Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Swenberg sued Dmarcian, Draegen, and Groeneweg, alleging claims related to his ownership interest in and employment with the company. Dmarcian was incorporated in Delaware and, in 2017, registered with the California Secretary of State as a foreign corporation with its “principal executive office” in Burlingame. Groeneweg, who resides in the Netherlands, is alleged to be a chief executive of, and have an ownership interest in, “a company whose true name is unknown to Swenberg, but which was a European affiliate entity of” Dmarcian (Dmarcian EU). The complaint alleges on information and belief that Groeneweg is presently a shareholder or beneficial owner of Dmarcian.The trial court granted Groeneweg’s motion to quash service for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court of appeal reversed. By publicly presenting himself as a leader of Dmarcian, having Dmarcian EU’s web address automatically route to Dmarcian’s Web site, administered in California, and receiving prospective customers directed to Dmarcian EU by a Dmarcian employee in California, Groeneweg “purposely availed himself " of forum benefits and purposefully derived benefit from his activities in the forum. There is no unfairness in requiring him to subject himself to the jurisdiction of California courts in litigation involving his relationship with that California company and its employees. View "Swenberg v. Dmarcian" on Justia Law

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In 2018, a Sacramento Police Department administrative penalty of $137,500 was imposed on plaintiffs Zuhu Wang and Xiaoyan Yue based on the number of marijuana plants that were found on property they owned in excess of what was permitted under Sacramento City Code (City Code) section 8.132.040(B). Plaintiffs filed an administrative appeal with the City of Sacramento. After a hearing, a hearing examiner found the penalty was properly issued. The examiner relied in part on City Code section 8.08.050(A), which stated that “[e]very owner of real property within the city is required to manage the property in a manner so as not to violate the provisions of this code and the owner remains liable for violations thereof regardless of any contract or agreement with any third party regarding the property.” The examiner found “[t]he property owner in good faith entrusted the management of his property to an established property management company that failed to adequately follow through with background research on the tenant, and to conduct adequate inspections of the property.” The examiner reduced the administrative penalty to $35,000 “in consideration of the evidence and testimony presented.” The question presented by this appeal was whether a de novo appeal to a superior court pursuant to Government Code section 53069.4 was unavailable to challenge an administrative penalty that exceeds $25,000. The Court of Appeal determined that because the statute contained no such limitation, it reversed the judgment dismissing the de novo appeal brought by plaintiffs, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wang v. City of Sacramento Police Dept." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Sayedeh Sahba Amjadi appealed the dismissal entered after a settlement was entered by her attorney on her behalf and over her objection with defendant Jerrod West Brown, and appealed an order denying her subsequent motion to vacate the judgment. The settlement was entered by plaintiff’s attorney pursuant to a provision in the attorney’s contingent fee agreement, which purported to grant the attorney the right to accept settlement offers on the client’s behalf in the attorney’s “sole discretion,” so long as the attorney believed in good faith that the settlement offer was reasonable and in the client’s best interest. The Court of Appeal determined such a provision violated the Rules of Professional Conduct and was void to the extent it purported to grant an attorney the right to accept a settlement over the client’s objection. Accordingly, the Court held the settlement to be void and reversed the resulting judgment. The Court also referred plaintiff’s former attorneys to the State Bar for potential discipline, as required by law and by Canon 3D(2) of the Code of Judicial Ethics. View "Amjadi v. Brown" on Justia Law

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A reverse validation action was brought by petitioners Bonnie Wolstoncroft, William Unkel, and Michael Wilkes against the County of Yolo (County) to challenge the County’s plan to continue water service to 95 residences within the North Davis Meadows County Service Area (County Service Area) by replacing two aging groundwater wells with the City of Davis’s (City) water supply. Under this plan, North Davis Meadows residents would pay substantially higher water rates to pay for the project. The County considered the increased water rates to be property-related fees and noticed a Proposition 218 (as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996)) hearing. More than five months after the County adopted its resolution, but before the deadline contemplated by the parties’ tolling agreement, petitioners filed their action in superior court. The trial court rejected petitioners’ argument that the increased levy constituted an assessment for which majority approval was required by Proposition 218. The trial court also rejected petitioners’ contentions that the County wrongfully rejected protest votes it claimed not to have received or received in an untimely manner. After review of petitioners' arguments on appeal, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court correctly determined that the levy constituted a property-related fee under Proposition 218. "The fact that maintaining adequate water supply requires switching water sources does not turn the fee into an assessment. Thus, the County properly employed the majority protest procedure under article XIII D, section 6." Further, the Court concluded that even if the trial court erred in denying petitioners’ motion to augment the record with declarations regarding two mailed protest votes, petitioners’ evidence would not prove timely compliance with the protest procedure. Without the protest votes for which only evidence of mailing was tendered, the protest lacked a majority. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Wolstoncroft v. County of Yolo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Wendy McKenzie was injured by a falling tree branch while jogging in Lower Bidwell Park, a municipal park owned by the City of Chico, California. She and her husband, Leslie McKenzie, real parties in interest, sued the City for personal injuries. The City sought a preemptory writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its denial of its motion for summary judgment and to grant the motion, arguing the trial court, in denying the motion, failed to recognize the City was immune from liability for injuries caused by a natural condition of unimproved public property, under Government Code section 831.2. The Court of Appeal concurred with the City and issued the requested writ. View "City of Chico v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs represent a certified class of current and former employees of Westamerica Bank who allege that Westamerica violated the Labor Code. The parties agreed that the parties would depose 30 class members as part of a pilot study to determine how many additional depositions are needed for a valid random sample of the class generally. Over Westamerica’s objection, the trial court ordered that the parties share the deposition costs equally.The court of appeal dismissed an appeal. The order is not appealable under the collateral order doctrine. To be appealable, a collateral order must finally determine an issue collateral to the litigation and require the payment of money or performance of an act. Here, the matter is not final. Whether Westamerica ultimately pays for these depositions remains an open question. Because Westamerica’s liability for deposition costs has not been finally determined, and any error in the interim order may prove harmless, the issue is not ripe for appellate review. The court summarily rejected Westamerica’s request to treat the appeal as a petition for an extraordinary writ. View "Reddish v. Westamerica Bank" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kimberly Olson appealed a trial court’s denial of her motion for preliminary injunction. Olson sought to enjoin defendant Hornbrook Community Services District (district) from having its employee, defendant Clint Dingman, perform “certain water-related duties (such as adding Chlorine to the [district’s] water, operating the Chlorination equipment, and doing water testing), or being paid to do so.” Olson asserted Dingman was required to be certified by the State Water Resources Control Board (board) under the operator certification program (program) as both a water treatment plant operator and a water distribution system operator to perform such duties and, because he was not certified as such, the district and Dingman (collectively defendants) violated several provisions of the Health and Safety Code. She further claimed “Dingman’s illegal operation of the [district’s] facilities ha[s] resulted in toxic and offensive water, resulting in public and private nuisances, and waste of taxpayer funds.” The trial court denied the preliminary injunction motion because Olson failed to show a strong likelihood of success on the merits, the injunction would not maintain the status quo, and the balance of hardships tipped in favor of Dingman. Olson appealed, arguing largely that the trial court erred in its decision. The Court of Appeal did not reach the merits of Olson’s arguments because the Court concluded judicial abstention was appropriate under the facts of this case. The preliminary injunction Olson sought would have required the court to assume the functions of the board. The Court thus affirmed the order denying her preliminary injunction motion. View "Olson v. Hornbrook Community Services District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging a tort claim arising out of injuries suffered in California and retained a Virginia-based law firm with Virginia-licensed lawyers to represent her in negotiating a settlement with the pertinent federal agency's lawyers in Arizona. At issue is whether California may exert specific jurisdiction over the firm and its lawyers if plaintiff sues them for malpractice.The Court of Appeal concluded that California may not exert jurisdiction over the law firm and its lawyers because the law firm and its lawyers did nothing to purposefully avail themselves of the benefits of doing business in California, and the allegedly bad advice underlying the malpractice lawsuit was not sufficiently related to the firm's and its lawyers' contacts with California. Because plaintiff did not carry her burden of establishing either of the first two requirements of specific jurisdiction, the court had no occasion to determine whether California's exertion of jurisdiction would comport with fair play and substantial justice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's order quashing service of summons on these defendants and dismissing plaintiff's malpractice suit. View "Jacqueline B. v. Rawls Law Group, PC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff Ryan Holman sued the County of Butte, California, the County of Butte Health and Human Services Department (Health and Human Services), and the County of Butte Sheriff’s Office (Sheriff’s Office) (collectively County) for negligence under a theory Health and Human Services and the Sheriff’s Office failed to perform mandatory duties under Government Code section 815.6 related to the investigation and reporting of allegations of child abuse perpetrated against plaintiff by his parents. The County demurred, contending plaintiff’s allegations were time barred by Code of Civil Procedure section 338(a). The question before the trial court was, and on appeal was whether the discovery was available to plaintiff to excuse his filing of his complaint after the statute of limitation had expired. The trial court agreed with the County that the discovery rule was unavailable when section 338(a) was the applicable statute of limitations. The Court of Appeal reversed: “The problem with the County’s argument is that, whether diligent or not, plaintiff brought his claim within three years of the triggering event, thus falling within the statute of limitations when the discovery rule is applied. The discovery rule postpones accrual of a cause of action until the plaintiff discovers, or has reason to discover, the cause of action. Once the cause of action accrues, the injured party still has the statute of limitations period to investigate the parameters of his or her claim. Because plaintiff filed his action within three years from when he had reason to know of his causes of action, his suit is timely.” View "Holman v. County of Butte" on Justia Law

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In 2017, a scene depicting an armed robbery of a jewelry store was filmed in New Orleans for the CBS television show, NCIS: New Orleans. No permits were obtained for the filming and police were not informed. A neighbor, thinking the robbery was real, called 911. The plaintiffs, all Louisiana residents, were arrested by responding officers and later released. They sought to recover damages in California from CBS, based upon fraudulent representations and/or omissions that were made to them in Louisiana, and that caused them harm in Louisana.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Code of Civil Procedure section 361 provides that “[w]hen a cause of action has arisen in another State, . . . and by the laws thereof an action thereon cannot there be maintained against a person by reason of the lapse of time, an action thereon shall not be maintained against him in this State.” The one-year Louisiana statute of limitations expired before the filing of the action. The court rejected arguments that the causes of action arose in California because the fraud committed in Louisiana allegedly was ratified by CBS’s conduct in California. The plaintiffs cannot state a valid claim for unjust enrichment. View "LeBrun v. CBS Studios Inc." on Justia Law