Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics
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In July 2013, the California State Board of Pharmacy (the Board) filed an accusation against pharmacist Solomon Oduyale, citing 20 charges for discipline and seeking revocation of his pharmacist license. By August 2016, Oduyale had successfully challenged all but nine of the charges for discipline against him. The Board then ordered Oduyale's pharmacist license revoked. Oduyale challenged the Board's decision in court by filing a petition for writ of mandate. In his petition, Oduyale argued the Board lacked justification for revoking his license, and suggested it could have imposed stringent conditions on probation instead. The superior court did not comment on the propriety of the revocation decision, but concluded that because the Board's decision did not include an explicit discussion of each possible level of discipline with an explanation for why each would have been inappropriate in Oduyale's case, the Board abused its discretion. The Board appealed to the Court of Appeal, challenging the trial court's requirement that it discuss every possible form of discipline short of revocation in its written decision, and also asked for consideration of whether it acted within its discretion to revoke Oduyale's pharmacist license based on the nine causes for discipline. Oduyale cross-appealed, contending the trial court erred by remanding the matter for further consideration by the Board and arguing the court should have directed the Board to impose a penalty short of revocation. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Board: the trial court erred by directing it to provide in writing its reasoning for not imposing each penalty short of revocation. Furthermore, the Court concluded the Board acted within its discretion to revoke Oduyale's pharmacist license. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was reversed. View "Oduyale v. California State Board of Pharmacy" on Justia Law

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Attorney-defendant Peter Porter represented plaintiff Elise Sharon in a lawsuit resulting in a 2008 default judgment entered in favor of Sharon. In October 2015, a judgment debtor wrote to Sharon, claiming the judgment was void. In November 2015, Sharon’s new attorney correctly opined that the judgment was indeed void. In September 2016, the debtor filed a motion to vacate the judgment, which was granted the following month. In May 2017, Sharon filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against Porter. During a court trial on stipulated facts, the trial court found the judgment had been valid until it was vacated. The court also found the statute of limitations applicable to Sharon’s lawsuit had been tolled until “actual injury” first occurred in September 2016, when Sharon began incurring hourly attorney fees to oppose the judgment debtor’s motion to vacate the judgment. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed, finding the default judgment was void independent of it being vacated. "Discovery of the void judgment and whatever injury resulted therefrom occurred at least by November 2015 when the judgment debtor wrote to Sharon and her new attorney claiming the judgment was void. The statute ran one year from that date. Sharon’s 2017 lawsuit was time-barred." View "Sharon v. Porter" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a malpractice action against Zbylut, Cox and LPS alleging they had violated their professional duties by undertaking representation of Purposeful Press without her consent, and rendering legal advice in the underlying lawsuits that was adverse to her interests. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendants' motions for summary judgment, holding that plaintiff did not dispute that she lacked standing to seek reimbursement of Purposeful Press's funds, and plaintiff failed to present any evidence that would support a finding of an implied attorney-client relationship with the firm. In this case, plaintiff has not identified any harm that defendants' representation of Purposeful Press was alleged to have caused her in her representative capacity as a shareholder. Furthermore, even if there were circumstances under which a corporate attorney might owe such a duty to individual shareholders, no such circumstances were present here. View "Sprengel v. Zbylut" on Justia Law

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After the county petitioned the superior court for a writ vacating the Commission's decision and upholding LA County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Montez's discharge, the trial court found that the Commission's decision was unsupported by its own findings and issued a writ ordering the Commission to set aside its decision and reconsider the matters. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order and held that Montez's misconduct was an inexcusable neglect of duty that harmed the Sheriff's Department by compromising the public's ability to trust it, and the Commission abused its discretion by reducing Montez's punishment. The court held that reasonable minds could not differ with regard to the appropriate disciplinary action in Montez's case, and the Commission's conclusion that the misconduct was unlikely to recur was unwarranted. View "County of Los Angeles v. Civil Service Commission of the County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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After the hospital terminated plaintiff's privileges and staff membership without giving him a hearing, he filed a complaint that included causes of action seeking a writ of administrative mandate, alleging, among other things, the hospital denied him the right to a hearing before terminating his privileges. After determining that the trial court's order denying the petition for writ of administrative mandate was appealable, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of the petition. The court held that the hospital failed to give plaintiff a hearing as required by Business and Professions Code section 809.1 when it terminated his privileges and membership for a medical disciplinary cause or reason. Accordingly, the trial court is directed to enter a new order granting plaintiff's petition for mandate requesting a hearing. View "Alaama v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

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Cases consolidated for review came to the Court of Appeal as part of ongoing litigation between The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry (the National Grange) and the Order’s relatively recent charter the California State Grange (the California Grange) (collectively, respondents) against the Order’s former California charter, now known as the California Guild (the Guild), which operated the California Grange Foundation (the Foundation) when the Guild’s charter was previously active. At issue was the disqualification of the law firm representing the Guild and the Foundation following its hiring of an attorney who previously worked for the law firm representing the National Grange. The trial court granted respondents’ motions to disqualify Ellis Law Group in litigation initiated in 2012 while the court’s prior order granting summary judgment in favor of the National Grange was pending on appeal in this court. In litigation initiated in 2016 by only the California Grange against the Foundation, the trial court granted the California Grange’s motion to disqualify Ellis Law Group too. The Court of Appeal found no reversible error in disqualifying the Ellis Law Group, and affirmed the trial court's orders. View "The Nat. Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry v. California Guild" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants Glenn Moss, Jeri Moss, and Moss Bros. Auto Group, Inc. (collectively, Moss) filed a complaint against defendants-respondents Dale Duncan, CPA, and Rogers, Clem & Company, an accountancy organization (collectively, Duncan), alleging professional negligence and unfair business practices. The trial court ruled that these claims were barred by the statute of limitations, resulting in a judgment in favor of defendants. The Moss plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeal agreed with Moss that the applicable statute of limitations did not begin to run until Moss settled the tax deficiency claim with the Franchise Tax Board (FTB). The complaint was therefore timely. The trial court was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Moss v. Duncan" on Justia Law

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From 2011 to 2015, Appellant Attorney Joanna Vogel represented plaintiff-respondent Angele Lasalle in the dissolution of a registered domestic partnership with Minh Tho Si Luu. Lasalle repeatedly failed to provide discovery in that case, and the court defaulted her as a terminating sanction. She said her failure to provide discovery was caused by Vogel not keeping her informed of discovery orders, so she sued Vogel for legal malpractice. A default judgment was entered against Vogel. Vogel successfully moved to set aside the default judgment pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 473(b). In response, LaSalle’s new lawyer asked the trial court to take judicial notice of state bar disciplinary proceedings against Vogel which stayed her ability to practice law. The set aside motion was then denied, and a year later, a default judgment was entered against Vogel for $1 million. She appealed the default and denial of her motion to set aside the default. The Court of Appeal reversed: “[w]e sympathize with the court below and opposing counsel. We have all encountered dilatory tactics and know how frustrating they can be. But we cannot see this as such a situation, and cannot countenance the way this default was taken, so we reverse the judgment.” View "Lasalle v. Vogel" on Justia Law

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in 2005, the plaintiff in this matter, Ralph Colombo, was sued by his homeowners association, Nellie Gail Ranch Owners Association (Nellie Gail), in Orange County Superior Court. In March 2007, Nellie Gail obtained a judgment and injunction preventing Colombo from continuing construction of certain improvements on his property until he obtained approval for, and completed the construction of, a single-family residence. Colombo's attorney withdrew from the case in September 2008, and Colombo began to represent himself. Colombo's request to sue his attorneys for legal malpractice was denied by the superior court, as was his motion for reconsideration of that request. The Court of Appeal denied extraordinary relief. Undaunted, the vexatious litigant asked a different presiding judge to give him leave to file the identical legal malpractice complaint. This time, his request was granted and the action at issue here was filed. The trial court granted a defense motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissed the action. The Court of Appeal held that as a matter of both substantive legal doctrine and fundamental fairness, litigants are only entitled to "one bite at the apple. But this vexatious litigant refuses to stop biting." The Court concluded the doctrine of res judicata precludes a litigant from filing successive prefiling requests, and therefore affirmed the judgment. View "Colombo v. Kinkle, Rodiger & Spriggs" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order compelling defendant to produce the medical records of five of his patients pursuant to a subpoena issued by an investigator with the Medical Board of California, a unit of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). The Medical Board opened an investigation on defendant after it received a report from a law enforcement officer that defendant may be overprescribing controlled substances to patients. In light of Grafilo v. Cohanshohet, (2019) 32 Cal.App.5th 428, 437, the court held that the DCA did not establish good cause for the subpoena of patient records because the DCA offered no evidence as to how many patients defendant treats, the similarly-situated pain management specialists might prescribe the drugs defendant prescribed, or the likelihood defendant properly issued the prescriptions. In this case, the DCA did not offer any evidence to contradict the statement that defendant's prescriptions were not outside of acceptable levels of a pain management specialist. View "Grafilo v. Wolfsohn" on Justia Law