standing or jurisdictional issue was raised. This case does not involve an individual seeking to sue under a fictitious name to protect his identity, does not invoke serious privacy concerns, and did not raise any supposed violation of any fictitious name statute. View "Rossdale Group, LLC v. Walton" on Justia Law

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Grist Creek owns property in Mendocino County on which it has aggregate and asphalt processing operations. The County Air Quality Management District approved a permit to construct a “Crumb Rubber Heating and Blending Unit” for the production of rubberized asphalt, on the property. The District Hearing Board’s four members who considered an appeal split evenly on their vote; the Board stated no further action would be taken, leaving the permit in place. Oponents filed a petition for writ of administrative mandate, claiming that Grist Creek should have conducted an environmental review and that the District and Hearing Board violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA, Pub. Resources Code, 21000) and District regulations by failing to require one. The trial court dismissed the action against the Board with leave to amend, finding the tie vote was not a decision, so there was nothing to review. The court of appeals reversed. The Board’s tie vote, in this context, resulted in the denial of the administrative appeal, subject to judicial review. View "Grist Creek Aggregates, LLC v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Cobbs borrowed $10,229,250 from Citizens Business Bank. The note was secured by a deed of trust on a parcel of commercial real property in Rancho Cucamonga. Years later, the Cobbs obtained a second loan from Citizens Business Bank, which was secured by a second deed of trust on the same property. Black Sky Capital purchased both notes from Citizens Business Bank. After the Cobbs defaulted on the senior loan, Black Sky opted to conduct a trustee’s sale under the senior deed of trust. It acquired the property after the Cobbs defaulted on the junior loan. Black Sky filed the suit seeking to recover the amount still owed on the junior note. The Cobbs moved for summary judgment, pertinent here, relying on section 580d. They contended that the monetary judgment would be a deficiency judgment, which is prohibited by section 580d. The trial court granted the Cobbs’ motion and entered judgment for them. Black Sky appealed, contending that the caselaw used as grounds for the Cobbs' motion and trial court's judgment erroneously expanded section 580d, based on an incorrect reading of Roseleaf Corp. v. Chierighino (1963) 59 Cal.2d 35 (Roseleaf). Black Sky contended that section 580d, by its express terms, did not apply here. It maintained that it was a “sold-out junior” lienholder within the meaning of Roseleaf, and that it had the right to seek a judgment for the balance owed on the junior note. The Court of Appeal agreed that section 580d did not apply under the circumstances of this case. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment. View "Black Sky Capital v. Cobb" on Justia Law

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Family Code section 271 does not authorize the court to award sanctions to non-parties, but rather is intended to promote settlement of family law litigation through shifting fees between the parties to the litigation. In this case, the Court of Appeal agreed that the trial court was without authority to award sanctions to respondents because they were not parties to this action. The court reasoned that sanctions may not be awarded under section 271 to a party's attorney when it was that attorney who was requesting the sanctions for the sole benefit of the attorney. Accordingly, the court reversed the order for sanctions. View "Webb v. Webb" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs and appellants Eugene G. Plantier, as Trustee of the Plantier Family Trust (Plantier); Progressive Properties Incorporated (Progressive); and Premium Development LLC (Premium), on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated (collectively plaintiffs), appeal the judgment in favor of defendant and respondent Ramona Municipal Water District (District or RMWD). On appeal, plaintiffs contend the trial court erred when it found there was a mandatory exhaustion requirement in section 6 of article XIII D. Plaintiffs further contended they satisfied the administrative remedy in the Ramona Municipal Water District Legislative Code, and that, in any event, the exhaustion doctrine in section 6 should not have been applied to them because the remedy therein was inadequate and because it was "futile" to purse any administrative remedy under this constitutional provision. The Court of Appeal concluded plaintiffs' class action was not barred by their failure to exhaust the administrative remedies set forth in section 6 because plaintiffs' substantive challenge involving the method used by District to calculate its wastewater service fees or charges was outside the scope of the administrative remedies, and because, under the facts of this case, those remedies were, in any event, inadequate. View "Plantier v. Ramona Municipal Water Dist." on Justia Law

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About four months before his 20th birthday, defendant-appellant Jesse S. filed, in propria persona, a request under section 388.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code to return to juvenile court jurisdiction and the foster care system, because the couple who adopted him the day before his 18th birthday was no longer supporting him, even though they were receiving payments on his behalf from California’s Adoption Assistance Program (AAP). The judge denied the request, noting that under the literal language of section 388.1 the very fact the couple were still receiving AAP payments on Jesse’s behalf precluded Jesse from reentry into the juvenile dependency system. The Court of Appeal "reluctantly" affirmed: the trial judge understood the plain language of the statue and concluded there was no question Jesse’s adoptive parents were still collecting adoption assistance program payments on Jesse’s behalf, the judge was forced to conclude Jesse was not eligible for reentry under the statute. View "In re Jesse S." on Justia Law

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David, age 17 years 11 months, was a victim of past gun violence and is a wheelchair-bound diabetic in need of day-to-day medical assistance. He was living in a homeless shelter when a dependency petition was filed, alleging that he was abandoned by his mother and left without means of support. An investigation revealed that David had not been forthcoming about his family. The court dismissed the petition, finding that David had a support system in place but had chosen to leave it behind to be on his own. Had the petition not been dismissed, David would likely have qualified for transitional support as a nonminor dependent until age 21. The court of appeals dismissed an appeal. Dependency jurisdiction may not be initiated in the first instance over someone who is over age 18; it must be initiated before age 18, and by the plain terms of the Juvenile Court Law, may only be “retain[ed],” “continu[ed]” or “resum[ed]” for nonminors in certain circumstances until age 21. David’s case is now moot because he is 18 and any error by the juvenile court in failing to assume dependency jurisdiction is effectively unreviewable. View "In re David B." on Justia Law

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IAR believed that defendant, its former CEO, had embezzled money. IAR, represented by Valla, sued defendant. Valla, on behalf of IAR, reported the crimes to the Foster City Police. The district attorney charged defendant with felony embezzlement. In response to defendant’s subpoena, Valla produced over 600 documents and moved to quash other requests on attorney-client privilege grounds. Defendant filed another subpoena, seeking documents relating to an email from the district attorney to Valla, discussing the need for a forensic accountant. Valla sought a protective order. Defendant asserted Valla was part of the prosecution team, subject to the Brady disclosure requirement. Valla and deputy district attorneys testified that Valla did not conduct legal research or investigate solely at the request of the police or district attorney, take action with respect to defendant other than as IAR's attorneys, nor ask for assistance in the civil matter. IAR retained a forensic accountant in the civil action, who also testified in the criminal matter, after being prepared by the district attorney. IAR paid the expert for both. There were other instances of cooperation, including exchanges of legal authority. The court found Valla to be a part of the prosecution team. The court of appeals reversed. The focus is on whether the third party has been acting under the government’s direction and control. Valla engaged in few, if any, activities that would render it part of the prosecution team. View "IAR Systems Software, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law