Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts

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R&W appealed a judgment entered after R&W allegedly defaulted in making payments to Osteroid Parties under a settlement agreement. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in entering the stipulated judgment because the additional $700,000 was an unenforceable penalty under Civil Code section 1671. However, the court held that the trial court's factual determinations regarding R&W's breach of the agreement were supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded with directions to reduce the judgment, with further adjustments, plus interest. The court noted that its decision to publish was to remind practitioners whose clients settle a dispute involving payments over time how to incentivize prompt payment properly, and what may happen if done incorrectly. View "Red & White Distribution v. Osteroid Enterprises" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Plaintiff-borrowers Thaddeus Potocki and Kelly Davenport sued Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and several other defendants (collectively, “Wells Fargo”) arising out of plaintiffs’ attempts to get a loan modification. The trial court sustained Wells Fargo’s demurrer to the third amended complaint without leave to amend. On appeal, plaintiffs argued: (1) a forbearance agreement obligated Wells Fargo to modify their loan; (2) the trial court erred in finding Wells Fargo owed no duty of care; (3) Wells Fargo’s denial of a loan modification was not sufficiently detailed to satisfy Civil Code section 2923.61; and (4) a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress was sufficiently pled. The Court of Appeal determined plaintiffs’ third contention had merit, and reversed judgment of dismissal, vacated the order sustaining the demurrer insofar as it dismissed the claim for a violation of section 2923.6, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Potocki v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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After defendant Randal Tyson’s first failed attempt at removing the case to federal court, his codefendant, Dulany Hill, filed a second notice of removal. Hill’s notice of removal was identical to the one Tyson had filed, merely substituting Hill’s name in the place of Tyson's. During this second removal period, the court denied defendant’s untimely motion to strike, which was fully briefed before the second notice of removal was filed. Less than a month later, the federal court again remanded the case. Thereafter, defendant failed to respond to the complaint or to appear for a case management conference. The court entered defendant’s default. Defendant took no further action in the case until eight months after the remand, when he moved to set aside the default. The court denied the motion and entered a default judgment against defendant. Defendant appealed the default judgment, contending the court did not have jurisdiction to rule on his motion to strike while the case was removed to federal court. He claimed the court’s ruling on the motion to strike, while it purportedly lacked jurisdiction, commenced an inappropriate responsive pleading timeline and resulted in a default judgment that the Court of Appeal should set aside. The Court of Appeal concluded the second notice of removal was untimely, frivolous, and duplicative. Under these unique circumstances, the trial court retained jurisdiction to rule on the motion to strike. View "ClipperJet Inc. v. Tyson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Wells Fargo in tort for negligent mortgage modification and other claims. The trial court sustained Wells Fargo's demurrer, partly because Wells Fargo did not owe plaintiff a duty in tort during contract negotiation. The Court of Appeal held that no tort duty exists during contract negotiations for mortgage modification. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court's judgment, finding that the majority of other states are against it, and the most recent Restatement counsels against this extension because other bodies of law—breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, fraud, and so forth—are better suited to handle contract negotiation issues. View "Sheen v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The owners and operators of a skilled nursing facility contended the trial court erred when it denied their petition to compel arbitration. They attempted to enforce arbitration in this action for elder abuse and wrongful death brought by a decedent through her husband as successor in interest, her husband individually, and their children. Appellants claimed the successor had signed the arbitration agreements as the decedent’s authorized agent. The trial court determined that although the successor did not sign the agreements as the decedent’s agent, he expressly bound himself to arbitrate all claims he held individually and as the successor in interest. As a result, the decedent’s claim for elder abuse and the husband’s individual claim for wrongful death were subject to arbitration. However, the court denied the petition because the children’s claims were not subject to arbitration, and allowing the arbitration and the litigation to proceed concurrently could result in inconsistent findings of fact and law. Finding no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Valentine v. Plum Healthcare Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case arose from a landlord’s repeated refusal to consent to the proposed assignment of a ground lease for the anchor space in a shopping center. The plaintiffs were the entities that wished to assign the leasehold interest and the entities that agreed to take the assignment; the defendants were the landlord and its parent company. In their original and first amended complaints, plaintiffs alleged the landlord unreasonably withheld consent to the plaintiffs’ lease assignment request. While the litigation was pending, plaintiffs made an amended lease assignment request, which the landlord similarly rejected. In their second amended complaint, plaintiffs asserted the same five causes of action as before, but added allegations about the landlord’s refusal to consent to their amended assignment request. The landlord filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike the second amended complaint, contending plaintiffs’ amended assignment request and the landlord’s response to that request were settlement communications and statements made in litigation, and therefore constituted protected activity. The trial court denied the motion, finding the landlord’s rejection of the amended assignment request was not a settlement communication or litigation-related conduct, but rather an ordinary business decision. The Court of Appeal agreed and affirmed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion. View "ValueRock TN Prop. v. PK II Larwin Square" on Justia Law

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JRE filed suit against defendants in an action stemming from a dispute concerning a television production based on the life of the Mexican-American celebrity Jenni Rivera. JRE filed suit against Rivera's former manager, the program's producers, and the program's broadcaster. JRE alleged that the manager breached a nondisclosure agreement by disclosing information to the producers and the broadcaster. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying the producers' special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, holding that JRE satisfied its burden to demonstrate a prima facie case, with reasonable inferences from admissible evidence, that the producers had knowledge of the nondisclosure agreement before taking actions substantially certain to induce the manager to breach the agreement. However, the court held that the First Amendment protected the broadcaster's use and broadcast of the information in the series, and the court reversed the trial court's order denying the broadcaster's special motion to strike. In this case, although First Amendment protection for newsgathering or broadcasting does not extend to defendants who commit a crime or an independent tort in gathering the information, it was undisputed that the broadcaster did not know of the nondisclosure agreement at the time it contracted with the producers to broadcast the series, and JRE did not show that the broadcaster engaged in sufficiently wrongful or unlawful conduct after it learned of the nondisclosure agreement to preclude First Amendment protection. View "Jenni Rivera Enterprises, LLC v. Latin World Entertainment Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Orozco opened Pauly’s Famous Franks N Fries at San Jose's "The Plant" shopping center. Before signing a 10-year lease, he asked the leasing manager whether restaurants with competing concepts or products were being considered for the remaining space. The manager told him no, even as she was negotiating with Al’s Beef, a national franchise selling hot beef sandwiches, hot dogs, and french fries. Orozco signed the lease without knowledge that the Plant had leased space to Al’s and personally guaranteed rent payments. The lease, which Orozco did not fully read, contained statement that the landlord had not made any promises about products offered by other tenants or future tenants. Pauly’s had a successful debut, with steadily increasing revenue. Approximately six months after Pauly’s opened, Al’s opened two doors down. Pauly’s business declined and, within six months of the debut of Al’s, Pauly’s closed. A jury found intentional misrepresentation and concealment and awarded compensatory damages, primarily for Pauly’s lost profits. The court ruled that Orozco was not entitled to rescission of the guaranty. The court of appeal affirmed in part. Substantial evidence supports the finding of intentional misrepresentation and the award of lost profits. Orozco was entitled to rescission of the guaranty. Because Orozco prevailed in obtaining rescission of the guaranty, he is entitled to attorney’s fees under the lease. View "Orozco v. WPV San Jose, LLC" on Justia Law

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A general contractor was covered as an additional insured on a commercial general liability (CGL) policy issued to its roofing subcontractor. The insurer refused to defend the general contractor after it was sued by homeowners for construction defects concerning roofing, prompting this lawsuit. After a bench trial, the trial court concluded the insurer owed no duty to defend. It believed the exclusion in the additional insured endorsement for damage to "property in the care, custody or control of the additional insured" precluded any duty to defend the general contractor in construction defect litigation. The general contractor disputed the insurer's interpretation of the policy and contended there was a duty to defend. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed and reversed judgment: “the facts indicate only shared control between the general contractor and its roofing subcontractor. Because the insurer did not prove coverage for the underlying construction defect litigation was impossible, it owed the general contractor a duty to defend the homeowner claim.” View "McMillin Homes Construction v. Natl. Fire & Marine Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs filed suit against the Association and property manager for breach of contract and negligence, the trial court granted a nonsuit. Plaintiffs settled with the property manager but appealed against the association. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of a nonsuit on the breach of contract claim where reasonable jurors could have concluded a total failure to maintain common areas breached a promise to keep these areas in first class condition and a jury could also find that buildings need maintenance to remain in first class condition. Furthermore, the trial court erred by adding oral reasoning beyond the contents of the nonsuit motion, and neither the motion nor the trial court's rationale challenged the idea that covenants, conditions, and restrictions comprise a contract between the association and individual owners. Nor did the motion or rationale hint at the rule of deference governing owner suits against homeowner associations. The court affirmed the nonsuit tort judgment and held that the association had no independent duty as to the pipes and roof arising from tort law. View "Sands v. Walnut Gardens Condominium Assn." on Justia Law