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California Case Summaries ADR™ Organized Succinct Summaries of New California Civil Cases

CALIFORNIA COURTS OF APPEAL

Arbitration

Uber Technologies v. Google (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 4658745: The Court of Appeal reversed the superior court’s discovery order (in favor of Uber) that overruled an arbitration panel’s discovery order (in favor of Google). The case arose from an arbitration proceeding by Google against its former employees who had started a self-driving vehicle company, Ottomotto LLC, that was acquired by Uber. The Court of Appeal overruled Uber’s motion to dismiss the appeal. Because the superior court’s order determined all pending issues in the special proceeding between Google and Uber, it was a final appealable order. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s discovery order. Due diligence-related documents prepared by the law firm Stroz Friedberg LLC were not protected attorney-client communications, nor were they entitled to absolute protection from disclosure under the attorney work product doctrine. While the materials had qualified protection as work product, denial of the materials would unfairly prejudice Google’s preparation of its claims. (C.A. 1st, September 28, 2018.)

Attorney Fees

Schulz v. Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc. (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 4718836: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order awarding plaintiff attorneys only 10% attorney fees on a settlement they obtained of $18,125,000 in a wrongful death action. The contingent fee agreement provided for a fee of 40%, and the plaintiff attorneys requested a fee of 31%. The Court of Appeal ruled the trial court gave too little consideration to California Rules of Court, rule 7.955(a) (2), which required it to take into account the terms of the engagement agreement with the clients from the perspective of when the agreement was signed. In addition, the court did not acknowledge the factors listed in California Rules of Court, rule 7.955(b). Instead of balancing the relevant factors, the court gave overwhelming weight to a single concern: the expense of the plaintiff children’s extensive medical needs. The Court of Appeal agreed that a child’s needs are a relevant and important factor in determining a reasonable attorney fee, but this single factor cannot overwhelm all other considerations. Considering the difficulties in the case at the beginning, the fact that other attorneys would not take the case on a contingent fee basis, and the significant costs advanced by the lawyers, the trial court abused its discretion in awarding fees of only 10% percent. (C.A. 2nd, filed September 5, 2018, published October 2, 2018.)

Attorneys

Lofton v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 4659692: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order denying approximately $5.5 million of attorney fees to Initiative Legal Group, APC (ILG) and instead directing the payment of this amount to class members in Lofton v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (Lofton). The trial court properly issued this order as the result of ILG concealing from the Lofton court and its class member clients a $6 million settlement with Wells Fargo for payment of ILG’s attorney fees in violation of California Rules of Court, Rule 3.769(b). The Court of Appeal also directed that a copy of its opinion be sent to the State Bar of California. (C.A. 1st, September 28, 2018.)

Civil Procedure

Martinez v. Eatlite One, Inc. (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 4765268: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s award of pre-998 and post-998 attorney fees of $60,000 and costs of $4,905.07 to plaintiff after a jury found in her favor on her employment discrimination claim and awarded her damages of $11,490. Before trial, defendant had made a Code of Civil Procedure section 998 offer for $12,001 which plaintiff did not accept. The Court of Appeal ruled that the trial court should have compared the jury’s award plus plaintiff’s pre-offer costs and fees, with the amount of the 998 offer, plus plaintiff’s pre-offer costs and fees. Had it done this, it would have concluded that plaintiff did not obtain a better recovery. The Court of Appeal therefore reversed the portions of the postjudgment orders awarding post-offer costs and fees to plaintiff and denying post-offer costs to defendant. (C.A. 4th, October 3, 2018.)

Pagnini v. Union Bank, N.A. (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 5023812: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order denying plaintiff’s motion for relief under Code of Civil Procedure section 473(b) after the trial court had sustained an unopposed demurrer to plaintiff’s complaint. The Court of Appeal ruled the trial court was obligated to grant relief under the mandatory provision of Section 473(b) where appellant presented a sworn declaration from his counsel attesting that counsel mistakenly failed to respond to the demurrer by timely filing an amended complaint. Defendants’ demurrer was effectively a “dismissal motion,” and appellant’s counsel’s mistaken failure to respond to the motion obligated the trial court to relieve appellant from counsel’s error. (C.A. 3rd, October 17, 2018.)

Elections

City of Commerce v. Argumedo (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 5023813: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment for defendant after a bench trial and its order denying defendant’s motion for attorney fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. Plaintiff sued in quo warranto (under Code of Civil Procedure section 803) to remove defendant from office claiming that his 2010 guilty plea for misdemeanor obstruction of justice constituted a conviction for malfeasance in office (as set forth in article VII, section 8, subdivision (b) of the California Constitution) that forever disqualified him from holding office pursuant to Government Code 1021. The Court of Appeal ruled that the record of defendant’s conviction did not unambiguously show that his guilty plea to obstruction of justice constituted a conviction for malfeasance in office. The crime of malfeasance in office evidences moral corruption and dishonesty, but a conviction for obstruction of justice does not necessarily imply moral corruption and dishonesty, nor does it imply conduct that occurred “in office.” Also, the trial court did not state for the record the particular factual basis it found for the plea. The Court of Appeal also held that the trial court properly denied the motion for attorney fees because defendant’s defense of the action did not confer a significant benefit on the general public or a large class of persons. (C.A. 2nd, October 17, 2018.)

Employment

Atempa v. Pedrazzani (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 4657860: The Court of Appeal modified part of the trial court’s judgment but otherwise affirmed it in a wage and hour action. Defendant Paolo Pedrazzani (Pedrazzani) was the owner, president, secretary, and director of Pama, Inc. (Pama), which did business as Via Italia Trattoria, a restaurant in Encinitas, California. Following a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment against Pama and Pedrazzani for wage and hour violations. Pama filed a bankruptcy proceeding after the entry of judgment. The trial court properly assessed civil penalties, under Labor Code sections 558(a) and 1197.1(a), individually against Pedrazzani because he qualified as a person other than the corporate employer who either violated the overtime pay and minimum wage laws or caused the statutory violations. However, because plaintiffs sought to recover the civil penalties under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA; Labor Code sections 2698 et seq.), the Court of Appeal ruled that the penalties had to be distributed 75 percent to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and 25 percent to the aggrieved employees according to section 2699(i). The trial court’s judgment was modified to do this. The Court of Appeal also affirmed the trial court’s award of attorney fees ($315,014) and costs against Pedrazzani. (C.A. 4th, September 28, 2018.)

Family Law

R.B. v. D.R. (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 4927558: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision staying a California custody proceeding because India was a more appropriate forum. R.B. (father) and D.R. (mother) were citizens of India who were married in India. In October 2013, their only child, a daughter, was born in California. In February 2017, the mother discovered that the father was involved with another woman and immediately left for India with the child. On February 11, 2017, in India, the mother obtained a restraining order giving her sole custody of the child. On February 24, 2017, in California, the father obtained an ex parte order giving him sole custody of the child. The trial court later held an evidentiary hearing under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA; Family Code, section 3400 et seq.) and ruled that: California had jurisdiction; California was an inconvenient forum and that India was a more appropriate forum; and stayed the father’s petition on the condition that the India custody proceeding go forward. The Court of Appeal ruled that India was not required to have concurrent jurisdiction under the UCCJEA in order for the trial court to make an inconvenient forum finding, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in evaluating the inconvenient forum factors under section 3427. (C.A. 4th, October 11, 2018.)

Insurance

Lat v. Farmers New World Life Ins. Co. (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 5004763: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment for defendant in an action by beneficiaries to recover life insurance policy proceeds. The insured purchased a whole life insurance policy with a disability rider where defendant agreed to waive the cost of the insurance while the insured was disabled if the insured provided defendant with notice and proof of her disability. The insured was diagnosed with cancer in September 2012 and became disabled as a result, but she did not provide defendant with notice of her disability and made no payments on the policy after June 2013. On May 20, 2013, defendant sent a letter to the insured telling her the premium payments received to date were insufficient to pay for the coverage and warned that the policy would lapse and terminate if defendant did not receive a payment by the end of the grace period—July 20, 2013. In September 2013, the insured died. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court because defendant failed to show any prejudice under the notice prejudice rule. Because defendant did not assert that it was prejudiced by the delayed notice of the insured’s disability, and there is no dispute that the insured was totally disabled within the meaning of the rider, the insured was entitled to the benefit promised by the rider. (C.A. 2nd, October 16, 2018.)

Torts

A.G. v. County of Los Angeles (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 5078749: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s summary judgment against plaintiff on the basis that he had no standing under Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 to be a party plaintiff in a wrongful death action. Decedent died after an encounter with members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Plaintiff was the son of decedent’s partner who decedent had raised and held out as his own child. The trial court erred in ruling that the presumed parent, under Family Code section 7611(d), had no application to standing under Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60. The Court of Appeal ruled that the statutory scheme recognizes a presumed parentage for standing, and a non-biological parent can be a presumed parent. The Court of Appeal found that the record did not rebut the presumption that decedent was plaintiff’s parent, so defendants failed to meet their burden on summary judgment. (C.A. 2nd, filed October 1, 2018, published October 18, 2018.)

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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Filed Under: Featured StoriesPractice Management

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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