California Case Law: July 2010 Archives
California Case Law - The FindLaw California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal Opinion Summaries Blog

July 2010 Archives

People v. Perez, S167051, concerned a challenge to a conviction of defendant for seven counts of premeditated attempted murder of a peace officer and one count of premeditated attempted murder of a civilian.  The court reversed and remanded as the evidence was sufficient to sustain only a single count of premeditated attempted murder of a peace officer as, on the facts such as those in this case, where the shooter indiscriminately fires a single shot at a group of persons with specific intent to kill someone, but without targeting any particular individual or individuals, he is guilty of a single count of attempted murder.

People v. Letner, S015384, involved a conviction of defendants for first degree murder, robbery, attempted rape, and theft of an automobile and sentence to death. The court affirmed the convictions in its entirety on automatic appeal over claims of error regarding: 1) court's failure to set aside burglary charges and burglary special circumstance allegations; 2) failure of the information to charge first degree felony murder; 3) denial of motions to sever defendants' trials at the guilt and penalty phases; 4) use of leg brace restraints during jury voir dire; 5) erroneous evidentiary rulings; 6) the sufficiency of the evidence; 7) prosecutorial misconduct; 8) instructional error; 9) sufficiency of the appellate record; 10) improper cross-examination of one of the defendants regarding letters he wrote concerning the crimes; 11) erroneous admission of unadjudicated prior offenses; 12) the constitutionality of California's death penalty statute; and 13) the cumulative effect of the asserted errors.

In re Prather, S172903, concerned a consolidated appeal challenging the appellate courts' conclusions that the Parole Board abused its discretion in denying the prisoners a parole date in habeas proceedings.  In reversing, the court held that, a decision granting habeas corpus relief challenging the Board's determination that a prisoner remains currently dangerous generally should direct the Board to conduct a new parole-suitability hearing in accordance with due process of law and consistent with the decision of the court and should not place improper limitations on the type of evidence the Board is statutorily obligated to consider.  Here, the appellate courts in the these two cases improperly restricted the Board's exercise of its discretion by directing that only certain evidence be considered at the parole suitability hearing of a petitioner, and by ordering the release of another petitioner without further proceedings.

Tucker v. Pacific Bell Mobile Serv., A126077, concerned plaintiffs' proposed class action, claiming that defendant cell phone providers violated the Unfair Competition Law by selling "bucket plans" without informing consumers how the length of each telephone call would be calculated.  The court affirmed for the most part the trial court's partial grant of defendants' motion for sanctions against plaintiffs and plaintiffs' counsel for certain conduct during a deposition.  However, the court held that the portion of the court's order that awards monetary sanctions related to anticipated costs of a future deposition is reversed and remanded as the court did not have the authority to award sanctions for further deposing the plaintiff at issue because defendants had not "incurred" those expenses within the meaning of section 2023.030(a).

People v. Busser, D055088, concerned a challenge to the trial court's order requiring defendant to pay restitution to his insurance carrier for the repair costs arising out of an accident, after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor hit and run and presenting a materially false statement to his insurance company, a felony.  In reversing, the court held that based on the rule first stated in People v. Crow, 6 Cal. 4th 952 (1993), the repair costs insurer would have been obligated to pay if defendant had not presented a materially false statement are not losses resulting from the criminal offense under section 1202.4 because they are not attributable to defendant's criminal misrepresentation.

In re the Marriage of Nicholas, G042365, involved a petitioner's contention that the family court lacked jurisdiction to issue a revised sealing order because it was bound by the initial family law judge's ruling, in a highly contested marital dissolution proceeding, involving the co-founder of Broadcom Corporation and his spouse.  In rejecting the contention, the court affirmed the trial court's July 6, 2009 order as the new judge had continuing jurisdiction to modify the interim sealing orders and to control the court's record's in compliance with the law.

Essex Ins. Co. v. Heck, F058139, concerned an insurer's suit for indemnity against a doctor, who had treated the plaintiff in the underlying personal injury action.  In affirming the trial court's grant of the doctor's motion for summary judgment and an order of an award for expert witness costs, the court held that, applying the principle of implied waiver, the insurer's act of entering into a settlement of the three lawsuits without identifying its insured or apportioning the payment is so inconsistent with an intent to enforce its right to subrogation so as to induce a reasonable belief it had relinquished that right.  Also, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding expert witness fees under section 998 as a discretionary cost item.

Chapala Mgmt. Corp. v. Stanton, D055532, concerned a homeowners' petition for writ of supersedeas challenging the trial court's judgment against them for injunctive and declaratory relief and an order to pay attorney's fees and to post a bond or undertaking to stay the collection of the attorney's fee award, arising from a condominium association's suit against the homeowners for replacing two windows in their condominium with "sandtone" colored windows after the association denied their application for those improvements on grounds they were not an approved color.  In granting the petition, the court held that, under section 916(a), the trial court should have granted the stay of execution of the judgment in its entirety. However, the judgment  and postjudgment order awarding attorney fees are affirmed over homeowners' claims of error.

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People v. Wong, B212580, concerned a challenge to a defendant's conviction for multiple crimes, including embezzlement, while working as the Southern California Director of Community and Government Relations of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and other crimes while as a Commissioner of the Los Angeles World Airports.  In affirming the convictions, the court held that substantial evidence supports the jury's finding that the embezzlement charges were timely and, that there was sufficient evidence to support his bribery conviction.  The court also held that sufficient evidence supports his conflict of interest conviction and, that defendant's conviction for perjury is affirmed as the offense was complete once he signed the 2003 Form 700 and filed it.

In re Skyler H., D056307, concerned a challenge to the trial court's findings in terminating petitioner's parental rights to her eleven-year-old daughter.  In affirming the judgment, the court held that the trial court has discretion to consider the totality of the information presented concerning the child's family circumstances to determine whether it meets the threshold required for ICWA notice ("the court knows or has reason to know the child is an Indian child").  The court also held that the ICWA notice is not required unless the totality of the family's circumstances indicate there is a low but reasonably probability the child is an Indian child, and here, the case need not be remanded for ICWA notice because the family's specific but attenuated Indian heritage does not provide reason to know the child is an Indian child.  Also, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it found that the parent did not show a prima facie case of changed circumstances and best interests of the child, and in summarily denying the parent's petition for modification under section 388.  Lastly, the court held that there is substantial evidence to support the court's finding the beneficial parent-child relationship exception did not apply.

In re A. G., D053991, concerned a challenge to a juvenile court's order placing a minor-defendant on six months' probation, in finding that she violated Vehicle Code sections 22349(a) and the curfew provisions codified in San Diego Municipal Code section 58.0102.  In affirming in part, the court held that, here, the amended petition alleged that defendant violated San Diego Municipal Code section 58.0102, not that she had violated San Diego Ordinance No. 0-18416.  Thus, the discrepancy between the ordinance and the codification, when coupled with the charge contained in the petition, violated defendant's due process rights, because defendant was charged with violating a statute that in fact did not permit a person of ordinary intelligence to know what conduct could be engaged in without violating its provisions.

Guo v. Sun, B215595, concerned a challenge to the trial court's entry of judgment nullifying the marriage on the ground that the husband was already married to another woman in Italy when he purportedly married in 2001, and denial of of the husband's claim that he was the wife's putative spouse, in the marital dissolution proceedings of the couple who wed in 2001 in Las Vegas after meeting in North Korea in 1997 or 1998.  In affirming, the court held that there was substantial evidence supporting the superior court's finding that the husband was not a putative spouse, and that, whether the wife in good faith believed in the validity of the marriage is irrelevant to the husband's claim for putative spouse status.

Bookout v. State of California ex rel. Dep't of Transp., B214906, concerned a challenge to the trial court's judgment against plaintiff, in plaintiff's suit alleging inverse condemnation and tort causes of action against a number of public entities and a railroad, claiming that defendants caused his property to flood when it rained.  In affirming the trial court's judgment, the court held that the trial court correctly concluded that the three-year statute applies in the inverse condemnation claim and, that the trial court was correct in finding that, even if statute of limitations did not apply, plaintiff failed to carry his burden of proof as to causation in his action against the public entities.  Court also held that the trial court properly granted judgment on the pleadings to the public entities and, that the three-year statute of limitations bars plaintiff's causes of action for nuisance and trespass against the railroad.

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Kirby v. Immoos Fire Prot., Inc., C062306, concerned a challenge to the trial court's award of $49,846.05 in attorneys' fees to defendant following plaintiffs' dismissal of the suit after the trial court denied class certification, in plaintiffs' suit against defendant-employer as well as 750 Doe defendants for violating various labor laws and unfair competition law.  In affirming, the court held that the trial court did not err in ruling that section 1194 did not impose a complete bar on defendant's recovery of attorney's fees in this case, and as such, the trial court did not err in awarding attorney's fees to defendant for its defense against rest-period claim.  However, the court reversed in part as, the trial court erred in awarding attorney's fees for its defense against the alleged violations of section 2810, which prohibits entry into contracts lacking funds sufficient to comply with all wage and labor laws.  Lastly, the court denied defendant's request for attorney's fees on appeal as there is no prevailing party in this appeal.

Great Lakes Constr. Inc. v. Burman, B220034, involved contractors' suit against homeowners for libel and other claims, where the trial court granted plaintiffs' motion to disqualify defendants' counsel based on what they believed was an actual conflict in the joint representation.  In reversing the disqualification motion, the court held that, while the decision of a federal district court is not binding on this court, the minority rule in Coyler v. Smith (C.D. Cal. 1990) 50 Supp.2d 966, does not dispense with the standing requirements, and here, the non-client moving parties lack standing to bring a motion to disqualify as they have no legally cognizable interest in plaintiffs' counsel's undivided loyalty to his clients.

Clarendon Am. Ins. Co. v. Starnet Ins. Co., G042353, concerned an insurer's suit seeking indemnity, declaratory relief, and contribution from defendant insurer, arising from an underlying lawsuit by a homeowner's association for construction defect.  In affirming the judgment of the trial court in favor of the plaintiff, the court held that a provision in a commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy requiring the insurer to defend the insured against any "suit" seeking damages to which the insurance applies includes the duty to defend the insured in proceedings under the Calderon Act.

Cellphone Fee Termination Cases, A124038, concerned a consolidated appeal of trial court's approval of the settlement, arising from one of several class action suits that challenge wireless telephone carriers' imposition of early termination fees on customers seeking to cancel cellular telephone contracts.  In affirming the approval, the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in the manner of giving notice and the content of the notices were adequate.  The court also held the trial court was well within its discretion in approving a Plan Allocation awarding greater relief to those with documented out-of-pocket losses than those who suffered only intangible injury and, that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining the awards.

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Klein v. US, S165549, concerned a plaintiff's suit against the United States government and its volunteer worker for injuries he sustained when he was struck head-on by an automobile driven by a part time volunteer working for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, while riding a bicycle in a National Forest in Southern California.  The court ruled that Civil Code section 846's liability shield does not extend to acts of vehicular negligence by a landowner or by the landowner's employee while acting within the course of the employment, as the statutory phrase "keep the premises safe" is an apt description of the property-based duties underlying premises liability, a liability category that does not include vehicular negligence.

County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court, S163681, concerned a challenge to the Court of Appeals' holding that People ex rel. Clancy v. Superior Court (1985) 39 Cal.3d 740, does not bar all contingent fee agreements with private counsel in public nuisance abatement actions, but only those in which private attorneys appear in place of, rather than with and under the supervision of, government attorneys in a public nuisance action brought by a group of public entities against numerous businesses that manufactured lead paint.

In reversing the judgment, the court held that, the absolute prohibition on contingent-fee arrangements imported in Clancy from the context of criminal proceedings is unwarranted in the circumstances of the present civil public nuisance action.  Thus, to ensure that public attorneys exercise real rather than illusory control over contingent fee counsel, retainer agreements providing for contingent fee retention should encompass more than boilerplate language regarding "control" or "supervision" by identifying certain critical matters regarding litigation that contingent fee counsel must present to government attorneys for decision such as:  (i) that the public entity attorneys will retain complete control over the course and conduct of the case; (ii) that government attorneys retain a veto power over any decisions made by outside counsel; and (iii) that a government attorney with supervisory authority must be personally involved in overseeing the litigation.  Here, none of the ten fee agreements contain the other specific provisions regarding retention of control and division of responsibility that are required to safeguard against abuse of judicial process.

California Sch. Bd. Ass'n v. State Bd. of Educ., A122485, concerned a challenge to the State Board of Education's approval of a statewide charter for a school, brought by the California School Boards Association and others, claiming that the State Board failed to determine and make a finding that the school's instructional services of a statewide benefit could not be provided  through individual charters from local school districts.  In reversing the trial court's judgment sustaining defendants' demurrer, the court held that the petitioners have alleged that the State Board did not make the findings required by the statute in approving the school's charter petition.  The court also held that the petitioners have stated a legally cognizable claim with respect to their claim that the State Board has failed and refused to enforce the conditions of approval imposed on the school's charter and should be compelled to do so.  Further, petitioners' claims that they are directly affected by the approval of statewide charter schools and have an interest in ensuring their legitimacy, are sufficient to overcome the State Board's contention on demurrer.

Avedon v. State of California, B217827, concerned a challenge to the trial court's order sustaining the state's demurrer without leave to amend and dismissal in a suit against the state of California brought by property owners whose homes were destroyed or damaged in a 2007 fire, on theories of dangerous condition of public property and nuisance.  In affirming the judgment, the court held that plaintiffs have failed to state a cause of action for dangerous condition of public property as, in the absence of a defect in the property, plaintiffs cannot allege facts establishing a causal connection between the defect and the injuries sustained.  The court also held that, having decided that plaintiffs cannot proceed on their claim for dangerous condition of public property, it follows that the nuisance claim which mirrors that cause of action also cannot proceed.

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Davis v. Superior Court, B216345, concerned a defendant's petition for a writ of mandate challenging the trial court's denial of his motion to obtain the name of the informant and percipient witness in the prosecution for attempted murder. In granting the petition, the court held that, although the disclosure of the confidential informant's identity is not mandatory simply because the informant was also a percipient witness, an in camera hearing should be held.

People v. Meyer, C061857, concerned a challenge to the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to attend traffic school in lieu of entry of judgment on the violation following a plea of no contest to the infraction of speeding.  In affirming, the court held that a person who held a commercial driver's license at the time of violation of a traffic offense, but who surrendered the license, is barred from completing traffic school in lieu of adjudicating the traffic offense pursuant to Vehicle Code section 42005(c), nothwithstanding that the section refers to the present tense "holds a...commercial...license...".

Weinkauf v. Florez, A127069, concerned an administrator's complaint seeking to invalidate certain deeds to certain family members of the defendant, with whom the decedent had a fiduciary relationship.  In affirming the trial court's judgment in favor of the administrator, the court held that defendant has failed to establish that the administrator's action to invalidate the deeds was time-barred, as the unambiguous statutory language allows a party to bring an action within three years of when he "discovered, or reasonably should have discovered, the facts material to" the transfers.

People v. Anderson, S170778 concerned a challenge to the trial court's order requiring defendant to pay restitution directly to the hospital for the victim's final expenses in a prosecution of defendant for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.  In affirming the restitution order, the court held that under the particular and narrow circumstances of this case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion under 1203.1 by ordering the defendant pay restitution directly to the hospital.

In Galindo v. Superior Court, S170550, following a charge by felony complaint with threatening and resisting an arresting officer, the court rules that a magistrate's denial of defendant's Pitchess motion was not erroneous as, although a defendant may file a Pitchess motion before a preliminary hearing, the pendency of that motion will not necessarily or invariably constitute good cause for postponing the preliminary hearing over the prosecution's objection.

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Plus, Personal Jurisdiction Issues

Sutter Health v. Unite Here, C054400, concerned a hospital's suit against a union for defamation, trade libel, and intentional interference with prospective economic relations, arising from the union's secondary picketing of the hospital for using the services of a non-unionized laundry company.  In reversing the trial court's $17 million judgment in favor of the hospital, the court held that the trial court committed harmful error by refusing to instruct the jury that the hospitals had the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the union made the defamatory publication with actual malice.  The court also held that the binding federal law holds that this actual malice burden of proof applies to plaintiffs who seek to state remedies for defamatory labor dispute publications, and that such publications include those directed at secondary targets, and here, the postcard publication in this case was such a labor dispute communication.

In re Karla C., A126685, concerned a challenge to the juvenile court's judgment, taking jurisdiction over a minor under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300(d) and removing her from her mother's physical custody, after determining that she was at risk of continuing sexual abuse by her stepfather, and temporarily placing the minor with her father in Peru.  In reversing the decision, the court remanded the matter for a further hearing to determine the enforceability of the juvenile court's jurisdiction in Peru as it is not clear from the record that the juvenile court will have the ability to enforce its continuing jurisdiction over the minor after placement in Peru.  On remand, the juvenile court is instructed to consider evidence regarding recognition and enforcement of the juvenile court's continuing jurisdiction under the laws of Peru, and imposition of any measures necessary or appropriate to ensure enforceability of the juvenile court's continuing jurisdiction and its order while the minor is outside the U.S.

County of San Diego v. Gorham, D055200, concerned a challenge to the trial court's order denying petitioner's motions to set aside a 1998 default judgment obtained against him by the County of San Diego Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) and to dismiss the action.  In reversing the judgment, the court held that the trial court never obtained personal jurisdiction over petitioner because he was never served with the complaint and summons, or other documents and notices as required by the statutory procedures used by the DCSS to commence this action against petitioner.  The court also held that the trial court abused its discretion because, under the unique facts of this case, once the trial court determined that the default judgment was void as a matter of law based on the lack of personal jurisdiction,  it was required to dismiss this action.

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Decisions in Labor, Wage, Criminal and Government Contract Matters

Ralphs Grocery Co. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 8, C060413, concerned a grocery store's request for injunctive relief against the picketing by a union in front of the store.  In reversing the trial court's denial of the relief, the court held that, because the area in front of the store is not a public forum, the union's free speech rights, whether under the federal First Amendment or the state liberty of speech clause, are not infringed.  The court also held that the Moscone Act violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments as applied to the circumstances of this case because it favors speech related to a labor dispute over speech related to other issues, and that the Labor Code section 1138.1 violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments and is thus invalidated.  Lastly, the court held that the store is entitled to a preliminary injunction because it has made an unrebutted showing of a continuing trespass on the part of the union.

People v. Knightbent, C061208, concerned a challenge to the trial court's order imposing a $34 fine on defendant, pursuant to Penal Code section 1202.5, in a prosecution of defendant for second degree robbery and second degree burglary.  In affirming with modification, the court held that the court erred because it should have imposed a total fine of $66 and defendant's claim of ex post facto clause violation is rejected.

People v. Glazier, B214200, concerned a challenge to a conviction of defendant for first degree attempted burglary.  In affirming the conviction, the court held that, because defendant's conduct, use of a flaming pole to commit arson inside his neighbor's house,  fell within the parameters of the burglary-by-instrument doctrine, there was sufficient evidence to sustain his conviction.

Morgan v. United Retail Inc., B216130, concerned a challenge to the trial court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment in plaintiff's class action lawsuit against her former employer for violation of Labor Code section 226.  The court affirmed the judgment as, defendant's wage statements complied with section 226's requirements regarding the total hours worked by showing the actual number of regular hours worked and the actual number of overtime hours worked during the applicable pay period.

HUB City Solid Waste Serv., Inc. v. City of Compton, B196639, concerned a challenge to the trial court's grant of the city's motion that it did not breach the franchise agreement when terminating it and judgment for the city in its cross-complaint seeking to void the contract and disgorge funds from the plaintiff in the plaintiff-waste management service provider's breach of contract suit against the city.

In affirming, the court held that there was no error in the trial court's application of the alter ego doctrine to hold the individual accountable for the company's actions as he acted within his official capacity in advising the city on its waste collection operations.  The court also held that there was sufficient evidence showing that the campaign contributions and jobs for the council members' relatives were provided in return for the council members' approval of the franchise agreements with the company, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the introduction of evidence about the individual's prior involvement with payments to public officials in connection with government contracts.

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Montgomery v. Superior Court, G042602, concerned a medical malpractice action against a physician, claiming negligence in performing liposuction and causing injury.  In granting the plaintiffs' petition for relief from the order of the trial court removing their only expert witness on the medical standard of care and causation, the court held that the removal was unnecessary because the expert waived any conflict of interest arising out of the previous representation by the doctor's counsel.

Garcia v. W&W Cmty. Dev., E049099, concerned a father's suit against a foster agency seeking damages for negligence and wrongful death, claiming that his two-year old daughter drowned when her foster mother left the child unattended in a bathtub.  In affirming the trial court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment, the court held that the undisputed evidence shows the foster mother was an independent contractor in performing her responsibilities as the foster parent of the child as a matter of law.  Therefore, defendant met its burden to demonstrate that it was not directly or vicariously liable for the act that caused the death of the child.

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Plus, Landlord-Tenant Matter

Thompson v. City of Monrovia, B216252, concerned a white police officer's suit against a police department for harassment and hostile work environment arising from offensive remarks and behavior directed at an African American colleague.  In affirming the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the department, the court held that there is no material factual dispute as to plaintiff's claim of retaliation, that there is no material factual dispute as to plaintiff's claim of harassment or of a hostile work environment, and that there is no material factual dispute as to plaintiff's claim for failure to investigate harassment and retaliation.

People ex rel. City of Santa Monica v. Gabriel, B214828, concerned the City of Santa Monica's civil action against a landlord, claiming that he sexually harassed a tenant, entered tenants' units without permission, and rented uninhabitable space as living quarters.  In affirming the trial court's judgment for the most part, the court held that defendant's challenge to the admission of evidence of prior acts is rejected as waived, and that sexual harassment can be a business practice as defendant's harassment of his tenant was made possible by the parties' commercial relationship and occurred only during business-related encounters.  However, the award of attorney's fees was improper as plaintiff sued only under the UCL, which does not authorize an award of attorney fees.

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Gov Ordered to Halt Furlough Days With Backpay Plus Legal Interest

Plus, Criminal, Administrative, Insurance, Property, and Tort Matters

Serv. Employees Int'l Union v. Schwarzenegger, A126525, concerned a union's action against Governor of California and the Director of the Department of Personnel Administration, challenging the mandatory imposition of furlough on State Fund employees for two days per month in accordance with the Governor's executive order.  The court affirmed the trial court's judgment issuing a writ of mandate and a permanent injunction halting the furlough days and ordering the Controller to pay all State Fund employees their full salaries through back pay with legal interest in accordance with the reasoning of the Division Three opinion authored by Justice Pollak, with minor editorial changes where defendants' claim that the award of back pay is defective procedurally, evidentially, and substantively is rejected.

People v. Wilson, F056965, concerned a challenge to a conviction of an inmate for making criminal threats against a correctional officer and other related crimes.  In affirming, the court held that the defendant's conviction for making criminal threats against correctional officer is supported by substantial evidence because the nature and circumstances of the threat showed that it was "so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat." Furthermore, defendant's conviction for violating section 76 is supported by substantial evidence as the officer is in the class of persons covered by that section.

People v. Mesa, D056280, concerned a challenge to a defendant's conviction and sentence for gang related assault with a firearm and other related offenses.  First, the court reversed in part in holding that a felon's continuous possession of a single firearm does not permit multiple punishments for violation of the statute that prohibits felons from possessing a firearm.  Next, the court affirmed in part the judgment of the trial court where, the criminal street gang statute punishes conduct and intentions that are separate from the conduct and intentions that give rise to culpability for assault with a firearm.  And lastly, the court held that where, as in this case, a felon has possession of both a firearm and ammunition that is not in the firearm, separate punishments may be imposed.

L.A. Checker Cab Coop., Inc. v. First Specialty Ins. Co., B213948, concerned a suit against an insurer for breach of contract, arising from an underlying lawsuit brought by a passenger against plaintiff.  In affirming the trial court's judgment for the insurer, the court held that the employer in this case is not covered for an assault and battery by its employee under the "bodily injury" provision of its commercial general liability policy regardless of whether the employee acted in unreasonable self-defense or the employer was negligent in training or supervising the employee.

Hines v. California Coastal Comm'n., A125254, concerned plaintiffs' petition for a writ of administrative mandate seeking to overturn the approval by the County Board of Supervisors (Board) of a coastal permit to construct a residence and a use permit allowing a reduction of the riparian corridor setback from 100 feet to 50 feet for the project.  In affirming the trial court's denial of the petition, the court held that the Board did not abuse its discretion in approving permits for the project, allowing the development within the 100-foot buffer zone and maintaining a minimum 50-foot buffer.  The court also held that there is no significant question as to conformity with the local coastal program and, that there was no CEQA violation in approving the project.

Bozzi v. Nordstrom, Inc., B217782, concerned a personal injury lawsuit against a department store, for sustaining injuries when the store escalator the plaintiff was riding stopped abruptly due to a power outage that was apparently caused by a nearby traffic accident.  In affirming the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the court held that the plaintiff did not show that there was a triable issue of fact that defendants breached any duty of care or that the escalator was defective.

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Das v. Bank of Am. N.A., B221002, concerned a challenge to the trial court's dismissal of the complaint in a daughter's suit for elder abuse against Bank of America, claiming that the bank failed to report financial abuse involving her father and engaged in other misconduct, including predatory lending.  In affirming the dismissal, the court held that as section 15610.30(b)'s 2008 amendments to the statutory scheme were substantive, rather than procedural, and the Legislature did not state that the amendments were retroactive in effect, they are inapplicable to plaintiff's claims.  The court also held that plaintiff's allegations regarding defendant's failure to comply with the statutory reporting duty state no claim against defendant, that the demurrers to plaintiff's remaining claims were properly sustained, and that there is no basis for finding the trial court abused its discretion when it sustained the demurrer without leave to amend.

Bank of Am. N.A. v. Stonehaven Manor, LLC, C060089, concerned a challenge to the trial court's order of attachment against the property of each of the guarantors for the alleged debt balance of about $90 million in a lender's suit against the two guarantors on the guaranty for the borrower's default.  In affirming, the court held that the property of a guarantor of a debt -- a debt which is secured by the real property of the principal debtor and also that of a joint and several co-guarantor -- is subject to  attachment where the guarantor has contractually waived the benefit of that security.

Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dis. v. Great Am. Ins. Co., S165113, concerned a challenge to the court of appeal's reversal of a trial court's judgment in favor of school district in a contract dispute between the school district and a contractor, arising from a contract to complete construction of an elementary school and to correct defects caused by an original contractor.  In affirming, the court held that a contractor on a public works contract may be entitled to relief for a public entity's nondisclosure of information that materially affected the cost of performance in the limited circumstances where: 1) the contractor submitted its bid or undertook to perform without material information that affected performance costs; 2) the public entity was in possession of the information and was aware the contractor had no knowledge of, nor any reason to obtain, such information; 3) any contract specifications or other information furnished by the public entity to the contractor misled the contractor or did not put it on notice to inquire; and 4) the public entity failed to provide the relevant information.

Clayworth v. Pfizer, Inc., S166435, concerned an antitrust suit brought by retail pharmacies under section 1 of the Cartwright Act and unfair competition law, claiming that manufacturers of pharmaceutical products had unlawfully conspired to fix the prices of their brand-name pharmaceuticals in the U.S. market at levels of 50 to 400 percent higher than for the same drugs sold outside the U.S.  In reversing the court of appeal's affirmance of trial court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment, the court held that for state antitrust purposes, the Hanover Shoe rule should apply even as indirect purchasers are allowed to sue, and as such, under the Cartwright Act, a no pass-on defense generally may not be asserted.  The court also held that plaintiffs have standing under the UCL and the right to seek injunctive relief under section 17203 is not dependent on the right to seek restitution.

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Reeves v. MV Transp. Inc., A125927, concerned a challenge to the trial court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment in plaintiff's age discrimination suit against a company, claiming that he was not selected for an interview and not hired for a staff attorney position because he was 56 years old.  In affirming the trial court's judgment, the court held that plaintiff's qualifications were not so superior to those of the person selected as to make the selection of that person unreasonable as required for a credentials-based finding of pretext.  Further, the court held that defendant did not offer inconsistent justifications for the hiring decision, and that spoliation alone does not create a triable issue.

Molecular Analytical Sys. v. Ciphergen Biosystems, Inc., H032845, concerned a challenge to the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to compel arbitration in plaintiff's suit for breach of contract and other claims, involving licensing of technology rights and assignment of those rights.  In reversing the denial, the court remanded the matter with instructions to enter a new and different order granting defendant's motion to compel arbitration in concluding that plaintiff cannot avoid arbitrating its claims against the signatory defendant because those claims are within the reach of the arbitration clause.  The court went onto hold that plaintiff cannot avoid arbitrating its claims against the nonsignatory defendant because those claims are inextricably bound up with the obligations arising out of the agreement containing the arbitration clause.

In re Watford, C062550, concerned a defendant's petition for habeas relief challenging his conviction for failing to register as a sex offender, claiming that he cannot be held for failing to register because the predicate sex offense has been vacated and will not be retried.  In denying the habeas corpus petition, the court held that the dismissal of defendant's predicate Massachusetts offense after he was convicted of violating section 290 in California is no defense to his registration conviction.

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Roden v. Amerisourcebergen Corp., G041990,concerned a dispute concerning plaintiff-former CEO's entitlements arising out of his employment termination. In reversing in part and remanding, the court held that the portion of the trial court's order overturning the review official's award and awarding plaintiff a $14,432,141.74 change in control benefit was improper as the review official properly followed actuarial principles, methods and assumptions found to be appropriate by the plan actuary.

The court affirmed portion of the judgment in holding that trial court was correct in affirming the decision of the review official to the effect the plaintiff is not, at this time, entitled to any payment with respect to potential excise tax liability, and that the trial court was correct in affirming the decision of the review official as to the application of prejudgment interest at the federal bank discount rate.  Court also held that the trial court did not err in applying the state statutory postjudgment interest rate, and in applying postjudgment interest from the date of the order that is subject of this fourth appeal, and that the trial court did not err in providing that payments made pursuant to the order are to be applied first to interest and then to principal.  Lastly, the court held that the trial court did not err in declining to award plaintiff attorney fees and costs as the court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that neither party was the prevailing party at trial.

Litwin v. Estate of Robert Formela, C061084, concerned a challenge to the judgment of dismissal following the sustaining of a demurrer by defendant-estate in plaintiff's personal injury action arising from an automobile accident.  In affirming the dismissal, the court held that the trial court properly entered a judgment of dismissal in favor of the defendant because the action was barred by the statute of limitations and section 351's tolling does not apply.

People v. Tate, S031641, concerned a challenge to a conviction of defendant for robbery and burglary-murder of his grandmother's neighbor and a sentence of death on automatic appeal.  The California Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and the death sentence over claims involving: jury selection issues; suppression issues; prosecutorial misconduct; jury instruction issues; and challenge to the California death penalty law and instructions.

In re Valdez, S107508, concerned a defendant's petition for habeas relief for his murder conviction and a sentence of death.  In denying the petition and discharging the order to show cause why relief should not be granted on the ground that trial court counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel, the court held that the referee's findings are adopted as to findings that counsel's decision not to introduce the test results of the blood on the pants was a tactical decision, as well as findings regarding evidence relating to third party culpability and mitigating evidence.

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Stevenson v. Bd. of Ret. of the Orange County Employees' Ret. Sys., G041816, concerned a challenge to the trial court's denial of plaintiff's petition for administrative mandate challenging the decision of the Board of Retirement of the Orange County Employees Retirement System  (Board), excluding his overtime in calculating his pension allowance.  In affirming the trial court's decision, the court held that the administrative record contains substantial evidence showing plaintiff's grade or class within the meaning of section 31461 was that of investigator, and as such, the overtime he worked that was unique to investigators in the narcotics bureaus was properly excluded from his "compensation earnable".

People v. Disandro, E049726, concerned a challenge to the superior court's appellate division's affirmance of the traffic court's judgment finding defendant guilty of driving at an unsafe speed and driving with a load obstructing her control of the vehicle.  The court affirmed, but for a different reason, as the traffic court erred when it proceeded with trial in defendant's absence without making appropriate inquiries into the reasons for the absence in order to determine whether it was both knowing and voluntary.  However, the record indicates the error was harmless as defendant has not even presented a colorable argument as to why she would not have been found guilty of both traffic infractions if she had been present at trial.

Nordstrom Comm'n Cases, G042772, concerned class action suits against Nordstrom, claiming that the department store's policy of paying net sales commission to its commissioned sales employees violated section 221 and 203 of the Labor Code.  In affirming the trial court's order overruling a class member's objection to the parties' settlement, the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in overruling the objection and approving the settlement as the court's analysis of the settlement's terms correctly considered the merits of the class's claims and Nordstrom's defenses.

Jackson v. County of Amador, C060845, concerned a challenge to the trial court's dismissal of a suit after sustaining a demurrer without leave to amend in plaintiff's suit against a county and its recorder, claiming that the county recorder breached a duty to plaintiff by failing to determine that she did not sign the power of attorney or direct her brother to sign it on her behalf in recording two quit claim deeds.  In affirming the dismissal, the court held that the county recorder did not have a duty to determine whether the power of attorney and quit claim deeds were fraudulent despite the fact that they were acknowledged by a notary public.

In re Marriage of Schopfer, C060549, concerned a trial court's denial of a father's motion to reduce his child support obligation to zero from the $900 that he paid to the child's stepfather each month.  In affirming the denial, the court held that neither Family Code section 3951(a) nor Plumas County Dept. of Child Support Services v. Rodriguez required the trial court to modify father's child support obligation to zero because father agreed to pay guideline child support to stepfather a year earlier, and thus section 3951(a) was satisfied.  The court also held that a guideline child support order made during a child's minority that remains in effect after the child's 18th birthday because the child is a full-time high school student need not be modified simply because neither party has custody of the child after she turns 18.

Clarendon Am. Ins. Co. v. N. Am. Capacity Ins. Co., E048176, concerned a plaintiff's suit for declaratory relief, equitable contribution, and partial equitable indemnity, seeking a proportionate or equitable share of sums it spent to defend an insured in a construction defect action.  In reversing the trial court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment, the court held that the defendant did not meet its burden of showing there was no potential for coverage under the terms of its policy, or no duty to defend the insured in the underlying action, as a matter of law.  Court also held that the defendant failed to show that the insured had no reasonable expectation that at the time the policy was issued, a $25,000 SIR would apply only once to the underlying action as a whole, rather than to each eight homes constructed after November 30, 2002, as a matter of law, and all of the papers submitted on the motion leave this possibility open.

City of Alhambra v. County of Los Angeles, B218347, concerned a petition for a writ of administrative mandate challenging a county's method of calculating property tax administration fee (PTAF) charged to plaintiffs starting in fiscal year 2006-2007, claiming that the PTAF the county charged each plaintiff and retained by the county was in excess of that permitted by Revenue and Taxation Code section 97.75.  In reversing the trial court's entry of a referee's judgment that the county's interpretation did not violate section 97.75, the court remanded in holding that the statute is clear on its face and the county's method of calculating its fee under section 97.75 was unlawful.

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Koszdin v. State Comp. Ins. Fund, B214481, concerned a challenge to the trial court's dismissal of the complaint following the sustaining of a demurrer for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, in six class action suits brought by two attorneys against employers and workers' compensation insurance carriers, claiming that they failed to pay interest owed on attorney's fee awards issued by the WCAB.  First, the court held that, under the relevant provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act, plaintiffs have standing to seek interest on the attorney's fees awarded directly to them by the WCAB.  However, in affirming the dismissal, the court held that the trial court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the claims for unpaid interest where the WCAB did not expressly order the payment of interest in its attorney's fee awards.

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Plus, Environmental, Criminal, and Employment Class Action Matters

Torrey Hills Cmty. Coalition v. City of San Diego, No. D055579, concerned a challenge to the trial court's denial of a petition for a writ of mandate challenging a city's approval of a development project consisting of 484 condominium units and 4,000 square feet of retail space.  In affirming, the court held that the trial court properly dismissed the entire petition for writ relief because it did not serve the summons on defendant within the 90-day period set forth in Gov. Code section 66499.37.  Furthermore, the court rejected the petitioner's claim that the trial court erred by dismissing the CEQA claims in the writ petition on the additional ground that it did not request a hearing in writing as required by Public Resources Code section 21167.4. 

People v. Phillips, No. F058534, concerned a challenge to the trial court's imposition of a two-year sentence and various fees and fines, including a $30 assessment under Gov. Code section 70373 in a prosecution of defendant for methamphetamine possession.  In affirming the judgment, the court held that the date of the conviction, and not the date of the crime, controls application of the statute.  Furthermore, the fact that section 70373 is part of a budgetary enactment supports application of the assessment to convictions regardless of the date of the underlying offense.

Munoz v. BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Los Angeles, No. B215594, concerned a challenge to the trial court's judgment finding a $1.1 million settlement fair and reasonable in a class action lawsuit against Coca-Cola Bottling company seeking damages and penalties for allegedly unpaid overtime wages and violation of other work conditions.  In affirming, the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion as the record contains sufficient information from which the trial court could gain an adequate understanding of the amount in controversy, and there was likewise considerable information from which to assess the strength of the class claims and the risks and expense of litigating them.

Gilb v. Chiang, No. C061947, concerned a challenge to the trial court's order issuing a declaratory judgment concluding that Department of Personnel Administration (DPA) acted within its authority, in DPA's action seeking a declaratory relief against State Controller Chiang and the Office of State Controller, arising from DPA's order temporarily deferring paying state employees' salaries when appropriations are unavailable due to the state Legislature's failure to enact a timely state budget.  In affirming, the court held that the trial court did not erroneously grant relief in a moot case.  The court also held that the DPA has the authority to direct the Controller to defer salary payments in excess of federally-mandated minimum wages when appropriations for the salaries are lacking due to a budget impasse.  Lastly, the court held that the Controller may seek judicial resolution but may not simply disregard the DPA directives.

Air Mach. Com SRL v. Superior Court, No. D054878, concerned a challenge to the trial court's order denying defendants' motions to quash service of summons for lack of personal jurisdiction in an action for breach of contract and other causes of action.  In vacating the trial court's order, the court held that Code of Civil Procedure section 418.10(e)(1) applies to defendants' service of a section 998 offer on plaintiff.  Thus, because defendants filed their motion to quash under section 418.10(a) before they served their 998 offer on plaintiff, and because section 418.10(e)(1) is interpreted broadly to include any "act," defendants were not deemed to have generally appeared in the action.

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Bowman v. Wyatt, B207468, concerned a plaintiff's suit against a city for sustaining serious injuries when his motorcycle collided with a dump truck owned and operated by a defendant.  The court affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of the plaintiff as to jury's finding of liability with respect to the defendant-driver.  However, as to the jury's finding of vicarious liability with respect to the city, the court reversed and remanded in holding that the trial court erred by misinstructing the jury about the factors relevant to determining whether the defendant was an employee or an independent contractor, allowing the jury to find that the work in which the defendant was engaged involved a peculiar risk of harm, and instructing the jury that the city was the motor carrier as a matter of law.  The court also held that substantial evidence did not support the jury's finding that defects in the dump truck's brakes were a proximate cause of the accident

In People v. Bacon, B214314,  concerning a conviction and sentence of defendant for drug related offenses, the court affirmed but modified as, the amendment of Penal Code section 4019 applies retroactively, and thus, defendant is entitled to the benefit of the amendment and should be awarded 10 more days of presentence local conduct credit.

Quick v. Pearson, B215277, concerned a plaintiff's suit for breach of trust, alleging that his claim was within the three-year statute of limitations for actions by a beneficiary against a trustee.  In reversing the the judgment of the trial court, the court held that, in light of the circumstances surrounding the discovery of his natural father and the trustee's efforts to conceal the information, the trial court improvidently sustained the trustee's demurrer to plaintiff's second amended petition for relief from breach of trust without leave to amend.

S.B.C.C., Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., H034211, concerned a challenge to the trial court's grant of summary judgment for defendant-insurer in plaintiff's action for insurance bad faith, claiming that its insurer wrongfully refused to defend plaintiff in an action brought by its competitor.  In affirming the decision, the court held that the CGL policy the defendant issued to plaintiff did not offer coverage against the types of claims brought by the competitor, and given the underlying facts and the policy language at issue, there is no theory on which the underlying action could conceivably be covered.

Singh v. Southland Stone, U.S.A. Inc., B208620, concerned a plaintiff's suit against his former employers raising numerous causes of action, claiming that he was induced to come to the United States by the defendants who, within just a few months of his arrival from his home country of India, had his promised salary reduced and then pressured him to resign. 

The court affirmed in part the judgment of the trial court as to the denial of relief on the count for breach of contract and the award of damages on the count for unpaid wages as defendants have shown no error.  However, the court reversed the trial court's judgment in all other respects in finding that the refusal of defendants' proposed jury instruction regarding the salary reduction was error, that the special verdict findings regarding alleged misrepresentations and promises made to plaintiff are inconsistent, and such inconsistency also extends to the finding of malice, oppression, or fraud.  The court also held that the defendants are entitled to judgment in their favor on the count for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.  Lastly, the court held that the award of damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress is based on injuries suffered in the course and scope of employment, for which workers' compensation provides the exclusive remedy, but that the workers' compensation exclusivity rule does not preclude this entire action.

City of San Jose v. Operating Eng'r Local Union No. 3, S162647, concerned a request for injunctive relief by the City of San Jose, seeking to enjoin 110 employees from engaging in any work stoppage.  In affirming the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the court held that the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has initial jurisdiction over a claim by a public entity that a strike by some or all of its employees is illegal.  The court also held that a public entity must exhaust its administrative remedies before PERB before seeking judicial relief unless one of the recognized exceptions to the exhaustion of administrative remedies requirement is established.

People v. Herrera, S171895, concerned a challenge to the Court of Appeal's reversal of trial court's decision to allow a deported witness's testimony to be read to the jury in a prosecution of defendant for first degree murder, with a criminal street gang special circumstances and two gang-related enhancements.  In reversing the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the court held that the prosecution's showing of the witness's unavailability, which was based on undisputed testimony, satisfied constitutional and state law requirements.

People v. Lomax, S057321, concerned a challenge to defendant's conviction of two robberies, with a murder in the course of committing one of the robberies, and sentence to death, on automatic appeal.  In affirming, the court rejected defendant's various claims including, a claimed denial of constitutional and statutory speedy trial rights, a violation of defendant's constitutional rights by requiring him to wear an electronic security belt during trial, juror issues, and the constitutionality of the death penalty statute and instructions.

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Decisions in Criminal, Civil Procedure, and Employment Matters

Alviso v. Sonoma County Sheriff's Dep't, A126241, concerned a plaintiff's class action suit against a county and several defendants, mainly claiming that section 14602.6 violates the equal protection provisions of the federal and state constitutions because it authorizes a 30-day vehicle impoundment for drivers whose licenses are suspended for some, but not all, Vehicle Code violations,  without a rational basis for treating the groups of drivers differently.  In affirming the judgment of the trial court, the court held that plaintiff cannot successfully challenge the statute under the more lenient formulation which requires him to only demonstrate that the statutory scheme is unconstitutional in the "vast majority of its applications."; The court also held that the trial court correctly rejected plaintiff's equal protection challenge, that the impound scheme does not violate due process, and that the statutory scheme does not effect an unconstitutional seizure.

Mundy v. Neal, B219711, concerned a plaintiff's Civ. Code section 55 motion for attorney fees in connection with a suit to force a landowner to install a designated van-accessible handicap parking space.  In affirming the trial court's denial of the motion, the court held that for purposes of section 55, a plaintiff who files a dismissal is not the prevailing party under the catalyst theory unless the plaintiff made a prelitigation demand for corrective action, and here, plaintiff did not attempt to settle prior to filing and was not the prevailing party under Graham v. DaimlerChrysler Corp.

People v. Jones, A126005,  concerned a challenge to the trial court's judgment finding no ineffective assistance of counsel on remand, of defendant's two drug cases.  In vacating as to the first case and remanding, the court held that defendant's counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.  Therefore, lacking confidence in the denial of defendant's motion to suppress, the court held that there is a reasonable probability that, but for the counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the 2006 hearing would have been different.

Holman v. Altana Pharma US, Inc., A122783, concerned a challenge to the trial court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment on the hostile work environment harassment claim, grant of defendant's motion for nonsuit on the retaliation claim, and a postjudgment order awarding $128,925.12 in expert witness fees to defendant as costs in plaintiff's suit against her former employer under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).  The court affirmed for the most part, except, although the judgment and the postjudgment order awarding expert witness fees as costs are affirmed, that portion of the judgment setting the amount of expert fees to be recovered by defendant as costs is vacated and remanded for the limited purpose of allowing the court to consider whether "scaling" of the amount of the expert fee award is appropriate considering the relative resources of the parties.

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