Articles Posted in California Supreme Court

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Plaintiff entered into a plea agreement under which he pled nolo contendere to one count of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child. Plaintiff filed a plea form stating that Plaintiff must register as a sex offender under Cal. Penal Code 290. Plaintiff registered as required by section 290. The Legislature later amended the law and provided a means by which the public can obtain personal information of the State's registered sex offenders. The legislature made the public notification provisions retroactive and thus applicable to Plaintiff's conviction. Plaintiff filed a civil complaint, contending that requiring him to comply with the amended law's public notification provisions would violate his plea agreement. The district court concluded that publicly disclosing any of Plaintiff's previously confidential sex offender registration information would violate the terms of Plaintiff's plea agreement. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asked a question of the California Supreme Court, which responded by answering that under California law of contract interpretation as applicable to the interpretation of plea agreements, the fact that parties enter into a plea agreement does not have the effect of insulating them from changes in the law that the legislature intended to apply to them. View "Doe v. Harris" on Justia Law

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Defendant leased copiers to Plaintiff pursuant to a lease agreements entered into in 2001 and 2002. In 2008, Plaintiff sued Defendant for violation of the unfair competition law (UCL), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code, 17200, alleging that Defendant charged for excess copies during its regular servicing of the copiers and that Defendant's practice of charging for test copies was unfair and fraudulent. The trial court sustained Defendant's demurrer and dismissed the action, concluding that because the complaint established a first violation in 2002, the claim was barred by the four-year statute of limitations. At issue on appeal was whether the continuing violation doctrine could be applied to extend the statute of limitations for UCL claims. A divided court of appeal affirmed, finding Plaintiff's claim untimely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the text and legislative history of the UCL leave UCL claims as subject to the common law rules of accrual as any other cause of action; and (2) continuous accrual principles prevented Plaintiff's complaint from being dismissed at the demurrer stage on statute of limitations grounds. View "Aryeh v. Canon Bus. Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the Pendergrass rule, which establishes a limitation on the fraud exception to the parol evidence rule. Plaintiffs restructured their debt with a Credit Association in an agreement. Plaintiffs did not make the required payments, and the Credit Association recorded a notice of default. Eventually, Plaintiffs repaid the loan, and the Association dismissed its foreclosure proceedings. Plaintiffs then filed this action seeking damages for fraud and negligent misrepresentation and including causes of action for rescission and reformation of the restructuring agreement. Relying on the Pendergrass rule, the trial court granted summary judgment to the Credit Association, ruling that the fraud exception did not allow parol evidence of promises at odds with the terms of the written agreement. The court of appeal reversed, holding that the Pendergrass rule did not apply in this case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Bank of America Ass'n v. Pendergrass was ill-considered, and should be overruled. View "Riverisland Cold Storage, Inc. v. Fresno-Madera Prod. Ass'n" on Justia Law

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A small dental implant company sued a university for breach of a contract for the university to clinically test a new implant the company had patented. The company sought damages for lost profits beginning in 1998, ranging from $200 million to over $1 billion. It claimed that, but for the university's breach of the contract, the company would have become a worldwide leader in the dental implant industry and made many millions of dollars a year in profit. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court excluded as speculative the proffered testimony of an expert to this effect. A jury found that USC had breached the contract and awarded the company $433,000 in compensatory damages. The court of appeal reversed, holding that the trial court erred in excluding the testimony. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the expert testimony was speculative, and the trial court acted within its discretion when it excluded the testimony. View "Sargon Enters., Inc. v. Univ. of S. Cal." on Justia Law

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After a school district (District) approved the conversion of an existing public school into a charter school, a union (UTLA) claimed that the District failed to comply with collective bargaining agreement provisions (CBPs) concerning charter school conversion. UTLA petitioned to compel arbitration pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement. The trial court denied the petition, finding that the collective bargaining provisions (CBPs) regulating charter school conversion were unlawful because they conflicted with the Education Code, and therefore, arbitration of those unlawful provisions should not be compelled. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the court's function in adjudicating a petition to compel arbitration was limited to determining whether there was a valid arbitration agreement that had not been waived. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a court faced with a petition to compel arbitration to enforce CBPs between a union and a school district should deny the petition if the CBPs at issue directly conflict with provisions of the Education Code; and (2) because UTLA had not identified with sufficient specificity which CBPs the District allegedly violated, the case was remanded for identification of those specific provisions and to address whether the provisions conflicted with the Education Code.

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In 2006, a jury awarded plaintiffs for breach of contract, and the trial court awarded plaintiffs costs and attorney and expert witness fees. Defendant appealed the judgment. At issue on appeal was whether Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.278's reference to "the cost to obtain a letter of credit" extended to the interest expense incurred by an appellant to borrow funds to secure a letter of credit that was obtained to secure an appeal bond posted to stay enforcement of a money judgment during the pendency of the appeal. The court adopted a restrictive meaning of the reference and held that rule 8.278(d)(1)(F) did not authorize an award of costs for interest expenses and fees incurred to borrow funds to deposit as security for a letter of credit that was procured to secure an appeal bond. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

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Plaintiff filed a complaint for breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence, and breach of contract against defendants, an attorney and his law firm, where the attorney agreed to represent plaintiff in its effort to obtain approval of a redevelopment project, the attorney terminated the representation about two years later, and then the attorney became involved in a campaign to thwart the same redevelopment project by soliciting signatures on a referendum petition to overturn the city council's approval of the project. At issue was whether the court of appeals properly found that plaintiff's claims arose from protected activity in violation of the anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation ("anti-SLAPP") statute, Code Civ. Proc., 425.16, and whether plaintiff had failed to demonstrate a probability of prevailing on them. The court reversed the court of appeals and held that, based on the respective showings of the parties, plaintiff's claims for breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence, and breach of contract possessed at least minimal merit within the meaning of the anti-SLAP statute.