California Case Law - The FindLaw California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal Opinion Summaries Blog

February 2018 Archives

California's Supreme Court has ruled that juvenile's who don't intentionally kill people should not be sentenced to more than 50 years behind bars. The court explained that a 50 plus year sentence for a juvenile that hasn't murdered anyone is cruel and unusual.

The ruling came in the cases of two teens sentenced to 50 and 58 years, respectively, for the rape and kidnapping of two teenage girls. Neither conviction was overturned, but both convicts will be resentenced by the trial court in accordance with the state's highest court's guidance. Notably, the chief justice dissented, agreeing with the prosecutors that 50 and 58 years were not excessively long sentences given the severity of the crimes.

Civil litigators know that asking a question during a trial that you don't know the answer to is a big risk, even when it's your own witness.

A civil trial is not the time to be exploring new testimony. Discovery's done. Trial is about presenting the evidence you discovered via interrogatories, document requests, and of course, during depositions.

Court: No Tigers in California Backyard

If you thought your neighbor's dog was annoying, you don't know Irena Hauser.

She is a tiger trainer, and she wanted to keep five tigers in her backyard. "No, thank you," said the neighbors -- 11,000 of them from miles around.

Hauser sued, as if that would change anybody's mind. In Hauser v. Ventura County Board of Supervisors, a California court said, "Tyger! Tyger!"

'Warning' Settlement for Chocolate Sold in California

You might want to double-check the label on your next chocolate bar.

You don't need to check for the calorie count; we already know that's bad. But there could be more bad news, under the terms of a chocolate industry settlement.

Chocolate producers have agreed to study and report on lead and cadmium in their products. It's a result of California's Proposition 65, which warns consumers about cancer-causing chemicals, and a lawsuit by an advocacy group.

The state of California is facing a very real lawsuit over the very questionable existence of Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch. The lawsuit is seeking that the state acknowledge the existence of Sasquatch as it both causes Bigfoot researchers, like the plaintiff, to suffer reputational harm, as well as endangers the public.

The plaintiff believes that the Sasquatch can be dangerous. Researchers claim one can weigh as much as 800 pounds, also, as we learned from Harry and the Hendersons, living with a Sasquatch can be fraught with risks.

Cambodian Facebook Feud Spills Into California Court

When it comes to Facebook posts, Cambodia's dictator makes North Korea's dictator look almost reasonable.

Kim Jong Un has lobbed missiles and threats at places like Japan, Guam, and the United States. But Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister, said he'll attack his own people with rocket launchers.

Sam Rainsy, a political rival in Cambodia, wants to remove the Facebook factor. He came to the United States to sue for it.

A case that has been working its way through the California courts for most of the last decade is making headlines again as another big defendant, 7-11, decided to settle before the judge issues his ruling. The lawsuit, filed by the nonprofit group Council for Education and Research on Toxics, seeks to hold coffee makers liable for not warning consumers about the presence of acrylamide in coffee, which, according to California's legislature, is on the list of cancer causing agents.

As part of the relief requested by the lawsuit (which was tried to the bench last year and is still awaiting a decision), in addition to the fines and penalties under the law, the plaintiffs want the court to order defendants to put up written warnings that their coffee contains cancer causing agents.

Coffee shops might want to start diversifying their tea and non-coffee offerings.

Requiring New Buildings to Display Art Isn't Free Speech Violation

Don't be surprised if Oakland developers display anti-establishment artwork in their building lobbies.

A federal judge said the building industry is bound by a city law that requires commercial and residential developers to display art publicly or pay a fee. At a cost of up to one percent of their budgets, the builders will have to pay for some pricey artwork.

Although they lost in Building Industry Association - Bay Area v. City of Oakland, at least the judge said they get to choose the art.

Back in 2006, the North Coast Brewing Co. in Northern California's Mendocino County released a beer by the name of Brother Thelonious. A nearly 10 percent trappist style ale that has won awards and made a name for itself. Despite the accolades the beer has earned, it was named for the famous jazz musician, Thelonious Monk, with the permission of his son, who administers the deceased jazz legend's estate.

As part of the consent to use Monk's name, the brewery donated a portion of the proceeds to a charitable organization set up in Thelonious Monk's name. However, when Thelonious Monk Jr. discovered that North Coast Brewing had been using Thelonious Monk's likeness for more than just the craft beverage, he objected that merchandising was not within the scope of the consent he provided. After he revoked his permission and the brewery continued to produce and sell the beer, Thelonious Jr. filed suit.

Negligent Undertaking: In Re. Didn't Really Check the Hotel Room

Priscilla O'Malley checked into a hotel room, but her husband started to worry when she didn't answer her phone.

After making many calls, he contacted the hotel clerk to find out if his wife was alright. A hospitality worker went to check, but he didn't see her inside.

Mrs. O'Malley, lying alone on the floor of the darkened room for the next 10 hours, had suffered a brain aneurysm. In O'Malley v. Hospitality Staffing Solutions, an appeals court said the hospitality service might be liable for her injuries the during that time.

Taxi Drivers Lose Uber Appeal

A recent decision certified for publication out of California's First Appellate District rejected a potential taxi driver class action against Uber. The claims in Goncharov v. Uber were based on allegations of income and passenger appropriation as a result of Uber, essentially, not playing by the rules.

However, as the appellate decision explains, even though Uber didn't play by the rules, the rules didn't quite exist. As a result, Uber reached a settlement with the CPUC to allow them to operate while the final rulemaking for TNCs (Transportation Network Companies) were still underway. As the court reasoned, this left taxi drivers with no viable claims.