Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government Contracts
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Built Pacific, Inc. (BPI) appealed a judgment entered against it and in favor of the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). The DLSE issued a Civil Wage Penalty Assessment (CWPA) against BPI for labor law violations on a public works project. BPI entered into a settlement agreement with the DLSE but failed to timely pay the settlement amount. As a result, BPI was not released from liability, the DLSE sought judgment based on the final CWPA, and the superior court entered judgment on the CWPA pursuant to Labor Code section 1742 (d). BPI appealed, arguing that the judgment was based on an unreasonable and unenforceable liquidated damages clause of the settlement agreement under Civil Code section 1671 (b), and should be reversed. The Court of Appeal concluded Civil Code section 1671 did not apply because judgment was entered pursuant to the Labor Code and not a “contract.” Even if section 1671 were to apply, the Court concluded the disputed provision in the settlement agreement was both reasonable and enforceable. View "Department of Industrial Relations, etc. v. Built Pacific, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Edelweiss filed under seal its qui tam complaint, seeking to recover more than $700 million in false claims allegedly paid by the state and political subdivisions. The defendants were entities involved in the marketing of government-issued variable-rate bonds. The Attorney General reportedly received multiple extensions of the 60-day period for investigation and in October 2015, filed a notice declining to intervene. The next day, Edelweiss successfully moved to further extend the seal to January 2016. Edelweiss’s second motion to extend the seal, (to June) was also granted. Edelweiss filed no further motions to extend the seal but, for two years after the seal period expired, did not move to lift the seal despite two admonitions from the court. In June 2018, Edelweiss finally asked the court to unseal the case but did so incorrectly. Ultimately, the clerk of the court informed Edelweiss that it had unsealed the action around December 4, 2018. Weeks later, Edelweiss began serving the defendants.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the defendants. The time from October 2015 to December 2018 is included in the three-year period during which service must be accomplished because, even if Edelweiss was unable to serve the summons until the seal was lifted, the continuing of the seal after October 2015 was not a circumstance beyond Edelweiss’s control, Code of Civ. Proc. 583.240. View "Edelweiss Fund, LLC v. JP Morgan Chase & Co." on Justia Law

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Aetna brought a qui tam action to recover damages and fees occasioned by the surgical center's fraudulent billing practices. The trial court denied the surgical center's petition to compel arbitration of the quit tam action. At issue is Aetna's claims of fraudulent insurance billing practices by the surgical center and its healthcare billing services in violation of the Insurance Fraud Protection Act (IFPA).The Court of Appeal affirmed and concluded that the qui tam action is not subject to arbitration because it is brought on behalf of the state which is not a party to the contract between the insurance company and the surgical center. In this case, California is the real party in interest and it cannot be compelled to arbitrate this qui tam IFPA action because it is not a signatory to the contracts. View "California ex rel. Aetna Health of California Inc. v. Pain Management Specialist Medical Group" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff County of Monterey (County) appealed when the trial court denied its petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. The County was the successor agency for its former redevelopment agency ("RDA"), and challenged decisions by the Department of Finance (Department) relating to a development known as the East Garrison Project, which was part of the Fort Ord Redevelopment Project located on a closed military base in Monterey. The County claimed the trial court erroneously determined that a written agreement entered into between its former RDA and a private developer (real party in interest, UCP East Garrison, LLC) was not an enforceable obligation within the meaning of the dissolution law because the former RDA did not have the authority to approve the agreement on the date the governor signed the 2011 dissolution legislation. The County further contended the trial court erred in determining the County failed to show the Department abused its discretion in disapproving two separate requests for funding related to administration of the East Garrison Project. The County claimed these administrative costs were expended to complete an enforceable obligation within the meaning of the dissolution law, and therefore the Department should have approved its requests for payment of such costs. Finally, the County argued the Department’s application of the dissolution law improperly impaired UCP’s contractual rights. The Court of Appeal rejected each of the County's contentions and affirmed judgment. View "County of Monterey v. Bosler" on Justia Law

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North Edwards Water District (the District) selected Clark Bros., Inc. (Clark) as its general or direct contractor on a public works project to build an arsenic removal water treatment plant. Clark hired subcontractor Crosno Construction (Crosno) to build and coat two steel reservoir tanks. The subcontract contained a "pay-when-paid" provision that stated Clark would pay Crosno within a reasonable time of receiving payments from the District, but that this reasonable time "in no event shall be less than the time Contractor and Subcontractor require to pursue to conclusion their legal remedies against Owner or other responsible party to obtain payment . . . ." After Crosno completed most of its work, a dispute arose between the District and Clark halting the project. As Clark sued the District, Crosno sought to recover payments owed under the public works payment bond that Clark had obtained for the project. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review involved Crosno's claim against the bond surety, Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America (Travelers). At issue was whether the pay-when-paid provision in Crosno's subcontract precluded Crosno from recovering under the payment bond while Clark's lawsuit against the District was pending. Relying on Wm. R. Clarke Corp. v. Safeco Ins. Co., 15 Cal.4th 882 (1997), the trial court found the pay-when-paid provision here unenforceable because it affected or impaired Crosno's payment bond rights in violation of Civil Code section 8122. With the facts largely undisputed, the court granted Crosno's motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in its favor for principal due plus prejudgment interest. Travelers argued the trial court misconstrued Wm. R. Clarke and erred in failing to enforce the pay-when-paid provision against the bond claim. After carefully considering the parties' arguments, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court's analysis and affirmed. View "Crosno Construction, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty etc." on Justia Law

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Oakland requested proposals for franchise contracts regarding garbage and residential recycling services. Following a lawsuit, a settlement provided that WMAC would receive garbage and mixed materials and organics contracts; CWS would receive the residential recycling contract. WMAC and CWS agreed to pay franchise fees to the city, which redesignated part of WMAC’s franchise fee as a fee to compensate the city for the cost of implementing the Alameda County Waste Management Plan, under Public Resource Code 41901. Plaintiffs challenged the fees as improperly imposed taxes under the California Constitution, article XIIIC.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of claims concerning the Redesignated Fee as not ripe for adjudication but reversed dismissal as to the franchise fees. A franchise fee, arguably subject to an article XIIIC, section 1(e) exemption, must still be reasonably related to the value of the franchise to be exempt from the “tax” definition. The court cited Proposition 26: To qualify as a nontax ‘fee’ under article XIII C, as amended, a charge must satisfy both the requirement that it be fixed in an amount that is ‘no more than necessary to cover the reasonable costs of the governmental activity,’ and the requirement that ‘the manner in which those costs are allocated to a payor bear a fair or reasonable relationship to the payor’s burdens on, or benefits received from, the governmental activity. View "Zolly v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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Taxi companies and taxi medallion owners sued Uber, alleging violations of the Unfair Practices Act’s (UPA) prohibition against below-cost sales (Bus & Prof. Code, 17043) and of the Unfair Competition Law (section 17200). The UPA makes it unlawful “for any person engaged in business within this State to sell any article or product at less than the cost thereof to such vendor, or to give away any article or product, for the purpose of injuring competitors or destroying competition” but does not apply “[t]o any service, article or product for which rates are established under the jurisdiction of the [California] Public Utilities Commission [(CPUC)] . . . and sold or furnished by any public utility corporation.” Uber is a “public utility corporation” under section 17024 and is subject to CPUC’s jurisdiction. CPUC has conducted extensive regulatory proceedings in connection with Uber’s business but has not yet established the rates for any Uber service or product.The trial court ruled the exemption applies when the CPUC has jurisdiction to set rates, regardless of whether it has yet done so, and dismissed the case. The court of appeal affirmed, reaching “the same conclusion as to the applicability of section 17024(1) as have three California federal district courts, two within the last year, in cases alleging identical UPA claims against Uber.” View "Uber Technologies Pricing Cases" on Justia Law

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After Phelps was awarded a public works contract by the CDCR, another bidder successfully challenged the award, obtaining a ruling in a San Diego trial court that Phelps's bid was "non-responsive as a matter of law" due to its inclusion of "non-waivable mathematical/typographical errors." Phelps then filed suit against CDCR, seeking to recover the costs it expended on the project. The trial court held that the San Diego trial court's ruling was itself the result of a defect in the competitive bidding process caused solely by CDCR, and entered judgment in favor of Phelps.The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that judgment on the pleadings should have been granted. The court held that the language in Public Contract Code section 5110 provides that the parties to a challenged public contract may enter into that contract pending final resolution of the challenge, but if the challenge is resolved by invalidation because the public entity was at fault, the contractor may recover. Applying section 5110 in this case, the court held that the contract was invalidated for a material error in Phelps's bid, not for any defect in the competitive bidding process, much less a defect caused solely by CDCR. Therefore, section 5110 could not provide a basis for recovery. The court held that application of the doctrine of collateral estoppel would produce the same result, and rejected Phelps's late-raised alternative ground. However, the court affirmed the trial court's denial of recovery on CDCR's cross-complaint for disgorgement. View "Hensel Phelps Construction Co. v. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation" on Justia Law

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After Mount Diablo School District hired Taber to modernize eight school campuses, the plaintiffs challenged the District’s use of a lease-leaseback agreement for the construction project. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of most of plaintiff’s claims, except a claim against Taber of conflict of interest. Plaintiff alleged Taber provided preconstruction services regarding the project, so a conflict of interest arose when the District subsequently awarded Taber the contract. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in Taber’s favor, finding no violation of Government Code section 1090(a). Section 1090 only prohibits a contract made by a financially-interested party when that party makes the contract in an “official capacity.” Where the financially-interested party is an independent contractor, section 1090 applies only if the independent contractor can be said to have been entrusted with “transact[ing] on behalf of the Government.” In this case, it cannot reasonably be said that Taber was hired to engage in or advise on public contracting on behalf of the District. The District contracted with Taber for Taber to provide preconstruction services in anticipation of Taber completing the project. Taber provided those services (planning and setting specifications) in its capacity as the intended provider of services, not as a de facto official of the District. View "California Taxpayers Action Network v. Taber Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal involved an effort to "foist" the pension and retiree healthcare costs for city employees who performed redevelopment-related work onto the successor agency to the now-abolished Anaheim Redevelopment Agency (Anaheim RDA). Plaintiff City of Anaheim, in its own right and as the successor agency to the Anaheim RDA, and John Woodhead, who worked for both entities, brought this 2017 petition for a writ of mandate. The petition sought to overturn the determination that an agreement between the City of Anaheim and the Anaheim RDA to reimburse the City of Anaheim for the retirement costs of its employees who worked for the Anaheim RDA was not an enforceable obligation of the Anaheim RDA, and thus payments to the City of Anaheim for this purpose from the successor agency were not permissible. As defendants, the petition identified the director of the Department of Finance, Keely Bosler, in her official capacity; the Department of Finance (a redundant defendant); the auditor-controller for Orange County (a neutral stakeholder); and the oversight board that supervised the operations of the successor agency. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the Department, "after issuing a lengthy and cogent ruling." On appeal, petitioners reiterated their claims, which focused on their interpretation of what was a “legally enforceable” required payment from the Anaheim RDA, the purported unconstitutional impairment of contractual rights, and estoppel. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "City of Anaheim v. Bosler" on Justia Law