Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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On engaging services from Pacific Fertility Center, the plaintiffs signed “ ‘Informed Consent and Agreement to Perform Egg Cryopreservation” forms, providing that medical malpractice disputes were subject to arbitration. The plaintiffs signed separate arbitration agreements. Chart, which manufactures Pacific’s cryogenic storage tanks, and Praxair, which sold those tanks to Pacific and assisted with installation, were not signatories to either the informed consent or arbitration agreements.Following the failure of Tank Four, the plaintiffs in 54 coordinated cases filed suit. As to Chart and Praxair, the complaint alleged negligent failure to recall the tank, strict products liability (failure to warn, manufacturing defect, and design defect based on both the consumer expectations test and the risk-utility test), general negligence, and violation of the Unfair Competition Law. After the plaintiffs agreed to arbitrate their claims against Pacific, Chart and Praxair moved to compel arbitration, citing equitable estoppel. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of their motions. The plaintiffs’ claims are not premised on, nor did they arise out of, the plaintiffs’ fertility services agreements with Pacific. The issue of comparative fault and joint liability on certain issues does not inform the equitable estoppel analysis; the joint liability is not based on the same or similar legal theories and/or facts that underlie the obligations under the Pacific contracts. View "Pacific Fertility Cases" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Farmers New World Life Insurance Company (Defendant or Farmers) for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and punitive damages in connection with a policy insuring the life of her ex-husband. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant on those claims, concluding it was undisputed that the ex-husband remained the owner of the policy until he died, and that he had changed the beneficiaries on the policy, reducing his ex-wife’s interest from 100 percent to 25 percent.   The Second Appellate District reversed, finding that the trial court failed to consider the terms of a divorce decree affecting ownership of the policy, and because Defendant’s agent repeatedly assured Plaintiff, up to and after the ex-husband’s death, that Plaintiff remained the sole beneficiary. Therefore, the court concluded disputed issues of material fact prevent summary judgment. View "Randle v. Farmers New World Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued the City for its negligence in maintaining the City-owned sidewalk in a dangerous condition. The City moved for summary judgment on the ground that the sidewalk was not a “dangerous condition”. Although the hearing was not transcribed, the trial court concluded the hearing by orally granting the City’s motion for summary judgment. Just four minutes after the summary judgment hearing concluded, Plaintiff’s counsel sent the City an email purporting to accept the City’s 998 offer. The City objected to Plaintiff’s attempt to accept its 998 offer after the trial court had ruled on its summary judgment motion. The trial court entered judgment for the City, implicitly ruling that Plaintiff’s acceptance of the City’s 998 offer was inoperative. Plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal of the May 7, 2021 judgment.   At issue on appeal is whether a 998 offer automatically expires when a trial court orally grants the offeror’s summary judgment motion. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that the trial court properly concluded that the City’s 998 offer expired by the time plaintiff purported to accept it. Like any other contractual offer, a 998 offer is not accepted until that acceptance is communicated to the offeror. Here, because Plaintiff did not communicate her acceptance of the City’s 998 offer until after the trial court orally granted summary judgment to the City, the acceptance was not effective as there was no longer any operative 998 offer to accept. View "Trujillo v. City of L.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Nissan, alleging the transmission in a 2013 Nissan Sentra they purchased was defective, bringing statutory claims under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Civ. Code 1790) and a common law fraud claim alleging that Nissan, by fraudulently concealing the defects, induced them to purchase the car. The trial court dismissed the fraudulent inducement claim as barred by the “economic loss rule.” The court also struck the plaintiffs’ request for punitive damages.The court of appeal reversed. Under California law, the economic loss rule does not bar the fraudulent inducement claim. The fraudulent inducement exception to the economic loss rule applies; fraudulent inducement is a viable tort claim under California law. The plaintiffs adequately pleaded that the transmissions installed in numerous Nissan vehicles (including the one they purchased) were defective; Nissan knew of the defects and the hazards they posed; Nissan had exclusive knowledge of the defects but intentionally concealed and failed to disclose that information; Nissan intended to deceive plaintiffs by concealing known transmission problems; plaintiffs would not have purchased the car if they had known of the defects; and plaintiffs suffered damages in the form of money paid to purchase the car. View "Dhital v. Nissan North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Vought sued for the balance due on his contract for the renovation of Stock’s house, additional compensation under a disputed change order, and penalties for the violation of a prompt-payment statute, Civil Code section 8800. Stock did not dispute the unpaid amount Vought had earned for finished work, including approved change orders, but disputed the claim for additional compensation and sought liquidated damages for delay. The court held that Vought was entitled to the undisputed balance due plus approximately half the disputed amount of additional compensation; that Stock was entitled to approximately half the amount he claimed as liquidated damages; and that Stock had not violated section 8800 by withholding final payment. The court held that neither side was entitled to attorney fees under section 8800 or to costs under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032.The court of appeal affirmed in part. Stock was not prohibited from withholding the $79,000 otherwise due based on his good faith claim for liquidated damages. Vought was not relieved of the obligation to pay liquidated damages for the delay that it caused although it was not responsible for the entire delay. Neither party was the prevailing party under section 8800 but Vought was the prevailing party for purposes of recovering costs under section 1032; it secured a “net monetary recovery.” View "Vought Construction Inc. v. Stock" on Justia Law

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The City of Los Angeles (City) entered into a contract with defendant and respondent PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC (PWC) to modernize the billing system for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). PWC filed a motion for sanctions under Code of Civil Procedure sections 2023.010 and 2023.030 of the Civil Discovery Act nine months after the case was dismissed with prejudice, seeking monetary sanctions for egregious misuse of the discovery process while the litigation was pending. The trial court awarded $2.5 million in sanctions. On appeal from the postjudgment order, in response to a letter from this court inviting additional briefing pursuant to Government Code section 68081, the sanctioned party contends the Discovery Act does not authorize the trial court to award monetary sanctions under section 2023.030 alone or together with section 2023.010.   The Second Appellate District reversed the postjudgment order and remanded the matter for the trial court to enter a new and different order on the issue of monetary sanctions based on discovery provisions authorizing the imposition of sanctions in this case. The court explained that although the trial court had jurisdiction to entertain PWC’s motion for sanctions and discretion to find it was timely filed, the order awarding sanctions must be reversed and remanded to allow the trial court to award PWC’s reasonable expenses incurred as a result of sanctionable conduct under provisions of the Discovery Act other than sections 2023.010 and 2023.030. View "City of L.A. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC" on Justia Law

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Michael O’Connor signed up for a loyalty program when he bought a pair of shoes and socks from Road Runner Sports, Inc. and Road Runner Sports Retail, Inc. (collectively, “Road Runner”). He alleged Road Runner did not tell him the loyalty program was an automatic renewal subscription and that his credit card would be charged an annual subscription fee. After discovering he had been charged for four years of subscription fees, he joined as the named plaintiff in a class action lawsuit alleging Road Runner had violated California’s Automatic Renewal Law and consumer protection statutes. Road Runner asserted O’Connor was bound by an arbitration provision it added to the online terms and conditions of the loyalty program, some three years after he enrolled. Although Road Runner conceded O’Connor did not have actual or constructive notice of the arbitration provision, it contended O’Connor created an implied-in-fact agreement to arbitrate when he obtained imputed knowledge of the arbitration provision through his counsel in the course of litigation and failed to cancel his membership. The Court of Appeal disagreed this was sufficient under California law to prove consent to or acceptance of an agreement to arbitrate. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court’s order denying Road Runner’s motion to compel arbitration. View "Costa v. Road Runner Sports" on Justia Law

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Appellant Today’s IV filed a civil complaint against respondents Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Regional Connector Constructors for their “unreasonable” construction of an underground subway line in downtown Los Angeles, which affected the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites (the Bonaventure), owned by Today’s IV.   Today’s IV alleged claims for nuisance and inverse condemnation due to 1) respondents’ use of the cut-and-cover construction method instead of the tunnel boring machine method; 2) construction work during nights and weekends, which was particularly harmful to the Bonaventure’s operation as a hotel; 3) violation of certain noise limits; and 4) interference with access to the Bonaventure. Today’s IV alleged lost contracts, including a $3.3 million airline contract, and loss of business. It requested compensatory and punitive damages from Respondents.   The trial court found no liability and entered judgment in favor of Respondents. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that the first two circumstances that justify an inverse condemnation claim are not applicable here, as Appellant does not contend that its property has been physically invaded or physically damaged. Thus, Appellant necessarily relies upon the intangible intrusion theory. To recover under this theory, Appellant must be able to establish its property suffered from an intangible intrusion burdening the property in a way that is direct, substantial, and peculiar to the property itself. View "Today's IV, Inc. v. L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Auth." on Justia Law

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Defendant Jeffrey Mayhew and Plaintiffs David Starr and Thomas Hunt formed a limited liability company to operate a shopping center. They agreed Mayhew would manage the company and Starr and Hunt would provide startup capital. In exchange, Mayhew was entitled to 50 percent of the company’s profits and Starr and Hunt were entitled to the remaining 50 percent. After the shopping center’s business declined in 2008, Mayhew asked Starr and Hunt for additional capital. They agreed to do so only if Mayhew also contributed capital. Mayhew reported a $100,000 contribution, which caused Starr and Hunt to contribute roughly the same amount. The shopping center was later sold for a substantial profit. Mayhew claimed he was entitled to about 56.3 percent ownership interest in the company based on his additional capital contribution. Starr and Hunt disagreed and submitted the dispute to arbitration along with several other claims for damages. The arbitrator ruled in favor of Starr and Hunt, finding Mayhew only held a 50 percent interest in the company. A superior court later confirmed the award over Mayhew’s petition to vacate and entered judgment against him. On appeal, Mayhew claimed the trial court erred by failing to vacate the award, contending the arbitrator lacked authority to clarify the award, that the award was procured by undue means, and that the arbitrator’s award exceeded her powers. After its review, the Court of Appeal disagreed. Since Mayhew failed to identify any basis for vacating the award, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "Starr v. Mayhew" on Justia Law

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Appellants are patients at medical facilities operated by respondent Centrelake Medical Group. In reliance on Centrelake’s allegedly false representations that it employed reasonable safeguards for patients’ personal identifying information (PII), Appellants entered into contracts with Centrelake. Appellants brought an action against Centrelake on behalf of themselves and a putative class of patients affected by a data breach. The complaint contained causes of action for breach of contract, negligence, and violations of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL). Centrelake demurred, arguing that Appellants had failed to adequately plead any cognizable injury and that their negligence claim was barred by the economic loss rule. Appellants opposed the demurrer. On appeal, Appellants contend the court erred in sustaining the demurrer with respect to each of their claims and abused its discretion in denying their request for leave to amend.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the judgment with respect to the dismissal of Appellants’ negligence claim without leave to amend, but reverse with respect to Appellants’ UCL and contract claims. The court concluded that Appellants adequately alleged UCL standing and contract damages under their benefit-of-the-bargain theory, and the Appellant who purchased monitoring services, did the same under Appellants’ monitoring-costs theory. However, Appellants have not shown the court erred in dismissing their negligence claim under the economic loss rule; nor have they shown the court abused its discretion in denying their request for leave to amend. View "Moore v. Centrelake Medical Group, Inc." on Justia Law