Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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In this declaratory relief action, the trial court ruled the Orange County Department of Education (Employer) had to pay approximately $3.3 million in additional contributions to fund pension benefits promised to its employees. Employer argued the Court of Appeal should independently review the legal issues raised in its complaint because the judgment arose from an order granting a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Applying this standard, the Court nevertheless reached the same conclusion as the trial court: the requested payment from Employer, which related to an unfunded liability of its employees’ pension benefits, was permissible and did not violate the California constitution. View "Mijares v. Orange Co. Employees Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jorge Fierro filed suit on behalf of himself and others like him against defendant Landry's Restaurants, Inc., seeking remedies for what Fierro alleged to be Landry's Restaurants's violations of specified California labor laws and wage orders. Landry's Restaurants demurred to the complaint on the basis that each of the causes of action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. As to Fierro's individual claims, the trial court overruled the demurrer, concluding that the statute of limitations defense did not appear affirmatively on the face of the complaint. As to the class claims, the trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend on the basis that a prior class action with identical class claims against Landry's Restaurants had been dismissed for failure to bring the case to trial in five years as required by Code of Civil Procedure sections 583.310 and 583.360. Under the "death knell" doctrine, Fierro appealed that portion of the order sustaining without leave to amend the demurrer to the class claims. Previously, the Court of Appeal issued an opinion reversing the order on the basis that the applicable statutes of limitations on the class claims had been tolled. However, the California Supreme Court granted review and transferred the matter to the Court of Appeal with directions to vacate the opinion and to reconsider the cause in light of the United States Supreme Court's opinion in China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, 138 S.Ct. 1800 (2018) an opinion issued following the filing of the appellate court's opinion but before issuance of the remittitur. After vacating its decision, the Court of Appeal requested and received supplemental briefing from the parties as to the potential application of China Agritech to the issues presented in this appeal. In determining whether the statutes of limitations barred Fierro's class claims, the Court of Appeal concluded there was no basis on which to apply equitable (or any other form of) tolling. Although that determination will result in at least some of the class's claims being time-barred, on the record, the Court could not say that all of the class's claims were untimely. Thus, the Court reversed the order sustaining Fierro's demurrer without leave to amend and remanded for further proceedings in which the trial court could decide, on a more developed record, issues related to class certification and/or timeliness of class claims. View "Fierro v. Landry's Restaurant, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order dismissing plaintiff's complaint against Princess Cruise Lines. Plaintiff's action stemmed from injuries he suffered while he was a passenger on a cruise ship operated by Princess. The court held that the lack of a reporter's transcript did not require affirmances based on an inadequate record; although plaintiff's action was not filed "in a forum outside this state," the statutes governing forum non conveniens motions apply here to determine the enforceability of the forum selection clause; the forum selection clause in this case was mandatory and required that suit be brought in federal court; and the court rejected plaintiff's claims that the enforcement of the mandatory selection clause would be unreasonable. View "Korman v. Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Hany Dimitry obtained a coastal development permit (CDP) from the City of Laguna Beach (the City) to demolish his Laguna Beach house. Mark Fudge challenged the permit, appealing to the California Coastal Commission (the Commission), and at court, to attach the merits of the City’s decision to grant Dimitry the CDP. The Commission accepted Fudge’s appeal, which meant it would hear that appeal “de novo.” Because the Commission’s hearing would be “de novo,” the trial court followed Kaczorowski v. Mendocino County Bd. of Supervisors, 88 Cal.App.4th 564 (2001) and McAllister v. County of Monterey, 147 Cal.App.4th 253 (2007) in concluding that there was no relief that Fudge might be able to obtain in his court action. The trial court concluded Fudge’s challenge to Dimitry’s CDP was entirely in the hands of the Commission, and dismissed the civil action. Fudge appealed, arguing the Commission’s hearing was not going to be truly “de novo” because the Commission would use different rules and procedures than the City used. When it comes to a local coastal entity’s decision on a CDP, the Court of Appeal determined the Legislature constructed a system in which appeals to the Commission would be heard de novo under the Coastal Act even though the original local decision was decided under CEQA. “Fudge’s mistake lies in his belief the Legislature was bound by the Collier court’s observation about de novo hearings being conducted in ‘the same manner’ as the original. We must disagree. It’s the other way around.” The Court determined the Legislature was not bound by the California Supreme Court’s observation about the common law nature of “de novo” hearings. Rather the courts were bound by the intent of the Legislature as to what the hearings would look like – plainly expressed in Public Resources Code section 21080.5. Therefore, the Court affirmed dismissal of the state court action. View "Fudge v. City of Laguna Beach" on Justia Law

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Jackson filed a pro se complaint against Kaiser under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. After unsuccessfully attempting to serve the summons and complaint, Jackson sought counsel. Jackson never properly served Kaiser; Kaiser never appeared in the action. In April 2016, Jackson retained Horowitz to assist her “with regard to” the suit. Horowitz advised Jackson to dismiss her pending lawsuit without prejudice, believing that she could re-file by September 30, 2016. Although they apparently contemplated that Horowitz would prepare a new complaint, Jackson did not retain Horowitz as counsel of record. Jackson filed a Request for Dismissal prepared by Horowitz. On September 9, 2016, Horowitz informed Jackson that his advice had been based on his misunderstanding of the statute of limitations, which had expired on December 29, 2015, the date Jackson had filed her action. Jackson’s claims are now time-barred. Jackson retained Horowitz on a limited scope basis to represent her on an application seeking relief from the dismissal under Code of Civil Procedure 473(b). The court denied that application, stating that Horowitz’s erroneous advice could not serve as the basis for relief because he did not represent Jackson at the time and did not make an appearance in the case until October 2016, and section 473's mandatory relief provision did not apply to voluntary dismissal. The court of appeal affirmed. Although the order was appealable, section 473(b) mandatory relief is unavailable for this type of voluntary dismissal. View "Jackson v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals" on Justia Law

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In a prior appeal, the Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment denying A.K. Anderson’s petition for writ of mandate challenging the suspension of his driver’s license by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In that opinion, the Court concluded the record contained substantial evidence that Anderson had been diagnosed by a neurologist with a seizure disorder, and that he had voluntarily discontinued taking anti-seizure medication. After the first decision became final, Anderson submitted to the DMV a report prepared by a family practice physician that purported to demonstrate Anderson suffered from no medical ailments whatsoever, and that he required no medications. A traffic safety officer concluded the report did not demonstrate Anderson no longer suffered from a seizure disorder, and the officer ordered that Anderson’s license remain suspended. Anderson once again unsuccessfully petitioned the superior court for a writ of mandate challenging his original license suspension and the order refusing to lift the suspension. On appeal, Anderson again challenged the original suspension of his driver’s license, arguing the DMV could not refuse to reinstate his driver’s license under Vehicle Code section 12806 (c) because there was no evidence he suffered a seizure or a lapse of consciousness within the last three years. Because the Court of Appeal concluded the record contained substantial evidence that Anderson suffered from “a disorder characterized by lapses of consciousness” as in the plain language of the statute, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "Anderson v. Shiomoto" on Justia Law

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In August 2017, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil was assigned as the independent calendar judge to preside over a case brought by Overland Direct, Inc., and CTPC, LLC (collectively Overland) alleging defendants fraudulently induced Overland to assign security interests in various properties to certain defendants. In 2018, Overland moved to transfer and consolidate its other cases involving similar fraud allegations, including ones from the San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties' Superior Courts. Some defendants in the San Bernardino and Los Angeles cases were not already part of the San Diego County action; over written opposition by these defendants, Judge Wohlfeil granted the transfer motion and ordered the San Bernardino and Los Angeles cases transferred to San Diego County Superior Court and consolidated with Overland's existing San Diego case. Three of the defendants in the San Bernardino action ("Sunrise defendants") then brought a Civil Code section 170.6 challenge against Judge Wohlfeil. The court denied the challenge as untimely because the motion was filed more than 15 days after the Sunrise defendants appeared in the action by filing their opposition to Overland's section 403 transfer/consolidation motion. The Sunrise defendants filed a writ petition challenging the denial of their section 170.6 motion. After staying the San Diego County Superior Court proceedings, the Court of Appeal issued an order to show cause because section 170.6 rulings were not appealable and there did not appear to be any published authority on the precise issue. The Court then granted the parties' request that it defer ruling on the writ petition pending the resolution of various bankruptcy issues. After the bankruptcy issues were resolved, the parties completed their briefing on the section 170.6 issues. Based on its evaluation the Court of Appeal concluded the court properly found the Sunrise defendants' section 170.6 challenge was indeed untimely, satisfied its conclusion best effectuated the legislative intent when viewing the specific words of the statute and the statutory purpose and objectives. View "Sunrise Financial, LLC v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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After Rostack obtained a summary judgment against defendant in a breach of contract action in an amount exceeding $50 million, the Court of Appeal reversed and awarded defendant her costs as prevailing party. Then defendant's memorandum of costs sought to recover costs related to her obtaining a surety bond, secured by a letter of credit, pending the appeal. The court affirmed the trial court's denial of Rostack's motion to tax those costs because defendant's bond-related expenses were both reasonable and necessary. Specifically, the court held that the judgment for costs was a final enforceable judgment, and that the bond and letter of credit premiums were reasonable and necessary. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's entry of judgment against Rostack for the full amount of the disputed costs. View "Rostack Investments v. Sabella" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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M.F., the son of Nicole W. and Stephen C., appealed orders at the 12-month review hearing under Welfare & Institutions Code section 366.21 (f) directing the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency to extend the reunification period for an additional six-month period and setting the 18-month review hearing more than 23 months from the date he first entered foster care. M.F. challenged the juvenile court's finding that Agency did not provide reasonable services to his father. He also contended the juvenile court lacked authority to order continued services beyond the 18-month review date absent special circumstances not present here. The Court of Appeal concluded there was substantial evidence to support the juvenile court's finding that reasonable services were not provided or offered to the parent, that the juvenile court was authorized to extend reunification services up to the 24-month review date if the court determined reasonable services were not provided or offered to the parent, and the juvenile court was not required to consider the need for a continuance under section 352 when extending services. View "In re M.F." on Justia Law

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Respondent San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) did not oppose termination of the dependency of N.O., rather, the Agency recommended it. N.O.'s counsel opposed termination of dependency jurisdiction over the objection of N.O.'s parents. Mexico declined to exercise jurisdiction over Minor, who was detained in California when Minor's mother A.R. (Mother) was arrested at the international border for transporting a large amount of marijuana. Minor was ultimately placed by a California juvenile court with maternal grandmother in Mexico. A few months after her arrest, Mother was released from custody and returned to Mexico, where she participated in services through the agency Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF), which services were ordered and overseen by the juvenile court and Agency. Because Mother made substantial progress in services under her Agency care plan, Minor was returned to Mother's care. After a domestic violence (DV) incident between Mother and Minor's father S.G. (Father) in late December 2016 came to light in February 2017, Agency recommended Mother receive DV services, which were to be administered through DIF because Mother could no longer cross the border into the United States. When the court terminated jurisdiction in May 2018 it was unclear whether Mother had participated in such DV services. However, perhaps more important for purposes of this appeal, it also was unclear whether DIF had offered Mother such services, or believed they were even necessary. After multiple continuances of the section 364 review hearing, the juvenile court on March 8, 2018, granted Minor's counsel one last continuance, noting that it was "comfortable" closing the case based on the information then available to it and that it did not appear additional information regarding Minor would be forthcoming from DIF. On appeal, Minor contends the juvenile court's finding that conditions no longer existed in May 2018 that would justify the initial assumption of dependency over Minor in August 2015 was not supported by substantial evidence; that the court abused its discretion in not continuing the family maintenance review hearing until Minor was found and assessed; and that the juvenile court violated Minor's statutory right to counsel. The Court of Appeal determined Minor did not meet her burden of showing conditions still existed to justify the Agency's jurisdiction over her, and affirmed termination. View "In re N.O." on Justia Law