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Trever P. was found by the juvenile court to have committed acts of sexual molestation against his four-year-old cousin while babysitting him one day. Trever was twelve-years-old at the time of the offenses. The court committed Trever to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Trever argued on appeal that the primary evidence against him, an audio recording, surreptitiously made by the victim’s mother, of the conversation Trever and the victim had during the offenses, was inadmissible under Penal Code section 632.1, a part of the Invasion of Privacy Act. Trever also argued the trial court abused its discretion by committing him to DJJ. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that the evidence was admissible under an exception in section 633.5, allowing for admission of surreptitious recordings if one party consents to being recorded for the purpose of obtaining evidence of certain specified crimes. The victim’s mother reasonably suspected such a crime when she arranged to make the recording. Finding no other error, the Court affirmed the juvenile court’s judgment. View "In re Trever P." on Justia Law

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Defendant Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Company (Coldwell) marketed a vacant, bank-owned property in Simi Valley for sale. The property had a backyard with an empty swimming pool and diving board. While plaintiffs Jacques and Xenia Jacobs were viewing the property as potential buyers, Jacques stepped onto the diving board to look over the fence. The diving board base collapsed and Jacques fell into the empty pool. Plaintiffs sued Coldwell for negligence and loss of consortium. The trial court granted Coldwell’s motion for summary judgment, finding Coldwell was entitled to judgment on plaintiffs’ claim regarding the negligent condition of the diving board. Plaintiffs argued that they also were claiming that the empty pool was a dangerous condition. The court rejected this unpled, undisclosed theory of liability, concluding that even if the theory had been pled, Coldwell could not be held liable for failing to remedy the dangerous condition of the empty pool because Jacques’ accident was not reasonably foreseeable. The Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Jacobs v. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Co." on Justia Law

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Property owners who purchased through a foreclosure sale sued the bank that sold the house, alleging that they were mislead the bank’s deed of trust was the first deed of trust, when another remained on the property, and was not extinguished by the foreclosure sale. Wells Fargo assigned any claim against the title insurer it had to David and Lina Hovannisian (the property owners), and the Hovannisians sued First American Title Insurance Company, alleging breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. First American moved for summary judgment, arguing its title insurance coverage had terminated, and no benefits were due. The motion was granted, and the Hovannisians appealed, arguing First American failed to establish that coverage did not continue under the title policy or there were no benefits due under the policy. They also contended triable issues of fact existed regarding their bad faith claim. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding First American showed, based on the facts Wells Fargo and the Hovannisians presented before and after the underlying action was filed, that there was no potential for coverage under the policy. The Hovannisians did not learn about the first deed of trust until after they purchased the property at the foreclosure sale without warranty. Thus, the only potential claim they had against Wells Fargo was for the alleged misrepresentations for which there was no liability or loss under the policy. View "Hovannisian v. First American Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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FC Surety posted $150,000 bail to secure Ventura‘s release from custody in San Francisco. On September 15, 2014, when Ventura failed to appear, the court issued a bench warrant and declared the bond forfeited, stating FC‘s obligation to pay the bond would become absolute on April 10, 2015. On March 12, FC‘s agent discovered Ventura was in custody in Contra Costa County and tried to surrender the San Francisco warrant and have Ventura held. The Contra Costa County Sheriff found no active warrants, although the agent had verification from the San Francisco Sheriff. On April 3, the bail agent moved to vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bond, arguing that failure to enter the warrant into the National Crime Information Center was an error that required exoneration of liability on the bond under Penal Code 980(b). The court denied the motion because the bench warrant remained outstanding. The agent then, unsuccessfully, orally requested to extend the time to secure Ventura‘s appearance. On August 19, the court issued summary judgment of bail forfeiture. The court of appeal reversed in favor of FC. FC‘s motion was timely and supported by good cause; under Penal Code 1305(c)(3) a court “shall vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bail” if, outside the county where the case is located, the defendant is surrendered to custody by the bail or is arrested in the underlying case. View "P.eople v. Financial Casualty & Surety" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Criminal Law

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A jury found defendant Chester Brown guilty of two counts of human trafficking involving two different victims. During the trial, the jury heard evidence that defendant was essentially pimping minors, in at least one instance against their will. Proposition 35, the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act (the “CASE” Act), was designed in part to protect trafficked minors by treating them as victims, not criminals, and ensuring they receive services to protect them from exploitation. Defendant’s claims made on appeal concerned the application and certain aspects of this law. D. Doe (D.), the named victim in count two, was treated as his coconspirator for the purpose of introducing hearsay evidence. B. Doe (B.), the named victim in count one, was recruited by D to work for defendant. Defendant argued that because D. was immune from prosecution for trafficking under Proposition 35, she could not have been his coconspirator, and her out-of-court statements therefore constituted inadmissible hearsay. The Court of Appeal concluded D. was properly deemed an uncharged coconspirator for purposes of Evidence Code section 1223, and that Proposition 35 did not compel a ruling to the contrary. The Court rejected other arguments made on appeal and affirmed defendant’s convictions. View "California v. Brown" on Justia Law

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In November 2004, an excavator punctured a high-pressured petroleum line owned by Kinder. Gasoline, released into the pipe trench, was ignited by welding activities. The resulting explosion and fire killed five employees and seriously injured four others. Cal/OSHA issued Kinder two “Serious Willful” citations due to the failure of its employees to mark the location of the petroleum pipeline before the excavation to install a water line. Wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits were filed against several defendants, including Kinder and Comforce, which supplied Kinder with temporary employees. Kinder sought coverage under its insurance policies, and also under Comforce‘s primary and umbrella policies with ACE. ACE agreed to participate in Kinder‘s defense under Comforce‘s primary policy, but under a reservation of rights. ACE declined coverage under Comforce‘s umbrella policy, based on a policy exclusion for “professional services.” The lawsuits against Kinder settled before trial. When Kinder’s policy limit was exhausted, its insurer sued ACE, seeking full reimbursement of the payments it made under its excess policy, alleging that Kinder was an additional insured under Comforce‘s umbrella policy and that the ACE umbrella policy was a first-level excess policy. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of ACE finding the policy excluded the claims in the underlying lawsuits. View "Energy Insurance Mutual Ltd. v. Ace American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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Before appellants purchased Martins Beach, the public was permitted to access the coast by driving down Martins Beach Road and parking along the coast, usually upon payment of a fee. Because it is sheltered by high cliffs, Martins Beach lacks lateral land access. In 2008, appellants purchased Martins Beach and adjacent land including Martins Beach Road. A year or two later, appellants closed the only public access to the coast at that site. Surfrider, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of access for recreation, brought suit. The trial court held the California Coastal Act (Pub. Res. Code, 30000–30900) applied and the appellants were required to apply for a coastal development permit (CDP) before closing public access. The court issued an injunction that requires appellants to allow public coastal access at the same level that existed when appellants bought the Martins Beach property. The court of appeal affirmed. Appellants‘ conduct is “development” requiring a CDP under section 30106 of the Coastal Act. Appellants‘ constitutional challenge to the Coastal Act‘s permitting requirement under the state and federal takings clauses is not ripe, The injunction is not a per se taking. The court affirmed an award of attorney fees to Surfrider. View "Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach 1, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging claims for damages against various defendants arising from his contraction of coccidioidomycosis (commonly known as valley fever) while incarcerated in the Kern Valley State Prison. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment on the pleadings against plaintiff on his Bane Act cause of action based on the ground that the State was immune from liability under Government Code section 844.6. The court held that the Bane Act did not create any exception to section 844.6, where a public entity is not liable for an injury to any prisoner. Regardless of the merits of plaintiff's claim, he may not assert it against the state. View "Towery v. State of California" on Justia Law

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This appeal concerned a limited liability company, JPB Investments LLC (JPBI), created and operated by respondent James Baldwin, a real estate developer. Appellant Curci Investments, LLC (Curci) sought to add JPBI as a judgment debtor on a multi-million dollar judgment it had against Baldwin personally. Curci asserted Baldwin held virtually all the interest in JPBI and controlled its actions, and Baldwin appeared to be using JPBI as a personal bank account. Curci argued, under these circumstances, it would be in the interest of justice to disregard the separate nature of JPBI and allow Curci to access JPBI’s assets to satisfy the judgment against Baldwin. Citing Postal Instant Press, Inc. v. Kaswa Corp. 162 Cal.App.4th 1510 (2008), the court denied Curci’s motion based on its belief the “reverse veil piercing,” was not available in California. On appeal, Curci asserted Postal Instant Press was distinguishable, and urged the Court of Appeal to conclude reverse veil piercing was available in California and appropriate in this case. The Court agreed Postal Instant Press was distinguishable, and concluded reverse veil piercing is possible under these circumstances. The Court reversed and remanded for the court to make a factual determination as to whether JPBI’s veil should be pierced. View "Curci Investments v. Baldwin" on Justia Law

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PGA West Residential Association, Inc. (PGA West) alleged defendant Dempsey Mork tried to fraudulently insulate the equity in his condominium from creditors by naming Hulven International, Inc. (Hulven), a sham corporation entirely owned and controlled by Mork, as the beneficiary of a deed of trust and note, and by later directing Hulven to foreclose on the condominium. Hulven demurred to the complaint, arguing PGA West's lawsuit was barred by a seven-year limitations period for actions under the former Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. The superior court overruled the demurrer and, after conducting a bench trial, entered judgment for PGA West. In this appeal, Hulven argued the superior court erred by overruling its demurrer. According to Hulven, the allegedly fraudulent activities by Mork and Hulven were a “transfer” for purposes of the UFTA and, therefore, this lawsuit was governed by that act and its seven-year limitations period. Because PGA West filed its lawsuit more than seven years after the alleged fraudulent transfer, Hulven contends PGA West's claims were completely extinguished. The Court of Appeal agreed with Hulven that Mork's alleged fraudulent attempt to insulate the equity in his condominium from creditors by naming a sham corporation as the beneficiary on the deed of trust constituted a “transfer” for purposes of the UFTA and that the act's limitations period applied here: "the seven-year limitations period for actions under the UFTA is not simply a procedural statute of limitations that bars a remedy and is forfeited if not properly raised by a defendant. Rather, the UFTA's seven-year limitations period is a substantive statute of repose that completely extinguishes a right or obligation and, under the majority view that we adopt, a statute of repose is not subject to forfeiture." Because PGA West filed its lawsuit after the UFTA's statute of repose had run, its rights under the act were completely extinguished. Therefore, the Court concluded the superior court erred as a matter of law by overruling Hulven's demurrer. View "PGA West Residential Assn. v. Hulven International" on Justia Law