Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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ITV and the Company appealed the trial court's grant of a preliminary injunction for the Gurneys and Little Win, LLC. The Gurneys are the minority owners of the Company and formerly served as its CEOs. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order to the extent that it reinstated the Gurneys to their positions managing the day-to-day operations of the Company. The court held that, under the terms of the employment agreements, the Company was entitled to terminate the Gurneys' employment at any time for good cause; the board may make decisions by majority vote, with the exception that some decisions require unanimity; the Gurneys' authority over the day-to-day operations of the Company was an exception to the exception; the exceptions to the exception did not grant the Gurneys lifetime jobs as managers of the Company; and the operating agreement, even when interpreted on its own, did not grant the Gurneys authority to manage the Company’s day-to-day operations indefinitely. Therefore, the court affirmed the portion of the preliminary injunction barring the Company from impinging on their rights as board members. View "ITV Gurney Holdings v. Gurney" on Justia Law

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All Masonry & Landscape Supply (All Masonry) appealed a postjudgment order awarding attorney fees to Oldcastle, the prevailing party in a breach of contract action. Oldcastle manufactured masonry and concrete products, including its Belgard-branded concrete pavers and segmented retaining walls. All Masonry distributed landscape supplies and concrete products to customers. All Masonry claimed that in 2001, it entered into an agreement with Oldcastle to be Oldcastle's exclusive dealer of Belgard products in San Diego County. The 2001 dealer agreement was part written and part oral. In 2013, All Masonry sued Oldcastle for breaching the 2001 dealer agreement by distributing Belgard products through other dealers in San Diego County. Oldcastle prevailed on the breach of contract cause of action in 2015 when the court granted its motion for summary adjudication on that claim, rejecting All Masonry's contention that it had the exclusive right to sell Belgard at preferential pricing in San Diego County. Oldcastle filed a postjudgment motion to recover attorney fees in connection with All Masonry's breach of contract claim. The court awarded Oldcastle $180,120 in attorney fees for defending the breach of contract cause of action through summary adjudication and for litigating the postjudgment fees motion. The Court of Appeal reversed the award of attorney fees to Oldcastle, finding no clear and unequivocal evidence that the parties intended to incorporate the terms of a 2010 credit application into their 2001 dealer agreement, which was the basis of the fee award. Civil Code section 1642 does not allow the recovery of attorney fees in this case. View "R.W.L. Enterprises v. Oldcastle, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case turned on whether an attorney-in-fact made a “health care decision” by admitting her principal to a residential care facility for the elderly and, in the process, agreeing to an arbitration clause. The trial court found she acted outside the scope of her authority under the power of attorney, and the arbitration clause this appeal seeks to enforce was void. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal’s review centered on the scope of two statutes, the Power of Attorney Law (Prob. Code, sec. 4000 et seq. (PAL)), and the Health Care Decisions Law (Prob. Code, sec. 4600 et seq. (HCDL)), in light of the care a residential care facility for the elderly agreed to provide, and actually provided, in this instance (Health & Saf. Code, sec. 1569 et seq.). For resolution, the Court had to parse the authority of two of the principal’s relatives, one holding a power of attorney under the PAL and one holding a power of attorney under the HCDL. The Court concluded admission of decedent to the residential care facility for the elderly in this instance was a health care decision, and the attorney-in-fact who admitted her, acting under the PAL, was not authorized to make health care decisions on behalf of the principal. As a result of this conclusion, the Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of a motion by the residential care facility to compel arbitration. Because the attorney-in-fact acting under the PAL did not have authority to make health care decisions for her principal, her execution of the admission agreement and its arbitration clause are void. View "Hutcheson v. Eskaton Fountainwood Lodge" on Justia Law

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Laboratory Specialists International, Inc. (LSI) filed a complaint in Orange County Superior Court alleging causes of action against Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Inc. (Shimadzu) for breach of contract, conversion, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, intentional interference with contractual relations, and intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic relations. LSI appealed when the trial court dismissed its lawsuit against Shimadzu under the forum selection clause in the parties’ contract. LSI contended Shimadzu erred by requesting a dismissal in its demurrer dismissal based on the forum selection clause, rather than by a separate motion, and that the trial court erred by granting Shimadzu leave to recast its request for dismissal in a separate motion. In the alternative, LSI argued the court erred by: (1) dismissing LSI’s tort claims, which LSI argued did not arise out of or “pertain[]” to the parties’ contract; (2) finding the forum selection clause mandated Maryland as the proper fourm, rather than conducting an analysis under discretionary forum non conveniens factors; and (3) dismissing rather than staying LSI’s lawsuit. As we explain, these contentions are without merit, and we therefore affirm the court’s dismissal order. View "Laboratory Specialists International v. Shimadzu Scientific etc." on Justia Law

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McMillin Management Services, L.P. and Imperial Valley Residential Valley Residential Builders, L.P. (collectively "McMillin") filed suit against numerous insurance companies, including respondents Lexington Insurance Company (Lexington) and Financial Pacific Insurance Company (Financial Pacific). McMillin alleged that it had acted as a developer and general contractor of a residential development project in Brawley and hired various subcontractors to help construct the Project. As relevant here, McMillin alleged that Lexington and Financial Pacific breached their respective duties to defend McMillin in a construction defect action (underlying action) brought by homeowners within the Project. McMillin alleged that Lexington and Financial Pacific each owed a duty to defend McMillin in the underlying action pursuant to various comprehensive general liability (CGL) insurance policies issued to the subcontractors that named McMillin as an additional insured. The trial court granted Lexington's motion for summary judgment, reasoning, that there was no possibility for coverage for McMillin as an additional insured under the policies "[b]ecause there were no homeowners in existence until after the subcontractors' work was complete[ ] . . . ." On appeal, McMillin contended that the fact that the homeowners did not own homes in the Project at the time the subcontractors completed their work did not establish that its liability did not arise out of the subcontractors' ongoing operations. The trial court granted Financial Pacific's motion for summary judgment, finding McMillin did not establish homeowners in the underlying action had sought potentially covered damages arising out of the subcontractors' drywall installation. The Court of Appeal reversed as to Lexington, and affirmed as to Financial Pacific. View "McMillin Management Services v. Financial Pacific Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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To seek redress for an opioid epidemic, characterized by the Court of Appeal as having placed a financial strain on state and local governments dealing with the epidemic’s health and safety consequences, two California counties sued (the California Action) various pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, including the appellants in this matter, Actavis, Inc., Actavis LLC, Actavis Pharma, Inc., Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Watson Laboratories, Inc., and Watson Pharma, Inc. (collectively, “Watson”). The California Action alleged Watson engaged in a “common, sophisticated, and highly deceptive marketing campaign” designed to expand the market and increase sales of opioid products by promoting them for treating long-term chronic, nonacute, and noncancer pain - a purpose for which Watson allegedly knew its opioid products were not suited. The City of Chicago brought a lawsuit in Illinois (the Chicago Action) making essentially the same allegations. The issue presented by this appeal was whether there was insurance coverage for Watson based on the allegations made in the California Action and the Chicago Action. Specifically, the issue was whether the Travelers Property Casualty Company of America (Travelers Insurance) and St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company (St. Paul) owe Watson a duty to defend those lawsuits pursuant to commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policies issued to Watson. Travelers denied Watson’s demand for a defense and brought this lawsuit to obtain a declaration that Travelers had no duty to defend or indemnify. The trial court, following a bench trial based on stipulated facts, found that Travelers had no duty to defend because the injuries alleged were not the result of an accident within the meaning of the insurance policies and the claims alleged fell within a policy exclusion for the insured’s products and for warranties and representations made about those products. The California Court of Appeal concluded Travelers had no duty to defend Watson under the policies and affirmed. View "The Traveler's Property Casualty Company of America v. Actavis, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Vitatech International, Inc. (Vitatech) filed a breach of contract lawsuit against defendants National Marketing, Inc., CortiSlim International, formerly known as National Marketing, Inc., CortiSlim International, LLC, and Alan Sporn (collectively, Defendants). On the eve of trial, the parties settled for a one-time payment of $75,000. As part of the settlement, Defendants stipulated to entry of judgment against them “in the full prayer of the Complaint,” but Vitatech agreed to “forbear” from filing the stipulation and to accept the $75,000 “as full Settlement of its claims against Defendants” if they paid by the designated date. When Defendants failed to pay, Vitatech filed the stipulation and the trial court entered judgment against Defendants for more than $300,000, which included compensatory damages, prejudgment interest, attorney fees, and costs. Sporn and appellant CortiSlim International, Inc. (collectively, Appellants) moved to vacate the judgment, arguing it was an unenforceable penalty and liquidated damages provision under Civil Code section 1671(b). The trial court denied the motion because it found the judgment’s higher amount was not a penalty or liquidated damages provision subject to section 1671(b). Rather, the court concluded the reduced amount Vitatech agreed to accept was merely a discount if Defendants paid their debt as agreed. The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for the trial court to grant the motion and enter a new judgment for the $75,000 settlement amount, plus trial court costs. Under well-established precedent, including this court’s decision in Greentree Financial Group, Inc. v. Execute Sports, Inc., 163 Cal.App.4th 495 (2008), the stipulated judgment for more than four times the amount Vitatech agreed to accept as full settlement of its claims was an unenforceable penalty because it bore no reasonable relationship to the range of damages the parties could have anticipated would result from Defendants’ failure timely to pay the settlement amount. “Although Defendants stipulated to entry of judgment if they did not timely pay, they never admitted liability on the underlying claims or the amount of damages allegedly caused by the breach of the underlying contract.” View "Viatech International, Inc. v. Sporn" on Justia Law

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Baxter sued her former employer, Genworth, for wrongful termination and related causes of action, based on discrimination and retaliation, arising out of her employment. Genworth moved to compel arbitration as part of Genworth’s Resolve Employee Issue Resolution Program, which consists four stages, The trial court concluded, and the court of appeal affirmed, that the arbitration agreement Baxter signed in 2006, as a condition of continued employment, is unconscionable, refusing to sever any provisions. Agreement as a condition of continued employment amounted to “modest procedural unconscionability.” The court concluded that several features of the agreement were substantively unconscionable: default discovery limitations, a prohibition against contacting witnesses, procedural deadlines that effectively shorten the statute of limitations and preclude a meaningful opportunity for a pre-litigation Fair Employment and Housing Act investigation, and accelerated hearing procedures that infringe upon an employee’s ability to adequately present his or her case. The severance of the offending provisions was not an option because the arbitration agreement is permeated by unconscionability. View "Baxter v. Genworth North America Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff YDM Management Company, Inc. (YDM) appeals from a judgment of the trial court in favor of defendant Sharp Community Medical Group, Inc. (Sharp), after Sharp successfully moved for summary judgment of YDM's operative complaint. YDM purchased accounts receivable from Doctors Express, a company that operated urgent care facilities in San Diego, for services rendered to Sharp managed care members. In its role as an Independent Practice Association (IPA), Sharp provided health insurance to its managed care members, and paid claims for services provided to its members. At the time that it provided the services at issue to Sharp members, Doctors Express did not have a preferred provider contract with Sharp. Providers without a contract with an IPA were reimbursed for nonemergency medical services provided to the IPA's members at amounts significantly less than the "reasonable and customary value for the health care services rendered." However, an IPA such as Sharp was required by regulation to reimburse out of network providers for the full "reasonable and customary value" for any emergency medical services provided to its members. As the assignee of Doctors Express, YDM filed this lawsuit seeking additional reimbursement from Sharp for services provided by Doctors Express to members of Sharp's health plan, beyond the amount that Sharp had already reimbursed Doctors Express for those services. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Sharp. On appeal, YDM contended the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in Sharp's favor based on the declaration of a Sharp employee, and that the court erred in failing to give adequate consideration to the declaration of YDM's expert in concluding that there was no triable issue of material fact. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Sharp. View "YDM Management Co., Inc. v. Sharp Community Med. etc." on Justia Law

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Wiseman filed suit seeking to recover "carrying charges" it paid Southern on the theory that those charges were not permitted by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act. The trial court ruled that the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (Department) has exclusive jurisdiction over Wiseman's claims because its allegations directly implicate the sale of alcohol. The Court of Appeal held that, although the Department does have exclusive jurisdiction to issue, deny, suspend and revoke alcoholic beverage licenses according to terms of the ABC Act and regulations adopted pursuant to it, the consequences of committing a violation of the ABC Act by imposing charges of the type collected by Southern from Wiseman in this case were not limited to those which the Department may impose on its licensees and did not bar the contract, unfair competition and declaratory relief claims alleged in Wiseman's complaint. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's order sustaining Southern's demurrer and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wiseman Park v. Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits" on Justia Law