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California Case Summaries. New California Civil Cases.

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT

Civil Code

White v. Square, Inc. (2019) _ Cal.5th _ , 2019 WL 3771912: The California Supreme Court, answering a question posted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, ruled that a plaintiff has standing to bring a claim under the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh Act; Civil Code, section 51 et seq.) when the plaintiff visits a business’s website with the intent of using its services, encounters terms and conditions that allegedly deny the plaintiff full and equal access to its services, and then leaves the website without entering into an agreement with the service provider. A person suffers discrimination under the Unruh Act when the person presents himself or herself to a business with an intent to use its services but encounters an exclusionary policy or practice that prevents him or her from using those services. (August 12, 2019.)

CALIFORNIA COURTS OF APPEAL

Appeals

Branom v. Diamond (2019) _ Cal.App.5th Supp. _ , 2019 WL 4007562: The Appellate Department of the Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed a purported appeal by plaintiff of the trial court’s order denying plaintiff’s motion for a new trial following a voluntary expedited jury trial where jury awarded economic damages to plaintiff of $2,450. Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 630.09, plaintiff and all parties waived their right to appeal by entering into a consent order stipulating that they waived “all rights to appeal” and by participating in a voluntary expedited jury trial. (Appellate Department of the Los Angeles Superior Court, August 23, 2019.)

Arbitration

Franco v. Greystone Ridge Condominium (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 3811889: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order denying defendant’s motion to compel arbitration of a complaint asserting employment-related claims. Although the complaint was filed ten days before the arbitration agreement was signed, the Court of Appeal ruled that the agreement was clear, explicit, and unequivocal with regard to the claims subject to it and contained no qualifying language limiting its applicability to claims that had yet to accrue. Moreover, the agreement’s reference to claims relating to “pre-hire” matters expressed an intent to cover all claims, regardless of when they accrued, that were not otherwise expressly excluded by the arbitration agreement. (C.A. 4th, filed August 14, 2019, published August 27, 2019.)

J.H. Boyd Enterprises, Inc. v. Boyd (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 4273880: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order denying a motion to compel arbitration but dismissed the portion of the appeal from an order denying judicial reference because that was not an appealable order. The Court of Appeal ruled that the dispute, as framed by the complaint, was governed by California law. Since the dispute concerned a secured loan and plaintiff had not elected to proceed with the arbitration, under paragraph F of the promissory note, the dispute could not be submitted to arbitration. (C.A. 5th, filed August 23, 2019, published September 10, 2019.)

Attorneys

Mancini & Associates v. Schwetz (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 4187472: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s entry of judgment for plaintiff in the sum of $409,351, following a court trial, based upon tort theories of interference with contract and economic advantage. Plaintiff was a law firm that had previously sued defendant for employment-related claims on behalf of a client. That lawsuit resulted in a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff’s client for $68,650 against defendant, plus an award of $12,622.46 in costs and $136,050 in attorney fees. Plaintiff law firm sought to collect on the judgment for its client, without success, except for collecting $40 in a judgment debtor exam. Six years after the judgment was entered, plaintiff’s client contacted defendant, met him for lunch, and resumed their friendship. Defendant and plaintiff’s client later entered into a Memorandum of Settlement and Mutual Release that released defendant from all judgments, fees and costs. The Court of Appeal ruled that defendant’s conduct was noncommunicative and therefore was not protected by the litigation privilege in Civil Code section 47. It affirmed the judgment for plaintiff because a third party who impairs an attorney’s rights pursuant to a contractual lien may be subject to liability for tortious interference with contractual relations or prospective economic advantage. (C.A. 2nd, September 4, 2019.)

Business

Quidel Corporation v. Super. Ct. (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 4071848: The Court of Appeal granted a writ petition directing the trial court to vacate the summary judgment it granted in favor of defendant. The Court of Appeal ruled that Business & Professions Code 16600 doe not invalidate all contractual noncompete provisions outside the employment context. The trial court improperly extended, beyond the employment context, the holding from Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP (2008) 44 Cal.4th 937 to a provision in a business agreement1 between two companies. (C.A. 4th, August 29, 2019.)

Civil Code

Cheema v. L.S. Trucking, Inc. (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 4440131: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order denying plaintiff’s request for prejudgment interest, and also penalty interest under Civil Code section 3322. After a nine-day bench trial, the trial court properly found for plaintiff and awarded him net damages of $19,113.84. The trial court later properly awarded plaintiff attorney fees of $100,415. The trial court erred in holding that plaintiff was not entitled to prejudgment interest. There was no dispute or uncertainty over the amount of damages plaintiff claimed and to which he was ultimately determined to be entitled. The only dispute was whether defendant was entitled to deduct rental charges, in an ascertained amount, from the undisputed amount otherwise owed. Plaintiff was also entitled to 2 percent penalty interest under section 3322. However, the penalty should be applied only to the payments not made to plaintiff within the specified statutory period, excluding those amounts that were withheld as rental deductions. (C.A. 1st, September 17, 2019.)

Civil Procedure

Hicks v. Richard (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 4439313: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order denying defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion to strike plaintiff’s complaint for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff sued because he was removed as the principal of a Catholic elementary and middle school after defendant (the chair of the school advisory board) sent a letter criticizing plaintiff to the Diocese of San Diego. The Court of Appeal ruled that the letter was protected activity. However, the Court of Appeal ruled that the trial court erred in concluding the common interest privilege did not apply to these facts. Plaintiff did not present any evidence of malice, which was necessary to establish that the common interest privilege did not apply. Because the common interest privilege applied, plaintiff could not establish a probability that he would prevail on the claim. (C.A. 4th, September 17, 2019.)

Insurance

Terrell v. State Farm General Ins. Co. (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 4686477: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment for defendant in an action by plaintiffs seeking to compel their homeowners carrier to provide a defense and indemnity regarding a personal injury claim by a tenant who was renting plaintiffs’ home. The trial court properly granted summary judgment because the homeowners policy excluded coverage for injuries arising out of an insured’s business pursuits or the rental of their home. (C.A. 1st, September 26, 2019.)

Settlement

Red & White Distribution v. Osteroid Enterprises (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 3759458: The Court of Appeal reversed in part and affirmed in part the trial court’s order granting a stipulation to enforce a stipulated judgment. The Court of Appeal found there was substantial evidence supporting the trial court finding that defendant had breached the settlement agreement. However, the trial court erred in entering the stipulated judgment because it included an additional $700,000 over the settlement amount of $2.1 million, and this was an unenforceable penalty under Civil Code section 1671(b). (C.A. 2nd, August 9, 2019.)

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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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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