Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Williams, a musician, sued the Fremont Corners Shopping Center for negligence and premises liability after he was assaulted in its parking lot at about 1:30 a.m after performing in the Peacock Lounge in the shopping center. Fremont and Peacock asserted they were not aware of prior similar incidents; the shopping center had lighting and security cameras. Williams responded by offering records of service calls from the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, showing five calls for service to Fremont in the preceding year, including police reports of a simple assault, a battery with serious bodily injury, and a physical altercation with an unknown suspect, which resulted in the victim suffering a broken jaw. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of Fremont. The landowner had no duty to take affirmative measures, beyond those in the record, to discover criminal activity on the premises. Williams could not support his allegations that the assault was reasonably foreseeable. The evidence demonstrated that the owner was generally aware of the possibility of fights erupting at or near Peacock but a general knowledge of the possibility of violent criminal conduct is not in itself enough to create a duty under California law, Williams has not asserted what measures Fremont should have taken to prevent the harm that he endured. View "Williams v. Fremont Corners, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Nancy Ortiz sued her former employer and former supervisor, Dameron Hospital Association (Dameron) and Doreen Alvarez (collectively defendants), alleging that she was discriminated against and subjected to harassment based on her national origin (Filipino) and age (over 40) at the hands of Alvarez, and that Dameron failed to take action to prevent it in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the FEHA). Ortiz claimed she was forced to resign due to the intolerable working conditions created by Alvarez in order to accomplish Alvarez’s goal of getting rid of older, Filipino employees, like Ortiz, who, in Alvarez’s words, “could not speak English,” had “been there too long,” and “ma[d]e too much money.” Defendants moved for summary judgment, or in the alternative summary adjudication. The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that Ortiz could not make a prima facie showing of discrimination because she could not show that she suffered an adverse employment action, and could not make a prima facie showing of harassment because she cannot show that any of the complained of conduct was based on her national origin or age. The trial court determined that the remaining causes of action as well as the claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages were derivative of the discrimination and harassment causes of action and thus had no merit. Ortiz appealed, contending there were triable issues of material fact as to each of her causes of action, except retaliation, and her claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages. The Court of Appeal agreed in part, and reversed judgment. The trial court was directed to vacate its order granting summary judgment, and to enter a new order granting summary adjudication of Ortiz’s retaliation cause of action and request for punitive damages as to Dameron but denying summary adjudication of her discrimination, harassment, and failure to take necessary steps to prevent discrimination and harassment causes of action, her claim for injunctive relief, and her request for punitive damages as to Alvarez. View "Ortiz v. Dameron Hospital Assn." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Shirley Galvan sued her former employer and former supervisor, Dameron Hospital Association (Dameron) and Doreen Alvarez (collectively defendants), alleging that she was discriminated against and subjected to harassment based on her national origin (Filipino) and age (over 40) at the hands of Alvarez, and that Dameron failed to take action to prevent it in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the FEHA). Galvan claimed she was forced to resign due to the intolerable working conditions created by Alvarez in order to accomplish Alvarez’s goal of getting rid of older, Filipino employees, like Galvan, who, in Alvarez’s words, “could not speak English,” had “been there too long,” and “ma[d]e too much money.” Defendants moved for summary judgment, or in the alternative summary adjudication. The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that Galvan could not make a prima facie showing of discrimination because she could not show that she suffered an adverse employment action, and could not make a prima facie showing of harassment because she cannot show that any of the complained of conduct was based on her national origin or age. The trial court determined that the remaining causes of action as well as the claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages were derivative of the discrimination and harassment causes of action and thus had no merit. Galvan appealed, contending there were triable issues of material fact as to each of her causes of action, except retaliation, and her claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages. The Court of Appeal agreed in part, and reversed judgment. The trial court was directed to vacate its order granting summary judgment, and to enter a new order granting summary adjudication of Galvan's retaliation cause of action and request for punitive damages as to Dameron, but denying summary adjudication of her discrimination, harassment, and failure to take necessary steps to prevent discrimination and harassment causes of action, her claim for injunctive relief, and her request for punitive damages as to Alvarez. View "Galvan v. Dameron Hospital Assn." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Wendell Brown sued his employer, the City of Sacramento (City), for racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). A jury returned a verdict in Brown’s favor. The City moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a new trial. The trial court granted the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in part, finding that Brown failed to exhaust administrative remedies with respect to some of the acts found to be retaliatory. The trial court denied the motion with respect to other acts and effectively denied the motion for a new trial. The City appealed that part of the trial court's order partially denying the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing the remaining retaliation and discrimination claims were time-barred and barred for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The City also appealed that part of the order partially denying the motion for a new trial, arguing that juror misconduct deprived the City of a fair trial, and the trial court prejudicially erred in admitting evidence of the purportedly unexhausted and time-barred claims. Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Brown v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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After a valve assembly blew off a pump station pipe and injured plaintiff, he filed suit against Cal West on a theory of negligent design and construction. The jury returned a 9-3 special verdict that Cal West was not negligent. Plaintiff then moved for a new trial based on juror misconduct, and the trial court found that the juror misconduct did not prejudice plaintiff. The Court of Appeal held that the juror misconduct raised a presumption of prejudice, which was not rebutted by Cal West. The court held that jurors are not permitted to inject extraneous evidence, standards of care, or defense theories into deliberations. In this case, the juror at issue said that the Cal West design and construction met the "industry standard" and that anybody would have put the system together in the exact same way, and that anything that happened after the system was put together and tested was the vineyard's responsibility. However, there was no evidence of that, and the juror vouched for the design and construction based on his expertise as a pipefitter and farmer. But this case was tried on a negligent design and construction theory, and it did not matter whether ownership of the irrigation system transferred to the vineyard owner after Cal West built the system. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded. Finally, the court denied the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. View "Nodal v. Cal-West Rain, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Court of Appeal joined with the courts ruling that defendants who made a plea deal must obtain a certificate of probable cause before asking, on appeal, for a remand for resentencing under Senate Bill No. 1393. The court held that the Legislature did not want SB 1393 to alter existing sentences based on a negotiated plea deal and a stipulated sentence. The court dismissed this appeal because defendant never tried to obtain a certificate of probable cause. View "People v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeal held that Local Rule Seven of the McCourtney Courthouse Policies, effective August 13, 2019, is invalid; the rule was adopted in violation of state law; the local rule conflicts with California law; the goal of expediting proceedings cannot justify denying mother the opportunity to present relevant evidence; and the court may control courtroom proceedings through case-specific orders. In this case, the juvenile court refused to permit mother to testify or to call witnesses in a juvenile dependency matter set for a contested dispositional hearing, because her counsel had not filed a joint trial statement as required by the local rule. The court also held that, even had the local rules here been properly adopted and enforceable, the juvenile court's ruling barring mother from testifying and examining her daughter on the statements contained in a report to the court because she had failed to submit the joint trial statement would run afoul of Code of Civil Procedure section 575.2. Furthermore, the sanction imposed was disproportionate to the conduct it punished. Accordingly, the court reversed the dispositional orders and remanded to the juvenile court with instructions to conduct a new dispositional hearing without reference to the local rule. View "In re Harley C." on Justia Law

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Inspectors filed a putative class action alleging that they were entitled to, but deprived of minimum wages, overtime, meal and rest breaks, reimbursement of expenses, and accurate wage statements. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of certification and held that, under the analytic framework promulgated by Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, and Duran v. U.S. Bank National Assn. (2014) 59 Cal.4th 1, the trial court acted within its discretion in denying certification. In this case, the inspectors' trial plan was inadequate and unfair, because litigation of individual issues, including those arising from affirmative defenses, could not be managed fairly and efficiently using only an anonymous survey of all class members. For example, an employer's liability for failure to provide overtime or rest breaks will depend on the employees' individual circumstances. View "McCleery v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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A jury convicted defendant Spencer Marsh of assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism. The charges arose from an incident involving a formal Navy SEAL at a fitness club parking lot; the brake lines to the SEAL’s vehicle had been cut, and defendant was identified as a person on surveillance video under the SEAL’s vehicle at the times the SEAL was inside the club. The jury also found true the allegations in connection with count 1, that the deadly weapon used to commit this offense was a vehicle, and that defendant personally used this dangerous and deadly weapon; and in connection with count 2, that the amount of property damage was $400 or more. The court sentenced defendant to the midterm of three years in prison on count 1, and stayed under Penal Code section 654(a) a two-year midterm sentence on count 2. On appeal, defendant contended the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of assault with a deadly weapon; that the court prejudicially erred in instructing the jury on the meaning of the phrase "deadly weapon"; and that defense counsel violated his constitutional rights by allegedly conceding during closing argument that defendant was guilty of the vandalism charge in count 2. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Marsh" on Justia Law

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Defendant Daniel Sexton was convicted of several crimes committed against Jane Doe, his ex-wife. During the course of the investigation, Jane first accused him of domestic violence, later recanted her allegations, and then reverted to her original statements. At trial, the jury received testimony from an expert who offered her professional opinion about statements typically made by victims of intimate partner battering. Specifically, the expert asserted that it was not unusual for victims of intimate partner battering to cycle between periods of seeking assistance from law enforcement and of supporting their battering partners, including by making false statements to the police. On appeal, Sexton challenged CALCRIM No. 850, the standard jury instruction regarding testimony by complaining witnesses in cases in which the jury also hears evidence from an expert in intimate partner battering. Sexton claimed the instruction would suggest that if jurors found the expert to be credible, they should find the witness credible too. Furthermore, Sexton argued: (1) because Arizona's robbery statute did not contain all the elements of California's, including asportation, the true finding on the alleged Arizona prior conviction had to be reversed and the five-year prior serious felony enhancement stricken; (2) the statutory dual punishment ban required the sentence on either count 3 (domestic violence) or count 4 (assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury) be stayed given that both counts were predicated on the same physical assault as part of a single course of conduct that had one objective, the infliction of physical and emotional harm on Jane. Sexton sought remand for the trial court to consider whether it should strike his prior serious felony enhancement under Senate Bill No. 1393, which the State conceded was appropriate. View "California v. Sexton" on Justia Law