Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Plaintiffs Matthew Matson and Matson SDRE Group, LLC purchased a deed of trust at a nonjudicial foreclosure sale. S.B.S. Trust Deed Network (SBS) was the trustee and Bank of Southern California, N.A. (BSC) was the beneficiary of the deed of trust. Matson, relying on a software application called PropertyRadar, believed that the deed of trust was in first position on the property. He purchased the deed of trust for $502,000 at the foreclosure auction, then learned that the lien was in second position, with a much lower fair market value than the price paid. Plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint against defendants for rescission of the sale and declaratory relief, relying on Matson's unilateral mistake of fact and the unconscionable price he paid for the deed of trust. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The court granted summary judgment for defendants. Plaintiffs appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "Matson v. S.B.S. Trust Deed Network" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's judgment in favor of the Estate, in a lawsuit brought by Moofly for actions the Estate took when attempting to collect on a judgment in a previous, related case. The Estate filed a cross-complaint, accusing Moofly and its owner of fraudulent transfers and other causes of action. The court held that Moofly was not entitled to a jury trial because the Estate's cause of action for fraudulent transfer was essentially one in equity and the relief sought depended upon the application of equitable doctrines; Moofly received adequate notice of the Estate's motion for terminating sanctions; there were sufficient grounds to justify the imposition of terminating sanctions; the superior court did not exceed its jurisdiction by awarding the return of derivative copyrighted materials; even assuming that the Estate's claim fell within the subject matter of copyright, the rights the Estate asserted are not equivalent to copyright; and there was no error in including Moofly's owner as a party liable for the judgment. View "Moofly Productions, LLC v. Favila" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from challenges to a $7 million default judgment entered after the trial court issued terminating sanctions. The Court of Appeal affirmed the entry of terminating sanctions, modifying the judgment to eliminate the awards of treble damages and attorney fees. The court held that a trial court is not foreclosed from issuing terminating sanctions just because the underlying discovery encompasses only a subset of the issues in the case; a party against whom a default has been entered may file a motion for new trial attacking the default judgment as containing errors in law; and Penal Code section 496, subdivision (c) only authorizes an award of treble damages or attorney fees when the underlying conduct involves trafficking in stolen goods and thus the court parted ways with Switzer v. Wood, (2019) 35 Cal.App.5th 116. View "Siry Investment, LP v. Farkhondehpour" on Justia Law

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This proceeding stemmed from a minor’s collapse during football try-outs at Lincoln High School in Stockton in 2017. Respondent Shynelle Jones presented a timely claim on behalf of her son, Jayden, to the Lincoln Unified School District under the Government Claims Act. About four months later, Jones submitted an application to the school district for leave to present a late claim on her own behalf based on her allegedly newfound realization of the severity of her son’s injuries, their impact on her own life, and her right to file her own claim. She declared that up until that point she had been able to attend to her own interests. After the application was denied, Jones filed a petition for relief from the claim presentation requirement in the superior court based on the same facts. At the hearing on her petition, her counsel, Kenneth Meleyco, presented a new explanation for the delay in submitting Jones’s claim: the day after Jones presented a claim on her son’s behalf, she retained Meleyco on her own behalf, and an error in the handling of Meleyco’s dictated memo within his office prevented the earlier preparation of Jones’s claim. The superior court granted Jones’s petition, despite noting “legitimate concerns regarding [her] credibility” because it “determined based on the directives provided in case law, to provide relief from technical rules, that [Jones] has met her burden of proof to demonstrate that her neglect was excusable.” The Court of Appeal found this ruling was an abuse of the trial court’s discretion. "[T]he general policy favoring trial on the merits cannot justify the approval of a petition that is not credible and that does not demonstrate a right to relief by a preponderance of the evidence." The Court issued a writ of mandate compelling the superior court to vacate its order and enter a new order denying Jones relief from the claim presentation requirement. View "Lincoln Unified School Dist. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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E.B. has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The Contra Costa County public guardian sought the appointment of a conservator. The court denied E.B.’s objection to compelled testimony. At a trial, E.B. was called as one of three witnesses. He appealed from an order appointing the Public Guardian as his conservator and determining that his current placement in a mental health rehabilitation facility was the least restrictive and most appropriate placement. (Welf. & Inst. Code 5350, 5358(c)(1)). E.B. argued that he had a right to refuse to testify under the equal protection clause, because that right has been statutorily granted in proceedings to extend the commitment of persons found not guilty by reason of insanity, and he is entitled to the same protection. The court of appeal affirmed. LPS conservatees are similarly situated with NGI’s and with individuals subject to other involuntary civil commitments for purposes of the right against compelled testimony but the error was harmless. Even if the jurors had not observed E.B.’s demeanor on the stand, they would have known his diagnosis; that he was on three medications for his mental illness, one of which required white blood cell count monitoring; that he had been recently hospitalized for his mental illness; that when living on his own he had engaged in aberrant behavior; and that he resisted treatment and had limited insight into his mental health condition. View "Conservatorship of E.B." on Justia Law

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At issue in this insurance dispute coverage between Textron and Travelers was whether an earlier choice of law ruling in a Rhode Island coverage action between the parties qualifies for collateral and judicial estoppel effect, thus precluding Textron from seeking coverage under California law in the current California coverage action, and leading to the conclusion that Textron's claim is outside the policy period. The Court of Appeal held that the Rhode Island choice of law ruling did not have collateral and judicial estoppel effect, because the factual predicate of the Rhode Island action was not adequate to litigate and decide the identical choice of law issue presented in this case. The court stated that a triable issue of fact exists under California's continuous trigger whether the Esters action constitutes an occurrence within the policy periods of the Textron policies. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Travelers on Textron's declaratory relief complaint, and on the parties' cross complaints. View "Textron, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Patricia petitioned for the dissolution of her marriage to Thomas in 2001. A dissolution judgment entered in 2002; a judgment on reserved issues entered in 2008. In 2005, trial court Commissioner Oleon determined, based Thomas’s conduct in the dissolution proceedings and two separate civil actions, that Thomas was a vexatious litigant, and issued an order, prohibiting him from filing any new litigation or motion in propria persona without obtaining leave of the presiding judge. Thomas was also ordered to cover Patricia's attorney fees. In 2006, Thomas unsuccessfully moved (Code of Civil Procedure 170.1) to have Oleon disqualified. Weeks later, Thomas filed another section 170.1 challenge; the court failed to timely respond. Months later, notwithstanding his disqualification, Oleon reentered his previous vexatious litigant orders, effective from 7/29/05 because, when entering his original orders, he neglected to file a mandatory form. In 2018, Thomas complained to the presiding judge regarding Oleon’s post-disqualification involvement. The court issued an order to show cause, then reaffirmed that Thomas qualifies as a vexatious litigant and reimposed the pre-filing order. The court of appeal affirmed, noting that “Thomas appears to have used the opportunity ... to make implicit threats against various members of the California judiciary and State Bar.” The court upheld the 2018 orders as supported by substantial evidence and rejected an argument that a nonplaintiff litigant cannot be designated a vexatious litigant. View "Marriage of Deal" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a dispute concerning which persons are the true members of the Atwell Island Water District. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court relied on improper extraneous documents when ruling on the motion to strike and thereby abused its discretion, but the court nevertheless affirmed the granting of the motion without leave to amend. In this case, the election that appellant alleged took place on January 17, 2017 was void, because it was held the day after a state holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Milton Pace and Nathan Cameron were therefore not duly elected to the District board. Therefore, the court concluded that Leonard Herr's firm was not retained by a board majority as John Mitchell could not constitute a majority by himself, and Herr consequently was not authorized to prepare, sign, or file pleadings on the District's behalf. The court held that the pleadings were rightfully stricken, and leave to amend should not have been allowed because the pleadings were incurably defective. View "Atwell Island Water District v. Atwell Island Water District" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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California resident Nicholas Nadhir sued non-resident Yousef Zehia for defamation, violation of the online impersonation law, appropriation of name or likeness, and intentional infliction of emotional distress based on Zehia's sending of allegedly defamatory statement to California residents through private online social media messages with the aim of interfering with the residents' personal relationships. Zehia moved to quash service of summons and the trial court denied the motion to quash on grounds that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over Zehia was proper. Zehia filed a petition for writ of mandate requesting that the Court of Appeal direct the trial court to vacate its order denying his motion to quash and enter a new order granting the motion to quash. The Court concluded Zehia's suit-related conduct created a substantial connection between Zehia and California sufficient to support the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over him. Therefore, the trial court correctly denied the motion to quash. Zehia's writ petition was denied. View "Zehia v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The issues presented by this appeal for the Court of Appeal’s review arose in the procedural context of an anti-SLAPP motion brought by Tamara Kinsella, in defendant Kevin Kinsella’s malicious prosecution complaint. Shortly after Tamara initiated dissolution of marriage proceedings against Kevin, Tamara sued Kevin based on what she contended was his promise, prior to their marriage, that the property and income they acquired during their relationship would belong equally to both of them (Marvin Action). After Tamara voluntarily dismissed the Marvin Action, Kevin sued her for malicious prosecution in the present action. Seeking to have Kevin's malicious prosecution complaint stricken as a SLAPP, Tamara responded with an anti-SLAPP motion. In her effort to establish that Kevin could not show she lacked probable cause to prosecute the Marvin Action, Tamara relied on an interim adverse judgment rule: She (1) presented evidence that the trial court in the Marvin Action denied Kevin's motion for summary judgment, and (2) argued that this interim victory on Kevin's summary judgment motion precluded Kevin from establishing that Tamara lacked the requisite probable cause to file and prosecute the Marvin Action. In opposition, Kevin relied on the fraud exception to the interim adverse judgment rule: He argued that, because Tamara defeated Kevin's summary judgment motion in the Marvin Action by having submitted materially false facts on which the court relied in denying the motion, Tamara was not entitled to rely on the interim adverse judgment rule's presumption that resulted from the denial of his summary judgment motion in the Marvin Action. The trial court ruled that the malicious prosecution complaint was a SLAPP and struck it. Kevin appealed, arguing the trial court erred in determining that he did not establish the requisite probability of prevailing on the merits of his claim against Tamara. The Court of Appeal concurred with Kevin’s argument and reversed. View "Kinsella v. Kinsella" on Justia Law