Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action alleging claims for unfair and/or deceptive business practices under Business and Professions Code section 17200 (UCL) and violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). The trial court denied class certification. Plaintiff sought declarations that Dignity Health's billing practices as they relate to uninsured individuals who received emergency care at a Dignity Health hospital in California are "unfair, unconscionable and/or unreasonable" and that, because the prices to be charged are not adequately disclosed or readily available to those individuals, its admissions contract contains an "open price" term within the meaning of Civil Code section 1611. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court used an unduly restrictive standard to evaluate the proposed class's ascertainability; the trial court misperceived plaintiff's primary theory of liability in evaluating whether common issues of law or fact predominate; and, although substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding that the class definition in the certification motion may not be manageable, a more limited class should be certified in this case. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions to certify a modified issue class. View "Sarun v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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Defendant-appellant Jhyy Demond Chubbuck, was convicted by a jury of one count of unlawful taking or driving a vehicle. In a bifurcated proceeding, the trial court found defendant had suffered a strike prior pursuant to Penal Code sections 667(b)-(i) and 1170.12(a)-(d), as well as a prison prior pursuant to Penal Code section 667.5(b). Defendant was sentenced to three years, doubled for the strike prior, and an additional one year for the prison prior, for a total of seven years in state prison. On appeal, defendant contended: (1) his conviction had to be overturned because the motorized equipment he allegedly drove or took did not qualify as a “vehicle” under Vehicle Code section 10851; (2) the jury’s verdict finding that he “took” or “drove” a vehicle in violation of Vehicle Code section 10851 was not supported by substantial evidence; and (3) the trial court’s finding that he suffered an offense qualifying as a strike under Penal Code sections 1170.12 and 667(b)-(i) was not supported by substantial evidence. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "California v. Chubbuck" on Justia Law

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Tanya McKean appealed a trial court’s order granting sole legal and physical custody of her two younger children in favor of their father, Scott McKean. Tanya claimed the court abused its discretion by modifying the parties’ custody order absent sufficient evidence of changed circumstances. Specifically, she argued the court erred when it determined that by granting her sole legal and physical custody of her severely disabled daughter, she was rendered incapable of maintaining joint legal and physical custody of her two younger children. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with Tanya, reversed the court’s order, and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Marriage of McKean" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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Defendant Ricky Lee Cobbs was one of several young men who confronted "Kenny W." at the home of his fiancée. Defendant discovered his gun was missing. While defendant and others were kicking and beating Kenny W., one of the men pulled out a gun, and shot Kenny W. through the heart. At trial with codefendant Undrey Turner, the prosecution argued defendant was guilty of first degree murder on either of two theories: felony murder based on attempted robbery, and murder as the natural and probable consequence of assault and battery. On appeal, Cobbs argued his conviction for murder as the natural and probable consequence of assault and battery was invalid under California v. Chiu, 59 Cal.4th 155 (2014) and In re Martinez, 3 Cal.5th 1216 (2017), and both theories were invalid following changes enacted under Senate Bill No. 1437 (2017-2018 Reg. Sess.) (Stats. 2018, ch. 1015, sec. 2 (SB 1437).) He contended the Court of Appeal should have vacated his conviction and directed the trial court to conduct further proceedings consistent with sections 188 and 189. The Attorney General agreed the first degree murder conviction was invalid under Chiu and Martinez, but argued the remedy should be the same as was provided in Chiu and Martinez: reverse the first degree murder conviction, and give the State the option of retrying the first degree murder count or reducing the conviction to second degree murder. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Attorney General, as SB 1437 applied retroactively only through its resentencing provision, which did not apply in this habeas proceeding. Accordingly, the Court vacated the first degree murder conviction and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Cobbs" on Justia Law

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Williams stopped working for Impax in 2013. Four years later, she filed a class action complaint under the unfair competition law, identifying unlawful business practices in which Impax allegedly engaged, including failing to pay overtime wages, provide meal and rest periods, and pay minimum wages. Williams proposed a class of all individuals employed by Impax during the previous four years. The court struck the class allegations; because Williams could not pursue all remedies otherwise available to the putative class, due to the statute of limitations, Williams cannot be a suitable class representative. The court gave her 45 days to amend, suggesting the addition of another class representative. The court denied Williams’s request to conduct discovery to locate other class representatives. Williams neither sought review nor amended her complaint to name a new plaintiff. Her first amended complaint essentially re-alleged the class contentions from her original complaint, Williams asserted that the order was “impossible” to comply with. The court struck the class allegations and directed Williams to file a second amended complaint. The court of appeal dismissed; the order is not appealable under the death knell doctrine, which authorizes an interlocutory appeal of the first, but only the first, order in a case that extinguishes all of a plaintiff’s class claims. The court declined to address her argument that the court thwarted her from pursuing discovery of the class list, which she needed to name another class representative. View "Williams v. Impax Laboratories, Inc.," on Justia Law

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Defendant Lonnie Schmidt managed a home foreclosure rescue operation, doing business as Second Opinion Services and Financial Services Bureau Limited. Following a lengthy jury trial in which he represented himself, defendant was convicted on four counts of prohibited practices by a foreclosure consultant, ten counts of filing false instruments, six counts of identity theft, and five counts of attempted grand theft. Defendant was sentenced to a total of 28 years in prison, plus one year to serve in the county jail. On appeal, defendant argued, and the State conceded: (1) insufficient evidence supported some of defendant’s convictions for grand theft; (2) the evidence did not support some of defendant’s convictions for filing false instruments; and (3) the trial court should have stayed his sentence for second degree burglary and attempted grand theft. The Court of Appeal agreed as to all these contentions and reversed judgment and sentence regarding those counts. The Court remanded the case for resentencing in light of this decision. View "California v. Schmidt" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Aslam was charged with offering a false document (Penal Code 115(a)) and perjury (118(a)), both felonies, based on his submission of a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) form. A jury convicted him of offering a false document but acquitted him of perjury. Aslam moved to vacate his section 115 conviction, arguing that the prosecution was required to charge him under Vehicle Code section 20, a more specific statute that makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly make a false statement in a document filed with the DMV. The court agreed, allowed the prosecution to add a Vehicle Code count to the information, then vacated the section 115 conviction. Aslam unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the Vehicle Code count, citing the five-year limitations period. The California Supreme Court denied his petition for review, “without prejudice to petitioner raising a claim" under its Kellett decision, which generally requires a single prosecution when “the prosecution is or should be aware of more than one offense in which the same act or course of conduct plays a significant part." The trial court rejected Aslam's motion to dismiss the Vehicle Code count based on Kellett and on double jeopardy. Aslam argued Section 20 is a lesser included offense of perjury, for which he had already been acquitted. The court of appeal denied relief, noting that Aslam waited until after trial to raise the Vehicle Code issue and that dismissal is not equivalent to acquittal. View "Aslam v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's conviction for sexual battery, holding that substantial evidence supported the conviction. The court held that the record showed force and that this was not a close case. Furthermore, the trial court had no sua sponte duty to give a nonforcible sexual penetration instruction. View "People v. Aguilar" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Mendocino County District Attorney filed a petition to commit Couthren as a Sexually Violent Predators under Welfare & Institutions Code 6600, alleging that Couthren had been convicted of felony oral copulation in 1973 and felony kidnapping in 1979 and 1999. Couthren’s most recent term of incarceration was expiring. The petition alleged that he represented a current danger to others and attached a letter from a deputy director of the Department of State Hospitals recommending Couthren’s commitment plus four certified copies of expert evaluation reports from psychologists who examined Couthren. Three favored commitment; Dr. Kokubun found that Couthren did not currently have a diagnosable mental disorder that predisposed him to the commission of criminal sexual acts. Couthren’s attorney was told that the hearing would be submitted on the three concurring reports but that the Kokubun report had been provided to the court. Couthren’s counsel sought to exclude the evaluations on hearsay grounds, citing the Supreme Court’s Sanchez decision. The court found that Couthren had committed qualifying sexually violent offenses against multiple victims but that the remaining elements necessary to support the SVP designation could not be established solely on the basis of hearsay written evaluations. It dismissed the petition. The court of appeal denied a petition for mandamus relief, rejecting an argument that precedent permits the proof of probable cause through the use of written expert evaluations, despite their hearsay nature. View "People v. Superior Court of Mendocino County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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A general contractor and subcontractor filed suit against each other, and at issue was the "retention" clause in the parties' contract. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly granted summary judgment for the general contractor and dismissed the subcontractor's cross-claims. The court held that the purpose of the retention clause was, as the subcontractor put it in oral argument, to "ensure proper performance." In this case, the subcontractor did not finish the job swiftly and must suffer the consequences of its contractual failing. Finally, the court held that the trial court properly awarded attorney fees to the general contractor, as the prevailing party. View "Regency Midland Construction, Inc. v. Legendary Structures Inc." on Justia Law