Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
by
Yelp publishes crowdsourced business reviews and allows businesses to advertise on its Website and mobile app. Yelp employs over 2,000 sales representatives to solicit advertising sales. Gruber, a solo attorney practitioner, was contacted by phone several times by Yelp sales representatives. During these calls, in which the sales representatives’ voices were recorded, Gruber discussed confidential and financial information regarding his law firm. When conversing with one representative, who happened to be his friend, Gruber sometimes joked, discussed private topics, and used profanity. Gruber did not recall that any Yelp sales representative notified him that the conversations were being recorded. Gruber sued under the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) Pen. Code 630, alleging unlawful recording and intercepting of communications; unlawful recording of and eavesdropping upon confidential communications; and unlawful wiretapping.The trial court granted Yelp summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed. While Gruber was not recorded during any calls (only Yelp’s representatives were recorded), CIPA is violated if a defendant records any portion of a conversation between two or more individuals. When the Yelp salespeople spoke during the one-sided recordings of their conversations with Gruber, the recordings revealed firsthand and in real-time their understanding of or reaction to Gruber’s words. Yelp failed to meet its burden of production regarding whether its use of VoIP technology precludes CIPA's application. View "Gruber v. Yelp Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (the "lemon law") suit, the jury answered special verdict questions determining that Jaguar had no liability for breach of express warranty or for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. However, there was a mistake in the special verdict form that neither counsel nor the trial court detected until long after the jury was discharged. In this case, the verdict form did not tell the jury if they found no breach of warranty, they should stop and answer no further questions. Judgment was subsequently entered on the special verdict and damages were awarded to plaintiffs. The trial court then granted Jaguar's motion to vacate the judgment and enter a different judgment in its favor.The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that Jaguar's motion to vacate was timely; the original judgment rests on an erroneous legal basis, and is not consistent with the facts found by the jury; and plaintiffs did not propose the question they now say should have been asked, and on this record, there was no evidence or law to support the questions they did propose. The court explained that since the verdict form did not instruct the jurors to stop, they continued, answering the questions directed at determining damages. But there can be no damages where there is no liability. The court also held that the trial court's alternative judgment not withstanding the verdict ruling was correct where the defect in the one-touch mechanism did not occur until two years after plaintiffs leased the car, and there is no evidence it was caused by some other defect present when the car was manufactured. View "Simgel Co., Inc. v. Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal modified the opinion, thus changing the judgment, by adding at the end of the disposition that no costs are awarded.The court held that, under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, popularly known as the "lemon law," a buyer may not obtain restitution of the full price he paid for a new motor vehicle, where the manufacturer failed to complete repairs to a defect within 30 days, but the defect did not substantially impair the vehicle's use, value or safety.In this case, the jury trial resulted in a special verdict finding the car did not have a defect covered by the warranty that substantially impaired the vehicle's use, value or safety, and the car was fit for ordinary purposes, but defendants failed to complete warranted repairs within 30 days. The court held that plaintiff was only entitled to recover damages caused by the delay in repairing a nonconformity that did not substantially impair the car's use, value or safety. Therefore, the trial court correctly concluded such damages do not include the replacement-restitution remedy under Civil Code section 1793.2(d) nor do they include damages that are available when a buyer justifiably revokes acceptance of goods under section 1794, subdivision (b)(1). The court affirmed the trial court's judgment entered on the jury's verdict. View "Ramos v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
by
The Court of Appeal held that, under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, popularly known as the "lemon law," a buyer may not obtain restitution of the full price he paid for a new motor vehicle, where the manufacturer failed to complete repairs to a defect within 30 days, but the defect did not substantially impair the vehicle's use, value or safety.In this case, the jury trial resulted in a special verdict finding the car did not have a defect covered by the warranty that substantially impaired the vehicle's use, value or safety, and the car was fit for ordinary purposes, but defendants failed to complete warranted repairs within 30 days. The court held that plaintiff was only entitled to recover damages caused by the delay in repairing a nonconformity that did not substantially impair the car's use, value or safety. Therefore, the trial court correctly concluded such damages do not include the replacement-restitution remedy under Civil Code section 1793.2(d) nor do they include damages that are available when a buyer justifiably revokes acceptance of goods under section 1794, subdivision (b)(1). The court affirmed the trial court's judgment entered on the jury's verdict. View "Ramos v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
by
The California Contractors’ State License Board (CSLB) sought revocation or suspension of Sieg’s contractor’s license and restitution. The Accusation alleged that Sieg failed to follow spacing and fastening requirements when installing a hardwood floor, departing from trade standards in violation of Business & Professions Code 7109(a), and failed to complete a construction project for the agreed contract price in violation of section 7113. Sieg filed a Defense and filed a civil lawsuit against the homeowners, which was subsequently dismissed. After a hearing, the ALJ issued a proposed decision recommending a 65-day suspension and a three-year probation term including payment of $27,884.21 restitution. The Registrar adopted the ALJ’s proposed decision but eliminated the 65-day suspension term and required Sieg to obtain a disciplinary bond of $30,000.00 (section 7071.8), for three years.The trial court denied Sief relief. The court of appeal affirmed the decision as supported by substantial evidence, rejecting a due process claim. Sieg had the opportunity to cross-examine each of the CSLB’s witnesses, to present witnesses of his own, and to testify on his own behalf. The court noted that private agreements to depart from statutorily imposed workmanship standards provide no defense to an alleged violation of section 7109(a), in disciplinary enforcement proceedings. View "Sieg v. Fogt" on Justia Law

by
In May 2017, plaintiff Joseph Mejia bought a used motorcycle from Defendant DACM, Inc. (Del Amo) for $5,500. Mejia paid $500 cash and financed the remainder of the purchase price with a WebBank-issued Yamaha credit card he obtained through the dealership purchasing the motorcycle. In applying for the credit card, Mejia signed a credit application acknowledging he had received and read WebBank’s Yamaha Credit Card Account Customer Agreement (the credit card agreement), which contained an arbitration provision. Sometime after his purchase, Mejia filed a complaint against Del Amo on behalf of himself and other similarly situated consumers alleging Del Amo “has violated and continues to violate” the Rees-Levering Automobile Sales Finance Act by failing to provide its customers with a single document setting forth all the financing terms for motor vehicle purchases made with a conditional sale contract. The trial court denied Del Amo’s petition to compel arbitration, finding the arbitration provision was unenforceable under McGill v. Citibank, N.A., 2 Cal.5th 945 (2017) because it barred the customer from pursuing “in any forum” his claim for a public injunction to stop Del Amo’s allegedly illegal practices. Del Amo contended the trial court erred in ruling the arbitration provision was unenforceable under McGill, arguing: (1) McGill did not apply because, due to a choice-of-law provision in the contract, Utah law rather than California law governed the dispute; (2) if California law applied, the arbitration provision “does not run afoul of McGill” because Mejia did not seek a public injunction; (3) the arbitration clause was not unenforceable under McGill because the provision did not prevent a plaintiff from seeking public injunctive relief in all fora; and (4) if the arbitration provision was unenforceable under McGill, the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted McGill and required enforcement of the clause. The Court of Appeal found no merit to any of Del Amo's contentions and affirmed the district court's order. View "Mejia v. DACM Inc." on Justia Law

by
David Murray purchased used computer equipment worth nearly $40,000, which was damaged by the United Postal Service (UPS) while it was being transported from California to Texas. Murray believed he purchased appropriate insurance to cover this loss, but the insurance company denied his claim. Murray sued his insurance broker, UPS Capital Insurance Agency (UPS Capital), for breach of contract and negligence, claiming UPS Capital owed him a special duty to make the insurance policy language understandable to an ordinary person and to explain the scope of coverage. The court granted UPS Capital’s motion for summary judgment after concluding there was no heightened duty of care and dismissed Murray’s lawsuit. On appeal, Murray asked the Court of Appeal to create a new rule that brokers/agents, specializing in a specific field of insurance, hold themselves out as experts, and are subject to a heightened duty of care towards clients seeking that particular kind of insurance. While the Court declined the invitation to create a per se rule, it concluded Murray raised triable issues of fact as to whether UPS Capital undertook a special duty by holding itself out as having expertise in inland marine insurance, and Murray reasonably relied on its expertise. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment of dismissal and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Murray v. UPS Capital Ins. Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

by
California’s automatic renewal law, Bus. & Prof. Code 17600, requires a consumer’s affirmative consent to any subscription agreement automatically renewed for a new term when the initial term ends and requires “clear and conspicuous” disclosure of the offer terms, and an “easy-to-use mechanism for cancellation.” Mayron sued Google on behalf of a putative class, alleging that Google’s subscription data storage plan violates the automatic renewal law: “Google Drive” allows users (those registered for a Google account) to remotely store electronic data that can be accessed from any computer, smartphone, or similar device. There is no charge for 15 gigabytes of storage capacity. For a $1.99 monthly fee, users can upgrade to 100 gigabytes of storage. Plaintiff alleged Google did not provide the required clear and conspicuous disclosures nor obtain his affirmative consent to commence a recurring monthly subscription agreement and did not adequately explain how to cancel, and alleged unfair competition, Bus. & Prof. Code 17200.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. There is no private right of action for violation of the automatic renewal law and, because Mayron has not alleged an injury caused by Google’s conduct, he has no standing to sue under the unfair competition statute. View "Mayron v. Google LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Cheryl Thurston and Luis Licea (collectively Thurston) were California residents who purchased items from defendant Fairfield Collectibles of Georgia, LLC (Fairfield), a Georgia limited liability company, through the company's website. Thurston alleged Fairfield’s website was not fully accessible by the blind and the visually impaired, in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The trial court granted Fairfield’s motion to quash service of summons, ruling that California could not obtain personal jurisdiction over Fairfield, because Fairfield did not have sufficient minimum contacts with California. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding the evidence showed that Fairfield made some eight to ten percent of its sales to Californians. "Hence, its website is the equivalent of a physical store in California. Moreover, this case arises out of the operation of that website." The trial court therefore could properly exercise personal jurisdiction over Fairfield. View "Thurston v. Fairfield Collectibles of Georgia, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The underlying lawsuit arose from plaintiffs' claim that Ken's salad dressing labels were deceptive. In June 2017, plaintiffs served Ken's with their prelawsuit notice and demand to remove claims about olive oil from the labels on its salad dressings. In October 2017, a neutral case evaluator concluded that plaintiffs' claims likely had merit and that the False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition Law claims would likely be certified as a class. In November 2017, Ken's drafted a PowerPoint presentation that described plaintiff's claims, proposed label changes, and thereafter revised its salad dressing labels and finalized the changes in 2018.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order granting plaintiffs' motion for attorney fees. The court held that the trial court did not err by concluding that plaintiffs were "successful parties" where the sequence of events provides a reasonable basis for the trial court's conclusion that plaintiffs' lawsuit was a catalyst motivating Ken's to change the labels on its salad dressings. Furthermore, there was a reasonable basis for the trial court to conclude that injunctive relief was the primary relief sought. The court also held that the lawsuit was meritorious and that plaintiffs reasonably attempted to settle the matter short of litigation. Finally, the court rejected Ken's public policy argument. View "Skinner v. Ken's Foods, Inc." on Justia Law