Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's judgment denying a petition for writ of mandate pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 1085 and 1094.5. Plaintiff alleged that the Department improperly extended his probation; he became a permanent employee 12 months after his hire date; and as a permanent employee, he was entitled to a hearing before discharge. The court held that there was no prohibition against the Department acting unilaterally so long as the other requirements of rule 12.02(B) of the Los Angeles County Civil Service Rules were met; rule 12.02 expressly permits the Department to exclude from the calculation of the probationary period, those times when an employee is absent from duty, and makes no reference as to whether that absence is paid or unpaid; the court interpreted the term "absent from duty" to mean that an employee is missing from his or her obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions, arising from his or her position, here, the position of deputy sheriff; and plaintiff failed to articulate what, if any, duties he was required to perform during the period he was on Relieved of Duty status. View "Amezcua v. L.A. County Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

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Following protracted postjudgment litigation over the transfer of title of real property from Natache Menezes (Wife) to Tim McDaniel (Husband), the trial court issued $200,000 in sanctions against Wife, pursuant to Family Code section 271. Wife challenged the sanctions, contending they improperly included anticipated attorney fees and costs, and the amount was not supported by substantial evidence showing they were tethered to attorney fees and costs. The Court of Appeal concluded the superior court did not abuse its discretion by awarding the sanctions, including the anticipated fees and costs. However, the matter was remanded for the trial court to ensure that the bases for the $200,000 award included only expenses tethered to attorney fees and costs. View "Menezes v. McDaniel" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Carla St. Myers worked as a nurse practitioner at a rural clinic that was part of a medical center owned and operated by defendant Dignity Health. During the three years she worked there, she submitted over 50 complaints about working conditions and was also the subject of several investigations based on anonymous complaints. All the investigations concluded the complaints against St. Myers were unsubstantiated and no action was taken against her. She found another job and resigned. But claiming her resignation was a constructive termination due to intolerable working conditions, St. Myers sued Dignity Health and Optum360 Services, Inc., setting forth three causes of action for retaliation under various statutory provisions and constructive discharge in violation of public policy. The complaint sought both general and punitive damages. The trial court granted the separate motions of Dignity Health and Optum360 for summary judgment and St. Myers appealed those judgments. As to Optum360, the Court of Appeal found St. Myers failed to establish a triable issue of material fact that Optum360 was her employer, a prerequisite under the pleadings for all her claims. As to Dignity Health, the Court found St. Myers failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to any adverse employment action. Accordingly, the Court affirmed summary judgment. View "St. Myers v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying defendant's motion to (1) vacate entry of a $3.825 million Kansas judgment, and (2) post a $5,737,500 undertaking to stay enforcement of the sister-state judgment. The court held that, based on the doctrines of res judicata and issue preclusion, defendant was precluded from arguing that Blizzard was guilty of misconduct or that the Santa Barbara Superior Court was misled when it dismissed the 2015 action for breach of oral agreement, conversion, and accounting. The court also held that defendant's argument that the trial court erred in ordering him to post a $5,737,500 undertaking to stay enforcement of the judgment was without merit. The court explained that the superior court has broad discretion in fashioning the terms and conditions of a Sister State Money Judgment Act stay order, and there was no abuse of discretion in this case. View "Blizzard Energy, Inc. v. Schaefers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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After prevailing on a petition for writ of mandate, petitioner filed a motion for attorney fees under the private attorney general doctrine. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of attorney fees. The court agreed with the trial court that petitioner failed to establish that the benefit the writ petition achieved was conferred on a sufficiently large enough class of persons to justify an attorney fee award under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. The court explained that the most significant benefit here inured specifically to individual drivers with non-qualifying out-of-state drunk driving convictions, and that benefit and the extent to which that benefit balances against the public benefit from an interest in public safety in the form of California's participation in the Compact are both "pertinent circumstances" the trial court was required to consider. View "Villarreal v. Gordon" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff filed an interpleader action to resolve claims about a disputed $19,365 sum, two claimants and defendants failed to appear after having received notice of the trial date. The trial court adjudicated the case on the merits and entered judgment. Claimants then filed a motion for relief under the mandatory provision of subdivision (b) of section 473 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of claimants' motion, holding that the provision for mandatory relief does not apply absent an actual default, default judgment or dismissal. In this case, the trial court decided the case on the merits. View "Shayan v. Spine Care and Orthopedic Physicians" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Six companies affiliated with Warwick Hotels sued companies affiliated with Applied Underwriters, claiming breach of contract and fraud and unfair business practices relating to the purchase of workers’ compensation insurance. Applied moved to stay the action under Code of Civil Procedure 418.10; the parties’ agreement required that claims relating to the agreement be filed in Nebraska, where Applied was incorporated. Applied argued that Warwick’s workers’ compensation program involved employees in New York, Colorado, Texas, and California, and that “[t]he California portion ... was . . . by far the smallest component, representing only 5 percent of the total payroll at issue.” The court stayed the action as to all plaintiffs except two Warwick companies that are incorporated in California. A subsequent statement of decision (SOD) stated: "this trial was limited to Warwick’s California entities only, and the trial determined that damages cannot be ‘allocated or apportioned between California and non-California Warwick entities.’ Because both sides failed to prove the essential element of damages, their arguments on other elements of contract breach need not be reached.” The court of appeal dismissed an appeal. The SOD is not a judgment or an appealable order. The court indicated that judgment cannot be entered until other issues are decided in their proper forum. Once that happens, the stay can be lifted, a final judgment can be entered, and the parties can appeal. View "Warwick California Corp. v. Applied Underwriters, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Shortly before turning 18 Andrew committed an armed robbery; his accomplice shot and killed a police officer. After his conviction, Judge Brady sentenced Andrew to life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP), plus 24 years. The court of appeal reversed one special circumstance. On remand, Judge Brady sentenced Andrew to LWOP plus 24 years. After a second remand following the U.S. Supreme Court's Miller decision (2012), Judge Brady imposed LWOP plus 23 years, finding Andrew’s actions “were not those of an irresponsible or impulsive child," nor the product of peer pressure, coercion, or surprise and finding no realistic chance of rehabilitation. The court of appeal affirmed. The California Supreme Court returned the case with directions to consider whether legislation rendering juvenile LWOP defendants eligible for parole suitability hearings mooted Andrew’s challenge. While Andrew’s appeal was pending Proposition 57 eliminated a prosecutor’s ability to “direct file” charges in criminal court against minors of a certain age. These minors may be tried in criminal court only after the juvenile court conducts a transfer hearing to consider specific factors. The court rejected Andrew’s LWOP challenge but concluded he was entitled to a Proposition 57 hearing. The superior court granted the prosecution's motion to assign that hearing to Judge Brady. The court of appeal rejected a mandamus petition. A conditional reversal and limited remand for a Proposition 57 transfer hearing are not a “new trial” under Code of Civil Procedure section 170.61, which permits parties in civil and criminal actions to move to disqualify an assigned trial judge based on an allegation that the judge is prejudiced against the party. View "Andrew M. v. Superior Court of Contra Costa County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his counsel appealed from a postjudgment order denying plaintiff's motion to compel the production of documents and imposing $3,456.70 in sanctions against counsel for discovery abuses. The underlying action involved residual payments owed by defendant to plaintiff. The Court of Appeal denied the petition challenging the motion to compel the production of documents, and affirmed the imposition of $3,456.70 in sanctions against counsel. The court held that, although plaintiff lacked standing, counsel had standing to appeal the order and was properly an appellant in this matter. The court also held that the trial court did not err in denying the motion to compel; rejected challenges to the monetary sanctions levied against counsel; held that a separate motion is not required, nor is a separate hearing on discovery sanctions; and held that the trial court did not err in awarding discovery sanctions representing fees and costs incurred. View "Dalessandro v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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Wade Robson and James Safechuck filed suit against two of Michael Jackson's corporations, MJJ Productions, Inc. and MJJ Ventures, Inc., for their involvement in Jackson's alleged sexual abuse of Robson and Safechuck. Plaintiffs filed suit after their 26th birthdays, and the trial court concluded their claims were untimely because they did not fall within the narrow exception of Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1. However, effective January 1, 2020, section 340.1 was amended to allow a victim to bring claims of childhood sexual assault against third-party nonperpetrators until the victim's 40th birthday. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgments in the corporations' favor and held that the extended limitations period of the revised section 340.1 applied to render plaintiffs' claims timely. In this case, plaintiffs filed their lawsuits before their 40th birthdays and their cases remained pending on appeal. Therefore, they have not reached finality. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Safechuck v. MJJ Productions, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure