Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the Kabbalah Centre International, seeking the return of a half million dollars she donated. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly granted summary adjudication against plaintiff's contract claim concerning money she donated for Centre's building, but erred in adjudicating plaintiff's contract claim regarding the $25,000 donation to the kids program. In this case, there was a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether there was an oral contract for the kids program donation. Accordingly, the court remanded as to the kids program donation issue for further proceedings. The court also held that the trial court properly granted summary adjudication on plaintiff's fraud claims; the trial court properly sustained Centre's demurrer to plaintiff's breach of fiduciary duty claim; and any error in the trial court's order sustaining the demurrer to plaintiff's Penal Code section 496 claim was harmless. Therefore, the court affirmed in all other respects. View "Cohen v. Kabbalah Centre International" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

by
Defendant Edlighten Learning Solutions appealed a court order denying its petition to compel arbitration. Defendant entered into three contracts with plaintiff Oxford Preparatory Academy. One of the contracts was a management services agreement containing an arbitration clause. The parties subsequently entered into a termination agreement terminating all rights and obligations under the three contracts with the exception of two payment obligations. Defendant contended the court erred by finding the termination agreement terminated the arbitration clause in the management services agreement. Defendant also claimed all of plaintiff’s causes of action fell within the scope of the arbitration clause. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed the parties did not expressly or impliedly terminate the arbitration clause with respect to disputes over the performance, before the termination date, of their respective contractual obligations.; the parties merely divided their respective rights and obligations on a temporal basis. Therefore, the Court reversed and remanded for the trial court to decide whether any of plaintiff’s causes of action fell within the scope of the arbitration clause. View "Oxford Preparatory Academy v. Edlighten Learning Solutions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

by
Plaintiffs, former and current members of the band WAR, filed suit for breach of contract, alleging that their music publisher failed to pay them a share of the royalties generated from public performances of the band's songs. Plaintiffs alleged that paragraph 22 of the 1972 Agreement defined Composition Gross Receipts to include "all moneys" FOM had received from the sale, lease or license of the compositions. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the publisher and held that the language of the 1972 Agreement, considered in conjunction with plaintiffs' extrinsic evidence, demonstrated that the contract was reasonably susceptible to plaintiffs' proposed interpretation. The court also held that plaintiffs' interpretation was more reasonable than the interpretation FOM has proposed. In this case, FOM chose not to submit any extrinsic evidence that contradicted or otherwise responded to plaintiffs' extrinsic evidence. Rather, FOM relied solely on the text of the 1972 Agreement and asserted that it unambiguously excluded performance royalties from the revenue-sharing provision described in paragraph 22. View "Brown v. Goldstein" on Justia Law

by
Ryze’s headquarters and principal place of business was in Noblesville, Indiana. In 2014, Ryze hired Nedd, a California resident, to work for Ryze in El Cerrito. In 2017, Ryze terminated Nedd’s employment. Nedd filed a wrongful termination suit in Contra Costa County, under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The Employment Agreement between Ryze and Nedd contained a forum selection clause, stating that “any claim of any type brought by Employee against [Ryze] … must be maintained only in a court sitting in" Indiana. The court declined to stay or dismiss the case, stating that forum selection clauses will not be enforced when contrary to California public policy and that enforcing the forum selection clause would be contrary to Labor Code section 925 and Government Code section 12965 (governing venue in FEHA cases). The court of appeal directed the trial court to vacate its order. Labor Code section 925 establishes a policy prohibiting employers from requiring California employees from agreeing to litigate in a different forum as a prerequisite to employment, but by its plain language states that it applies to agreements “entered into, modified, or extended on or after January 1, 2017.” The FEHA venue statute has no bearing on the forum selection clause. View "Ryze Claim Solutions LLC v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
Yuri Vanetik and his father, Anatoly (Tony), were involved with a number of interrelated companies in the business of oil exploration in Russia. Yuri approached his friend, Elliot Broidy, about investing in one of those companies, Terra Resources (Terra). Broidy agreed to invest $750,000, with the written agreement his investment would go only to efforts to start production on the oil wells. Farmers & Merchants Trust Company (F&M Trust) was the trustee and administrator of the simplified employee pension plan (SEP) for Broidy’s individual retirement account (IRA). F&M Trust acquired stock in Terra. Broidy later learned that his investment had not been used in connection with the oil wells - it had been used to pay off Yuri’s and Tony’s preexisting debts. Broidy and Tony orally agreed that Tony would pay back the $750,000, but Tony failed to do so. F&M Trust then sued Yuri and Tony for breach of written and oral contracts, and for fraud. F&M Trust also sued Richard Weed (the attorney for Yuri, Tony, and the oil exploration companies) for fraud. The jury found in favor of F&M Trust on all causes of action, and awarded compensatory and punitive damages against Yuri, Tony, and the Weed defendants. Judgment was entered against Yuri and Tony; the trial court granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) in favor of the Weed defendants. On appeal, the Court of Appeal concluded substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict against Yuri and Tony on the claims for breach of written contract, breach of oral contract, and fraud. The jury’s special verdict findings on the contract and fraud claims neither resulted in inconsistent verdicts, nor required F&M Trust to make an election of remedies. However, F&M Trust failed to offer substantial evidence supporting the punitive damages awards against Tony and Yuri, so the Court reversed those punitive damage awards. The trial court properly granted JNOV in favor of the Weed defendants on the fraud causes of action. View "Farmers & Merchants Trust Co. v. Vanetik" on Justia Law