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

September 2010 Archives

People v. Vance, A122777, concerned a challenge to a conviction of a defendant for first degree murder.  In reversing the conviction, the court remanded the matter as,  the prosecutor made a sustained Golden Rule closing argument by arguing that the jury should "walk in the victim's shoes," and to "relive what the victim experienced"  Further, the prosecutor's misconduct and the trial court's refusal to admonish the jury demonstrate reversible error.  However, the court held that there was no error in the denial of defendant's suppression motion.

 

Flores v. Enter. Rent-A-Car Co., B215105, involved plaintiffs' suit for wrongful death, negligent entrustment, and punitive damages against a car rental company for their son's death, caused by one of defendant's renters (who allegedly had prior DUI convictions in the last 48 months), In affirming the judgment of the trial court, the court held that rental car companies have no duty to conduct an electronic search of the driving records of their customers before entrusting a vehicle to them, and as a matter of law, a rental car agency is not liable for negligent entrustment where the agency has fully complied with the requirements of Vehicle Code sections 14604 and 14608, and the customer does not appear impaired or otherwise unfit to drive at the time of rental.

 

In re C.B., E050209

In re C.B., E050209, concerned a challenge to the juvenile court's order authorizing a father to leave California with his children to Alabama, in dependency proceedings.  In affirming the judgment, the court held that it need not be decided whether the juvenile court erred in setting aside an allegation against the father, as California cases have consistently held that the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) does not apply to an out-of-state placement with a parent, and as such, the (ICPC) simply did not apply in this case, regardless of whether the father was an offending or a non-offending parent.

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Weinberger v. Morris, B215819, concerned a challenge to an order finding a trustee the beneficiary of the trust, in plaintiff's claims regarding the construction of his deceased mother's trust instrument against the trustee and others.  In affirming the judgment, the court held that, although the law generally implies a requirement for the prompt distribution of an estate under the language of Estate of Newman, such a requirement under the language in this trust cannot be implied as the trust contemplated ongoing management until a final distribution, at the trustee's discretion, to a then-living beneficiary, which is also consistent with the fundamental purpose of the trust which expressly provides that the testator had intentionally omitted to provide for plaintiff.

 

Robings v. Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, B216702, concerned a challenge to the trial court's judgment rejecting plaintiffs' challenge on the merits, in a suit brought by a county taxpayer's association and others challenging certain acts of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.  In affirming, the court held that the Conservancy is authorized and directed by law to do any and all things necessary to carry out its statutorily mandated purposes, including grant in funds to be used for the preservation and protection of recreational, educational and environmental resources within its territory.  Further, its membership in the Conservation Authority, the joint powers entity that is the recipient of its funding grant, does not render the grant in excess of its power to award.

 

People v. Sanders, B206569, concerned a challenge to the trial court's imposition of a sentence of 64 years to life in prison, in a conviction of defendant for attempted murder, assault with a firearm and related offenses. In reversing, the court remanded the case in concluding that defendant is correct on invoking the provision of the Determinate Sentencing Act that mandates a subordinate term to consist of one-third of the middle term as the decisive point is that an indeterminate enhancement does not merge with the determinate offense to make the entire term encompassed by the indeterminate sentencing law.

 

People v. Torres, G042010, concerned a challenge to a defendant's convictions for various drug-related offenses and other crimes.  In reversing, the court remanded the case in holding tht defendant is entitled to separate review of the denials of his motion to set aside and his motion to suppress.  The court held that the inventory search was unlawful because the prosecution did not show the police reasonably impounded defendant's truck pursuant to their community caretaking function, but rather, the record shows that this was a pretextual inventory search conducted as a ruse for a criminal investigation.

 

Duty to Defend Dispute Between Insurers, Plus Criminal & Juvenile Cases

People v. Rodriguez, C060227, involved a prosecution of defendant for attempted second degree robbery and active participation in a criminal street gang under section 186.22(a).  The court reversed defendant's conviction for active participation in a street criminal gang, since the defendant was the sole perpetrator of an attempted robbery that did not involve felonious conduct by other persons, let alone members of the gang of which he was a member.

 

 

Perez v. VAS S.p.A., B219080, concerned a challenge to the trial court's judgment in favor of defendant, in plaintiff's strict products liability and negligence suit for sustaining injuries by a paper rewinding machine designed and manufactured by defendant.

 

Lee v. Fid. Nat'l Title Ins. Co., A124730, concerned a challenge to the trial court's grant of defendant-insurer's motion for summary judgment in plaintiffs' suit against their insurer for refusing coverage under a title policy.  In reversing the judgment, the court held that defendant was not entitled to summary judgment on the causes of action for breach of contract, bad faith, or declaratory relief based on the evidence that APN 22 is located outside the land as legally described in the title policy.  Also, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the breach of contract cause of action based on the statute of limitations.  Lastly, the summary judgment on the escrow negligence count cannot be sustained on the alternative ground defendant offers that it did not act as the escrow agent when the plaintiffs purchased their property.

 

V.C. v. Superior Court, H035602, concerned a father's petition for a writ of mandate challenging the juvenile court's order terminating reunification services for him and setting the matter for a permanency planning hearing.  In denying the petition, the court held that substantial evidence supports the juvenile court's finding that the father failed to make substantive progress in court-ordered treatment programs for substance abuse, and there was no substantial probability that the child could be returned to the father within six months.

 

In re Taplett, C063460, concerned a defendant's petition for habeas relief from the governor's reversal of the Board of Parole Hearings' (Board) decision finding her suitable for parole, after serving over 16 years of her indeterminate sentence of 16 years to life for second degree murder conviction.  In denying the petition, the court held that there is some evidence to support the governor's finding that defendant lacks proper insight into the circumstances of the commitment offense.

 

People v. Laufasa, A127159, concerned a challenge to a conviction of defendant for drug related crimes after he was caught at an international airport concealing about two pounds of methamphetamine.  In affirming the conviction, the court held that defendant's argument, that the trial court lacked authority to impose a condition that he not reenter the country illegally if he is ever deported, is without merit.

 

People v. Minor, C057609, concerned a challenge to an order granting a probation officer's request to extend by two years a three-year period of probation imposed following defendant's no contest plea to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.  In affirming, the court held that defendant's rights of procedural due process were not violated in any respect as he was provided adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to the extension of his probation, and that there is adequate support in the record for the court's order extending probation.

 

Sandell v. Taylor-Listug, Inc., D055549

Sandell v. Taylor-Listug, Inc., D055549, concerned a challenge to the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, in plaintiff's suit against his former employer for disability and age discrimination.  In reversing, the court remanded the case in concluding that plaintiff presented evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie case of disability and age discrimination.  The court also found that plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the motivation for his termination was discriminatory in response to defendant's proffer of legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for terminating his employment.

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People v. Jones, C059440, concerned a challenge to a conviction and sentence of defendant for being a felon in possession of a firearm and other crimes.  In affirming, the court held that the information in the affidavit supporting the search warrant was not stale and supported the trial court's probable cause finding.  Also, defendant is barred from arguing that the sentence violated Penal Code sectin 654 because the trial court sentenced him within the maximum term negotiated in the plea agreement.  The court also held that the defendant was not deprived of effective assistance of counsel.  Lastly, the court held that defendant may be eligible for additional presentence custody credit if a prior serious felony conviction is stricken for that purpose.

 

Vanderkous v. Conley, A125352, concerned a challenge to the trial court's finding that a trustee's attempt to dismiss the action was void ab initio, because it was made after trial court had commenced and after it had entered judgment quieting title in trustee and directing him to pay defendant the full market value of the property as compensation for defendant's equitable interest, in the trustee's suit seeking to quiet title to certain real property.  In affirming, the court held that the trial court properly set aside trustee's purported dismissal of the action.  The court also held that  the court properly ordered the trustee to compensate defendant for her equitable interest in the property when it quieted his title to the garage area.  Lastly, substantial evidence supports the property's valuation as a conforming legal lot.

 

Sprinkles v. Associated Indem. Corp., B218417, concerned a challenge to the trial court's judgment sustaining an insurer's demurrer, in plaintiffs' bad faith action against Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, arising from an underlying suit against defendant and his employer for causing the death of plaintiffs' father in an automobile accident.  In affirming, the court held that, under the complaint and matters judicially noticed, the defendant-employee was an insured, rendering the automobile exclusion in the GCL policy applicable, and Fireman's Fund had no duty to defend the employer.

 

People v. Pacheco, H034454, concerned a challenge to the trial court's order placing defendant on formal probation for a period of three years subject to various conditions and imposition of various fees and fines, in a prosecution of defendant for welfare fraud in violation of Welfare and Institutions Code section 10980(c)(2).  The court modified the imposition of fees and remanded where: 1) defendant's claims are not forfeited or waived on appeal; 2) there is no evidence of defendant's ability to pay the $100 in attorney fees, the $259.50 criminal justice administration fee, and the $64 per month probation supervision fee; 3) the order to pay attorney fees and the imposition of the monthly probation supervision fee are improper conditions of probation; 4) trial court's judgment is modified to reflect that the $20 court security fee is deleted as a condition of probation and is instead a separate order; and 5) trial court's judgment is modified to delete an unidentified $30 fee that the court did not impose.

 

Northridge Earthquake Related Suit Against Insurer, Habeas Proceedings

Vill. Northridge Homeowners Ass'n v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., S161008, involved a homeowners association's suit against an insurance company, claiming that the insurer fraudulently induced it to settle a Northridge earthquake-related claim for less than it was worth under the policy.  In reversing the judgment of the court of appeals, the court remanded the matter in holding that a release of a disputed claim does not permit a party to elect the remedy of a suit for damages when the release itself bars that option.  Instead, the insured party to the release must follow the rules governing rescission of the release before suing the insurer for damages.

 

Miranda v. Bomel Constr. Co., Inc., G042073, involved a plaintiff's negligence suit against a general subcontractor and a subcontractor, claiming that defendants negligently, carelessly and unlawfully allowed excavated dirt, located in a vacant lot next to his office, to be in a dangerous, defective, and unlawful condition so as to cause plaintiff to suffer severe injuries and damages when he breathed the particles from the excavated dirt.  In affirming the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the court held that the defendants met their burden of proof that it was only a possibility, not a reasonable medical probability, plaintiff contracted Valley Fever by inhaling an airborne Cocci spore that originated from the soil at the site.  Further, the trial court properly sustained the evidentiary objections to plaintiff's experts' speculative conclusions about causation.