Articles Posted in Contracts

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Wiseman filed suit seeking to recover "carrying charges" it paid Southern on the theory that those charges were not permitted by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act. The trial court ruled that the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (Department) has exclusive jurisdiction over Wiseman's claims because its allegations directly implicate the sale of alcohol. The Court of Appeal held that, although the Department does have exclusive jurisdiction to issue, deny, suspend and revoke alcoholic beverage licenses according to terms of the ABC Act and regulations adopted pursuant to it, the consequences of committing a violation of the ABC Act by imposing charges of the type collected by Southern from Wiseman in this case were not limited to those which the Department may impose on its licensees and did not bar the contract, unfair competition and declaratory relief claims alleged in Wiseman's complaint. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's order sustaining Southern's demurrer and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wiseman Park v. Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits" on Justia Law

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Linton drove DeSoto taxicabs, 2008-2012, after submitting his social security number, proof that he was eligible to work in the U.S., his driver’s license, and a DMV printout. Linton signed DeSoto’s 15-page Lease without negotiating any terms. The Agreement disclaims any employment relationship. Either party could cancel with 30 days’ notice, or without notice in the event of a breach. Linton provided a $500 security deposit and attended an orientation. Drivers keep the fares and tips that they receive and pay DeSoto a gate fee of about $100 per day. DeSoto does not require drivers to check in during their shifts but the cabs are equipped with GPS tracking and have recording devices. Linton received a notice of termination after he was accused of obtaining a passenger’s credit card information and making repeated charges on her account. Linton filed a claim with the Labor Commissioner, contending that he had been misclassified as an independent contractor instead of as an employee. The Labor Commissioner concluded that Linton was an employee and assessed wages, interest, and penalties Labor Code 221, 98.1(c), and 203. A trial court concluded Linton was an independent contractor. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court failed to apply a presumption in favor of employment, misapplied precedent, and made “questionable” distinctions in analyzing the facts. View "Linton v. DeSoto Cab Co." on Justia Law

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RSB purchased a vineyard jointly owned by the defendants, including a residence that defendants had renovated and converted into a wine tasting room. RSB later learned that the renovated residence was structurally unsound for commercial use and was forced to demolish it. In response to RSB’s lawsuit claiming misrepresentations and omissions in connection with the sale of the residence, defendants moved for summary judgment, offering evidence they had no knowledge of the buildings' deficiencies. While RSB provided no evidence to suggest defendants had actual knowledge of the problems, it did demonstrate that the deficiencies were so severe that defendants’ construction professionals should have been aware of them and argued that this knowledge was imputed to defendants. The trial court granted summary judgment, reasoning that defendants could not be held liable for nondisclosure in the absence of evidence they had actual knowledge. The court of appeal affirmed. That a property is being used for a particular activity does not necessarily imply that the property satisfies all regulatory requirements for the activity. In any event, a cause of action for misrepresentation requires an affirmative statement, not an implied assertion. View "RSB Vineyards, LLC v. Orsi" on Justia Law

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In 2013, plaintiff-respondent Gerardo Medina purchased a used car from defendant-appellant South Coast Car Company, Inc. The sales contract was eventually assigned to Veros Credit, LLC, and plaintiff sued on nine causes of action stemming from that contract. The parties settled the suit on the eve of trial. Relevant to this appeal, defendants also agreed that they would not "dispute [Medina's] underlying entitlement to attorneys' fees based upon the claims brought in the [underlying a]ction"; that Medina "shall be deemed the prevailing party on all causes of action for purposes of the motion" for attorney fees; that defendants "reserve the right to dispute the reasonableness of the attorneys' fees, costs, and prejudgment interest claimed to have been incurred" by Medina; and that defendants "maintain all defenses as to the limitations on the amount of attorneys' fees, costs, and prejudgment interest." On appeal (and despite the Settlement), defendants contend the court erred when it awarded Medina attorney fees, costs and prejudgment interest. Specifically, defendants contended that, although Medina was the prevailing party as provided under the settlement, Veros was not liable to pay any portion of his fees and costs because it was merely the "holder" of the sales contract and thus, its liability was limited to the amounts paid by Medina, or about $8,600, and that Medina, in any event, was not entitled to any such award because he previously had rejected SCCC's offer to rescind the sales contract. The Court of Appeal disagreed with defendants’ contentions, finding the record showed defendants recognized in connection with their summary judgment/adjudication motion that their settlement offer went to the " 'determination of the legal basis' " for an award of attorney fees: it would have made little sense for the parties to enter into the Settlement and not resolve what was and the overarching issue in the case, in light of the parties' extensive litigation of this issue up to the time of the settlement. View "Medina v. South Coast Car Company" on Justia Law

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A brewer's cancellation of a contract, when that cancellation will be followed by negotiation and possibly arbitration under Business and Professions Code 25000.2, does not qualify as "protected activity" within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute. In this case, Mission Beverage filed suit against Pabst for breach of contract and for declaratory relief. Pabst responded with a motion to strike the entire complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute. The Court of Appeal held that the suit did not lack minimal merit on the ground that section 25000.2 immunized successor brewers from liability for breach of contract because it affirmatively granted those brewers a right to terminate distribution contracts and provided full compensation for the ousted distributor. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's denial of Pabst's anti-SLAPP motion. View "Mission Beverage Co. v. Pabst Brewing Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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Vallejo filed a petition for bankruptcy relief in 2008. Under its existing labor agreement with the Vallejo Police Officers Association (VPOA), the city paid the full premium cost for retirees and employees of any medical plan offered through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS or PERS) and paid the full premium for other city retirees, so it was subject to the Public Employees’ Medical and Hospital Care Act, Gov. Code, 22750. PEMHCA establishes a minimum level of employer contribution toward medical premiums. The city sought approval from the bankruptcy court to reject its labor agreements. While the motion was pending, VPOA and the city reached an agreement and the city voluntarily dismissed its motion to reject as to the VPOA. Under the 2009 Agreement, health insurance benefits were reduced. After months of negotiations toward a superseding agreement, the city declared an impasse in 2013. VPOA filed suit, alleging that the city was not bargaining in good faith, in violation of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, Gov. Code, 3500. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the petition. VPOA did not show its members had a vested right to a full premium; substantial evidence supported findings that the city did not engage in surface bargaining or rush to declare an impasse. View "Vallejo Police Officers Association v. City of Vallejo" on Justia Law

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Defendant Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians (the Tribe) appealed a judgment after trial in favor of plaintiff Sharp Image Gaming, Inc. (Sharp Image), in plaintiff’s breach of contract action stemming from a deal to develop a casino on the Tribe’s land. On appeal, the Tribe argued: (1) the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Sharp Image’s action in state court was preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA); (2) the trial court erred in failing to defer to the National Indian Gaming Commission’s (NIGC) determination that the disputed Equipment Lease Agreement (ELA) and a promissory note (the Note) were management contracts requiring the NIGC’s approval; (3) Sharp Image’s claims were barred by the Tribe’s sovereign immunity; (4) the trial court erred in denying the Tribe’s motion for summary judgment; (5) the jury’s finding that the ELA was an enforceable contract was inconsistent with its finding that the ELA left essential terms for future determination; and (6) substantial evidence does not support the jury’s verdict on the Note. After the parties completed briefing in this case, the United States was granted permission to submit an amicus curiae brief in partial support of the Tribe on the questions of preemption and lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal concluded IGRA preempted state contract actions based on unapproved “management contracts” and “collateral agreements to management contracts” as such agreements are defined in the IGRA regulatory scheme. Thus, the trial court erred by failing to determine whether the ELA and the Note were agreements subject to IGRA regulation, a necessary determination related to the question of preemption and the court’s subject matter jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Court concluded the ELA was a management contract and the Note was a collateral agreement to a management contract subject to IGRA regulation. Because these agreements were never approved by the NIGC Chairman as required by the IGRA and were thus void, Sharp Image’s action was preempted by IGRA. Consequently, the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction. View "Sharp Image Gaming v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians" on Justia Law

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Defendant Anice Plikaytis appealed an order awarding her attorneys' fees in a breach of contract action brought by plaintiff Debra Roth. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal agreed with Plikaytis's contention that the trial court erred when it declined to consider previously filed documents she incorporated by reference as part of her motion. In the unpublished portions of the opinion, the Court discussed Plikaytis's arguments that: (1) the court failed to apply the lodestar method; (2) erroneously denied fees for equitable and cross-claims and for obtaining relief from bankruptcy stays; and (3) substantially reduced her award without explanation. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred by denying fees for obtaining bankruptcy stay relief that related to the breach claim and failing to provide an adequate justification for significantly reducing the number of hours allowed. Accordingly, the trial court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the matter remanded with directions. View "Roth v. Plikaytis" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of an insurance dispute between a general contractor, its subcontractor, and the subcontractor’s general liability carrier over water damage to a construction site caused by heavy rains. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hired Kadena Pacific, Inc. as the general contractor to oversee construction of a building in Menlo Park. Kadena hired Global Modular, Inc. to build, deliver, and install the 53 modular units that would comprise the building. Because Kadena had hired a different subcontractor to install the roofing, Global agreed to deliver the units covered only by a roof deck substrate. Kadena originally scheduled delivery in the summer months, but delivery was delayed until October and November. Despite Global’s efforts to protect the units by covering them with plastic tarps, the interiors suffered water damage from October through January. In February, Kadena and Global mutually agreed to terminate their contract and Kadena oversaw the remediation of the water-damaged interiors and completion of the project. Global sued Kadena for failure to pay and Kadena countersued, alleging Global had breached the contract in various ways, including by failing to repair the water-damaged interiors. Before trial, the parties entered a partial settlement. Global paid Kadena $321,975 to release all of Kadena’s claims arising from the VA project except for claims covered by Global’s insurance policy with North American Capacity Insurance Company (NAC), and Global received $153,025 to dismiss its failure-to-pay claims. At trial, Kadena presented evidence on the scope and cost of its water remediation and argued Global was contractually responsible for the damage. The jury agreed and awarded Kadena slightly over $1 million. In a separate suit brought by NAC, Kadena and NAC filed competing motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether NAC’s policy required it to indemnify Global for the jury’s damage award. The trial court ruled in favor of Kadena, finding the damage award covered under NAC’s policy as a matter of law. The court also ruled that the award must be offset by the $321,975 Global paid in settlement and that Global was liable to Kadena for $360,000 in attorney fees. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly determined NAC’s policy covered the water damages and Kadena was entitled to fees. However, the Court reversed the offset order because Global’s settlement payment did not compensate Kadena for the costs of its water remediation; the parties agreed to reserve that issue for litigation. View "Global Modular v. Kadena Pacific, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant American Safety Indemnity Company (“ASIC”) challenged a judgment awarding over $1.4 million in compensatory and punitive damages to plaintiff-respondent Pulte Home Corporation (Pulte), who was the general contractor and developer of two residential projects in the San Marcos area. ASIC issued several sequential comprehensive general liability (CGL) insurance policies to three of Pulte's subcontractors, and during 2003 to 2006, it added endorsements to those policies that named Pulte as an additional insured. The projects were completed by 2006. In 2011 and 2013, two groups of residents of the developments sued Pulte for damages in separate construction defect lawsuits. After American Safety declined to provide Pulte with a defense, Pulte filed this action, asserting that the additional insured endorsements afforded it coverage and therefore required ASIC to provide it with defenses on the construction defect issues. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court was correct in ruling that the language of ASIC’s additional insured endorsements on the underlying insurance policies created ambiguities on the potential for coverage in the construction defect lawsuits, thus requiring it to provide Pulte with a defense to them. Additionally, the Court upheld the court's decision that Pulte was entitled to an award of punitive damages that was proportional, on a one-to-one basis, to the award of compensatory damages in tort. Although the Court affirmed the judgment as to its substantive rulings, the Court of Appeal was required to reverse in part as to the award of $471,313.52 attorney fees: the trial court abused its discretion in implementing an hourly attorney fee arrangement that Pulte did not arrive at until after trial, to replace the previous contingency fee agreement in a manner that Pulte intended would operate to increase its demand. Since the trial court calculated its $500,000 award of punitive damages by appropriately utilizing a one-to-one ratio to the compensatory, the trial court had to recalculate not only the fees award but also to adjust the amount of punitive damages accordingly. View "Pulte Home Corp. v. American Safety Indemnity Co." on Justia Law