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

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT

Civil Code
National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc. v. State of California (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2018 WL 3150950: The California Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal finding that Penal Code section 31910(b)(7)(A) was unenforceable under Civil Code section 3531 because compliance with the Penal Code section was impossible. Plaintiff alleged that dual placement microstamping technology was impossible to implement. The California Supreme Court ruled that Civil Code section 3531’s maxim that the “law never requires impossibilities” is an interpretive aid that occasionally authorizes an exception to a statutory mandate in accordance with the Legislature’s intent behind the mandate, but the maxim is not a ground for invalidating a statutory mandate altogether. (June 28, 2018.)

Civil Procedure
Samara v. Matar (2018) _ Cal. 5th _, 2018 WL 3097960: The California Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s decision reversing the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to defendant in a dental malpractice action. Plaintiff sued defendant and defendant Dr. Stephen Nahigian (Nahigian) for malpractice regarding a tooth implant, claiming defendant was vicariously liable for the conduct of Nahigian. The trial court granted Nahigian’s motion for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations and lack of causation. Plaintiff appealed this decision, and the Court of Appeal affirmed on the timeliness issue but declined to address the causation issue. The trial court later granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment finding that the earlier no-causation decision precluded vicarious liability against defendant. Addressing the issue of claim preclusion (res judicata) and issue preclusion (collateral estoppel), the California Supreme Court ruled that, when a conclusion relied on by the trial court is challenged on appeal but is not addressed by the appellate court, the preclusive effect of the judgment should be evaluated as though the trial court had not relied on the unreviewed ground. It overruled the earlier inconsistent decision of People v. Skidmore (1865) 27 Cal. 287. (June 25, 2018.)

Construction
United Riggers & Erectors, Inc. v. Coast Iron & Steel Co. (2018) _ Cal. 5th _, 2018 WL 2188916: The California Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal. The “dispute exception” to prompt payment in California Civil Code section 8814(c) excuses payment only when a good faith dispute exists over a statutory or contractual precondition to that payment, such as the adequacy of the construction work for which the payment is consideration. Controversies concerning unrelated work or additional payments above the amount both sides agree is owed will not excuse delay. A direct contractor cannot withhold payment where the underlying obligation to pay the specific monies is undisputed. (May 14, 2018.)

Insurance
Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Construction Co., Inc. (2018) _ Cal. 5th _, 2018 WL 2470975: When a third party sues an employer for the negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of an employee who intentionally injured that third party, does the suit allege an “occurrence” under the employer’s commercial general liability policy? The California Supreme Court answered yes to the question above posed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Defendants were sued in a state court action because an assistant superintendent that they

hired for a construction project at a middle school allegedly sexually abused a 13-year-old student at the school. Plaintiff carrier defended the state court action under a reservation of rights but sought declaratory relief in federal court arguing that it had no obligation to defend or indemnify. The district court granted summary judgment to plaintiff on the basis that there was no occurrence under the policy because the act of hiring the employee was too attenuated from the injury-causing conduct committed by the employee. The California Supreme Court ruled there could be an occurrence under the policy because California cases expressly recognize that negligent hiring, retention, or supervision may be a substantial factor in a sexual molestation perpetrated by an employee, depending on the facts presented. (June 4, 2018.)

CALIFORNIA COURTS OF APPEAL

Arbitration
Smythe v. Uber Technologies, Inc. (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 2752620: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order denying a motion to compel arbitration in a putative class action for unfair business practices and intentional interference with prospective economic damage alleging that defendant engaged in a practice of directing its drivers and others to create and use fake Lyft accounts to request rides, thereby sending Lyft drivers on wild goose chases to pick up nonexistent passengers. Plaintiff was a driver for defendant and for Lyft. When plaintiff joined defendant, he signed two agreements containing arbitration provisions. The trial court properly ruled that plaintiff’s allegations were beyond the scope of the arbitration agreement and that the delegation provision was unenforceable in the context of the claims advanced in plaintiff’s complaint. (C.A. 1st, June 8, 2018.)Williams v. Atria Las Posas (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2018 WL 3134869: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order denying a petition to compel arbitration in a personal injury action by plaintiffs (a husband and his wife). The trial court denied the motion due to an integration clause, but the Court of Appeal ruled that an integration clause in a residency agreement did not preclude proof of a separate arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeal affirmed the denial of arbitration as to a claim for loss of consortium by plaintiff wife. The Court of Appeal remanded the matter to the trial court to rule on the other objections raised against the petition to compel arbitration. (C.A. 2nd, June 27, 2018.)

Attorney Fees
Prince v. Invensure Ins. Brokers (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2018 WL 2276603: The Court of Appeal affirmed in part and reversed in part a judgment, following a jury trial, for plaintiff in the sum of $647,706.48. The judgment was affirmed but two post judgment orders were reversed. The trial court erroneously granted a motion to tax costs and erroneously found that plaintiff’s settlement offer under Code of Civil Procedure section 998 was ambiguous. The Court of Appeal ruled that, in the context of this case, where two sophisticated parties were represented by counsel, allowing an offer to compromise to be clarified in writing after the offer was made served the purposes of section 998 and such clarification encourages reasonable settlement offers to be accepted. The trial court also erroneously denied plaintiff and cross-defendant’s motion for attorney fees under Penal Code 502. The Court of Appeal ruled that the causes of action in the cross-complaint all related to a common core of facts, and therefore attorney fees did not need to be apportioned. (C.A. 4th, May 18, 2018.)

Employment
AHMC Healthcare, Inc. v. Superior Court (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2018 WL 3101350: The Court of Appeal granted a writ petition and directed the trial court to grant petitioners’ (defendants in the underlying putative class action for wage and hour violations) motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeal held the stipulated facts established that the use of a payroll system that automatically rounded employee time up or down to the nearest quarter hour, providing a less than exact measure of employee work time, was neutral on its face and as applied, and complied with California law. (C.A. 2nd, June 25, 2018.) Krolikowski v. San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2018 WL 2326119: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling for respondent, following a bench trial, on the writ of mandate and declaratory relief issues. It also affirmed the trial court’s order sustaining a demurrer to conversion and breach of fiduciary duty causes of action. Petitioners sued to stop respondent from seeking to recover overpayment of past monthly pension benefits after it discovered an error in calculating the monthly benefits. The Court of Appeal ruled the demurrer was properly sustained because respondent was immune from tort liability under Government Code sections 815.2 and 820.2. The Court of Appeal also ruled that no legal doctrine identified by petitioners prevented respondent from seeking repayment of the overpayments. (C.A. 4th, filed May 23, 2018, published June 14, 2018.)

Torts
Coyle v. Historic Mission Inn Corporation (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2018 WL 2998888: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to defendant in a case where plaintiff sued for injuries caused by a black widow spider bite while eating lunch at defendant’s restaurant. The Court of Appeal ruled that defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care in relation to black widow spiders that pose a risk of injury to patrons on its premises, and the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. (C.A. 4th, June 15, 2018.)

Monty A. Mcintyre

Monty A. McIntyre follows his passions for the law and serving others by serving as a mediator, arbitrator and motion referee to help individuals, businesses and lawyers obtain rapid, reasonable resolution of disputes. He is also the Publisher of McIntyre’s California Civil Law Update and can be reached at 619-990-4312 or monty.mcintyre@gmail.com.

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Filed Under: Featured StoriesPractice Management

About the Author: Monty A. McIntyre follows his passions for the law and serving others by serving as a mediator, arbitrator and motion referee to help individuals, businesses and lawyers obtain rapid, reasonable resolution of disputes. He is also the Publisher of McIntyre’s California Civil Law Update and can be reached at 619-990-4312 or monty.mcintyre@gmail.com.

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