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McIntyre’s Civil Alert

Organized Succinct Summaries

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT

Consumer Protection
Quesada v. Herb Thyme Farms, Inc. (2015) _ Cal.4th _ , 2015 WL 7770635: The California Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court that had been affirmed by the Court of Appeal. Plaintiff filed a putative class action against defendant for false advertising and unfair competition due to defendant’s practice of selling conventionally grown herbs under an organic label. The trial court granted defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings on federal preemption and primary jurisdiction grounds. The California Supreme Court reversed, concluding that a state law claim that produce was being intentionally mislabeled as organic was not preempted. (December 3, 2015.)

Real Property (CEQA)
Center for Biological Diversity v. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (The Newhall Land and Farming Company) (2015) _ Cal.4th _ , 2015 WL 7708312: The California Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal that had rejected all of petitioner’s CEQA claims against a proposed land development called Newhall Ranch. The Supreme Court concluded that the Department of Fish and Wildlife abused its discretion by making the determination, without the support of substantial evidence, that the project’s greenhouse gas emissions would have no significant impact, and also in imposing biological resource mitigation measures that called for the trapping and transplantation of a fully protected fish species. The Supreme Court further concluded that the Court of Appeal erred in holding petitioners failed to preserve their claims regarding Native American cultural resource and steelhead smolt impacts. On remand, the Court of Appeal was directed to decide whether, in light of the exhaustion holding, the Native American cultural resource and steelhead smolt claims warranted reexamination on the merits. The Court of Appeal was further ordered to decide, or remand for the trial court to decide, the parameters of the writ of mandate to be issued. (November 30, 2015.)

Torts
B.H. v. County of San Bernardino (2015) _ Cal.4th _ , 2015 WL 7708297: The California Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part, the decision of the Court of Appeal. Plaintiff sued the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and a deputy sheriff for not reporting child abuse allegations to the child welfare agency, in violation of the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA; Penal Code section 11164 et seq.). The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding there was no duty to cross-report, and defendants were immune from liability. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The Supreme Court concluded that the Sheriff’s Department had a mandatory and ministerial duty to cross-report the child abuse allegations made to the 911 operator to the child welfare agency, and the failure to cross-report can support the finding of a breach of a mandatory duty (Penal Code section 11166(k); Government Code section 815.6.). The individual officer, however, had no duty to report the child abuse allegations and her investigative findings to the child welfare agency. (Penal Code section 11166(a).) (November 30, 2015.)

CALIFORNIA COURTS OF APPEAL

Arbitration
Ramos v. Westlake Services LLC (2015) _ Cal.App.4th _ , 2015 WL 7482148: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration, but for a different reason. Plaintiff purchased a car from defendant. The negotiations were in Spanish. Plaintiff was given a Spanish translation of the English purchase contract that he signed. Plaintiff provided a declaration stating that the arbitration clause in the English contract that he signed was not in the Spanish translation and no one ever told him about the arbitration clause. The trial court denied the motion to compel, finding that, under Civil Code section 1632, defendant had failed to establish the existence of an arbitration agreement enforceable against plaintiff. It alternatively held that providing an English version of a contract with an arbitration clause together with a translated version of the contract without such a clause made the arbitration clause unenforceable because it was unconscionable. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling, but concluded that defendant failed to establish an agreement to arbitrate because it did not demonstrate the existence of mutual assent. There was no mutual assent because the arbitration agreement was hidden in the English Contract and not included in the translation given to plaintiff. (C.A. 1st, filed October 30, 2015, published November 23, 2015.)

Civil Procedure (Demurrer, Good Faith Settlements, Jurisdiction, Motions to Dismiss)
Dole Food Company, Inc. v. Superior Court (Shell Oil Company) (2015) _ Cal.App.4th _ , 2015 WL 7734209: The Court of Appeal denied a writ petition challenging the trial court’s order finding that settlements were made in good faith. The Court of Appeal concluded that cost of compliance with a cleanup and abatement order of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, by codefendants Shell Oil Company and Equilon Enterprises LLC dba Shell Oil Products US (collectively Shell), was not part of the settlement consideration and therefore should not be included in the valuation of the good faith settlement. Although the trial court gave some weight to the value of the Remedial Action Plan remediation in approving the good faith settlements, the error was harmless. On the record presented, the $90 million monetary payment, standing alone, was well within the range of Shell’s proportionate liability. The Court of Appeal also concluded that the determination of good faith settlement did not require an allocation of the $90 million settlement consideration among the 1,491 individual plaintiffs and between their economic and noneconomic damages. Such individualized allocations, which would have necessitated 1,491 mini-trials in this matter, were not required as part of the good faith settlement process. (C.A. 2nd, December 1, 2015.)

Government
San Diegans for Open Government v. City of San Diego (2015) _ Cal.App.4th _ , 2015 WL 7352188: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment for defendant City of San Diego (City) in an action brought by plaintiff San Diegans for Open Government claiming that a lease-back financing plan the City adopted to fund public infrastructure improvements violated state and local requirements that municipal indebtedness exceeding annual income and revenue be approved by a two-thirds vote of the electorate. The trial court properly ruled that the debt limitation provisions were inapplicable under Rider v. City of San Diego (1998) 18 Cal.4th 1035 because the bonds would not be issued by the City, but by a separate public entity formed under a joint powers agreement. (C.A. 4th, November 20, 2015.)

Real Property (CEQA, Landlord-Tenant, Unlawful Detainer)
Borsuk v. Appellate Division (LA Hillcreste Apartments, LLC) (2015) _ Cal.App.4th _ , 2015 WL 7424774: The Court of Appeal denied a petition for writ of mandate. A tenant in an unlawful detainer action may not bring a motion to quash service of the summons, on the ground that the landlord did not properly serve the three-day notice to pay rent or quit required under the Unlawful Detainer Act, because the three-day notice is an element of an unlawful detainer action. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the broad language of Delta Imports, Inc. v. Municipal Court (1983) 146 Cal.App.3d 1033 (Delta), which held that a motion to quash service is the only method to challenge whether a complaint states a cause of action for unlawful detainer. (C.A. 2nd, November 23, 2015.)
Citizens for Environmental Responsibility v. State of California (Stars of Justice) (2015) _ Cal.App.4th _ , 2015 WL 7423176: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of petitioner’s writ petition alleging that the 14th District Agricultural Association and its Board of Directors violated CEQA by approving a notice of exemption from environmental review for a rodeo held at the Santa Cruz County Fairground in Watsonville in October 2011. Because appellants failed to establish the unusual circumstances prong of the unusual circumstance exception under either alternative discussed in Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley (2015) 60 Cal.4th 1086, 1091, the Court of Appeal concluded that the exception did not apply to preclude application of the Class 23 exemption, for normal operations of public gathering facilities, to the rodeo project. (C.A. 3rd, November 23, 2015.)

Torts (Assumption of Risk, Premises Liability)
Dole Food Company, Inc. v. Superior Court (Shell Oil Company) (2015) _ Cal.App.4th _ , 2015 WL 7734209: See summary above under Civil Procedure.
Garcia v. Holt (2015) _ Cal.App.4th _ , 2015 WL 7434474: See summary above under Real Property.
Griffin v. The Haunted Hotel, Inc. (2015) _ Cal.App.4th _, 2015 WL 7355112: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment for defendant. Plaintiff sued the Haunted Hotel, Inc., which operates the Haunted Trail, for injuries plaintiff suffered when he was running away from an actor wielding a gas powered chainsaw (the chain had been removed). The trial court properly granted Haunted Hotel’s motion for summary judgment, determining under the primary assumption of risk doctrine that Haunted Hotel did not breach any duty to Griffin. The risk that a patron will be frightened, run, and fall is inherent in the fundamental nature of a haunted house attraction like The Haunted Trail. (C.A. 4th, filed October 23, 2015, published November 20, 2015.)

Monty A. Mcintyre

Below are some recent cases summarized by Monty A. McIntyre in his publication California Case Summaries Civil™, which provides organized succinct summaries, every other Monday, of every new published California civil case for only $7.99 a month. (Go to http://montymcintyre.com/mcintyre/.) Monty has been a civil trial lawyer since 1980, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in a broad variety of civil cases, and has more than 17 years of experience as a mediator and arbitrator. He has been a member of ABOTA since 1995, and is the past president of the San Diego County Bar Assn. and the San Diego Chapter of ABOTA. Monty mediates and arbitrates at ADR Services, Inc., where he handles cases in the areas of business, commercial, elder abuse, employment/wage & hour, insurance coverage/bad faith, legal malpractice, medical malpractice, personal injury, real property and wrongful death. To schedule a mediation or arbitration, contact his case manager Kelsey Carroll at ADR Services, Inc. at (619) 233-1323 or kelsey@adrservices.org.

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About the Author: Below are some recent cases summarized by Monty A. McIntyre in his publication California Case Summaries Civil™, which provides organized succinct summaries, every other Monday, of every new published California civil case for only $7.99 a month. (Go to http://montymcintyre.com/mcintyre/.) Monty has been a civil trial lawyer since 1980, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in a broad variety of civil cases, and has more than 17 years of experience as a mediator and arbitrator. He has been a member of ABOTA since 1995, and is the past president of the San Diego County Bar Assn. and the San Diego Chapter of ABOTA. Monty mediates and arbitrates at ADR Services, Inc., where he handles cases in the areas of business, commercial, elder abuse, employment/wage & hour, insurance coverage/bad faith, legal malpractice, medical malpractice, personal injury, real property and wrongful death. To schedule a mediation or arbitration, contact his case manager Kelsey Carroll at ADR Services, Inc. at (619) 233-1323 or kelsey@adrservices.org.

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