Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Tenant filed suit against landlord and others after landlord rejected tenant's offer to purchase the building tenant rented for his audio recording business. Landlord ultimately sold the building to a third party because the offer was for considerably more money. The Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of the action and held that a right of first refusal is not an essential term that carries forward into a holdover tenancy unless the parties so indicate. In this case, there was no such indication and tenant's alternative theories for enforcing the right to first refusal lacked merit. View "Smyth v. Berman" on Justia Law

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Berkeley appealed the judgment against it in a construction dispute regarding a building on the Merced Campus. After the University denied Berkeley's claim for compensation for work performed, Berkeley filed suit alleging causes of action for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of the implied covenant of the correctness of the plans and specifications. The Court of Appeal held that the jury's findings were not fatally inconsistent and the verdict was not against the law; the trial court did not err in instructing the jury that specification 03300 of the contract constituted a performance specification, and Berkeley was required to exercise its skill and judgment in selecting the means, methods, and equipment necessary to meet the end result called for in the specification; there was no abuse of discretion or deprivation of a fair trial; Berkeley has not demonstrated any prejudicial error in the trial court's exclusion of evidence of the total cost method of calculating damages; and Berkeley has not established any reversible error in the trial court's award of mediation fees as costs. However, the court held that the expert witness fees were improperly included in the award of costs and therefore must be modified. The court otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "Berkeley Cement, Inc. v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought a writ of mandate and declaratory relief, alleging that the City of Monterey Park breached its duty under Labor Code section 1072 to award a 10-percent bidding preference only to contractors who declare in their bids they will retain existing employees for at least 90 days. The trial court held that there was no such duty and ruled in favor of the City. The Court of Appeal held that words "shall declare as part of the bid" in Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a), mean the bidder must state in its bid whether it will retain the employees of the prior contractor for 90 days. If the public agency (or "awarding authority") gives the statutory preference to bidders who do not agree in their bids to retain the employees of the prior contractor for at least 90 days, a bidder who makes the commitment is not really getting a statutory preference. The court held that whether a variance is inconsequential is a question of fact, subject to review for substantial evidence, that is not properly decided on demurrer. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded with directions for the trial court to vacate its order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend and to enter a new order overruling the demurrer. View "International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. City of Monterey Park" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's denial of JMS's petition for writ of administrative mandate seeking to set aside an administrative decision by the District that allowed a contractor to substitute another subcontractor in the place of JMS on a construction project. The court held that the hearing officer had jurisdiction to approve the request for substitution under Public Contract Code section 4107; neither substitution hearing nor the substitution decision affected a fundamental vested right; the hearing afforded JMS the due process required for a substitution hearing; substantial evidence supported the substitution decision; and thus the petition was properly denied. View "JMS Air Conditioning & Appliance Service, Inc. v. Santa Monica Community College District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit for breach of an insurance contract and bad faith against State Farm, requesting punitive damages. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary adjudication in State Farm's favor, holding that plaintiff forfeited any contention of error regarding the breach of the insurance contract claim because she neither discussed the claim nor suggested that there were unpaid policy benefits. In regard to the bad faith claim, the court held that plaintiff raised no contention that State Farm improperly delayed arbitration under Insurance Code section 11580.2, subdivision (f). The court held that there were no triable issues regarding bad faith where State Farm acted reasonably in delaying payment of uninsured-underinsured motorist benefits. View "Case v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Montecito neighbors had a dispute over an easement created by recording in 1994, which contained an unpaved road. The owner of the burdened property wanted the easement limited to historical use; a new owner of the other property wanted to use the road for construction traffic and asserted that he might pave the road. The trial court “interpreted” the easement, ruled that the easement was ambiguous, decided the case based upon extrinsic evidence of historic use, and added language limiting the easement. The court of appeal reversed and remanded with directions, noting that the use of the easement for construction traffic has become a moot issue. An ambiguity is not apparent from the “failure” to specify how frequently the road can be used or the type of vehicle allowed on the road, but ambiguity is not the test for admission of extrinsic evidence. A bona fide purchaser could reasonably rely on the language of the grant of the easement, which gave him “a use limited only by the requirement that it be reasonably necessary and consistent with the purpose[] for which the easement was granted,” i.e., “access, ingress, and egress to vehicles and pedestrians.” View "Zissler v. Saville" on Justia Law

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JRI contracted with the City of Los Angeles Department of Airports (LAWA), to provide LAWA specialized airport firefighting trucks. Each sued the other for breach of the contract. LAWA further alleged JRI violated the California False Claims Act (CFCA), Government Code section 12650, asserting that when JRI submitted it[s] invoices for progress payments and final payments, JRI knew that it was not in compliance with the contract and sought to defraud the government entity LAWA into making payments and that JRI fraudulently induced LAWA to enter into the contract. LAWA was awarded $1 in contract damages. LAWA’s CFCA claim was rejected by the jury, as were JRI’s claims against LAWA. The court awarded LAWA costs as a prevailing party on the contract claims but awarded JRI attorney fees on the CFCA claim, finding the claim frivolous and harassing. The court of appeal affirmed JRI “prevail[ed] in the action” under the relevant CFCA fee provision (section 12652(g)(9)(B);) regardless of its failure to prevail in the action as a whole. View "John Russo Industrial Sheetmetal, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles Department of Airports" on Justia Law

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SI 59 appealed from a judgment of dismissal following a demurrer to its second amended complaint against defendants, as well as the post judgment award of attorney fees. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that Civil Code section 1668 negates a contractual clause exempting a party from responsibility for fraud or a statutory violation only when all or some of the elements of the tort are concurrent or future events at the time the contract is signed. The court also held that section 1668 does not negate such a clause when all the elements are past events. The court explained that, regarding the element of damages, which is necessary for tort liability, this means that at least some form of economic or physical damage has occurred. In this case, the negligence claim was barred by the general release and the negligent misrepresentation claim was not pleaded with the requisite specificity. The court rejected the remaining arguments and held that the issue of attorney fees was moot. View "SI 59 LLC v. Variel Warner Ventures, LLC" on Justia Law

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Lloyd Copenbarger, as Trustee of the Hazel I. Maag Trust (the Maag Trust), sued Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, Inc. (MCWE) for declaratory relief and breach of a settlement agreement made to resolve various disputes, including an unlawful detainer action. MCWE was the lessee of a 50-year ground lease (the Ground Lease) of real property (the Property) in Newport Beach. The Property was improved with an office building and marina (the Improvements). The Ground Lease was set to terminate on December 1, 2018. In 2004, MCWE subleased the Property and sold all of the Improvements to NHOM (the Sublease). Starting in 2009, NHOM experienced cash flow problems due to “a shortage of rents.” In June 2011, MCWE commenced an unlawful detainer action against NHOM based on allegations NHOM failed to maintain and undertake required repairs to the Improvements. Six months later, the Maag Trust intervened in the UD Action as a party defendant under the theory that if NHOM were evicted and the Sublease terminated, then the Maag Trust’s security interest created by the Maag Deed of Trust would be destroyed. In August 2012, MCWE, Plaza del Sol, and the Maag Trust entered into a settlement agreement (the Settlement Agreement). The Maag Trust alleged MCWE breached the settlement agreement by failing to dismiss with prejudice the unlawful detainer action and sought, as damages, attorney fees incurred in that action from the date of the settlement agreement to the date on which MCWE did dismiss the action. Following a bench trial, the trial court found MCWE had breached the settlement agreement by not timely dismissing with prejudice the unlawful detainer action. As damages, the court awarded the Maag Trust attorney fees it claimed to have incurred during the relevant time period. On appeal, MCWE did not challenge the finding that its failure to dismiss the unlawful detainer action constituted a breach of the settlement agreement. Instead, MCWE made a number of arguments challenging the damages awarded. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment against MCWE because there was a wholesale failure of proof of the amount of damages on the part of the Maag Trust. Therefore, the Court reversed with directions to enter judgment in favor of MCWE on the Maag Trust’s complaint. View "Copenbarger v. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff AMN Healthcare, Inc. (AMN) appealed a judgment in favor of defendants Kylie Stein, Robin Wallace, Katherine Hernandez, Alexis Ogilvie and Aya Healthcare, Inc. (Aya) and an injunction preventing AMN from enforcing its nonsolicitation of employee provision against individual defendants and its other former employees. AMN and Aya are competitors in the business of providing on a temporary basis healthcare professionals, in particular "travel nurses," to medical care facilities throughout the country. Individual defendants were former "travel nurse recruiters" of AMN who, for different reasons and at different times, left AMN and joined Aya, where they also worked as travel nurse recruiters. AMN sued defendants, asserting various causes of action including breach of contract and misappropriation of confidential information, including trade secrets as set forth in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Civil Code sections 3426 et seq. (UTSA). Defendants filed a cross-complaint for declaratory relief and unfair business competition. The trial court agreed with defendants, granted summary judgment against AMN, and granted summary adjudication of defendants' declaratory relief cause of action in their cross-complaint. After granting such relief, the court subsequently enjoined AMN from enforcing the nonsolicitation of employee provision in their Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement (CNDA) as to any former (California) AMN employee and awarded defendants attorney fees. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "AMN Healthcare, Inc. v. Aya Healthcare Services, Inc." on Justia Law