Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California

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Plaintiff and Defendants entered into a business relationship embodied in a series of oral and written agreements. Two of the written agreements contained clauses subjecting disputes arising out of the agreements to the sole jurisdiction of Florida courts. Plaintiff later brought this action for breach of contract, fraud, and related causes of action. Citing the two Florida forum selection clauses, Defendants moved to dismiss the action on grounds of forum non conveniens. The trial court granted the motion. Defendants then moved to recover $84,640 in attorney fees incurred in connection with the motion to dismiss, relying on an attorney fee clause in the agreements. The trial court denied the motion, ruling that Defendants were not the prevailing party for purposes of Cal. Civ. Code 1717 because the merits of the contract issues were still under litigation. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court acted within its discretion in denying Defendants’ motion for attorney fees because Defendants’ success in moving the litigation to Florida did not make them the prevailing party as a matter of law under section 1717. View "DisputeSuite.com, LLC v. Scoreinc.com" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff opened a credit card account with Defendant Citibank, N.A. and purchased a credit protector plan. Defendant later amended the original agreement by adding an arbitration provision. The provision waived the right to seek public injunctive relief in any forum. The arbitration provision became effective in 2001. In 2011, Plaintiff filed this class action based on Defendant’s marketing of the Plan and the handling of a claim she made under it when she lost her job, alleging claims under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), the unfair competition law (UCL), and the false advertising law. Defendant petitioned to compel Plaintiff to arbitrate her claims on an individual basis pursuant to the arbitration provision. Based on the Broughton-Cruz rule, the trial court ordered Plaintiff to arbitrate all claims other than those for injunctive relief under the UCL, the CLRA, and the false advertising law. The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for the trial court to order all of Plaintiff’s claims to arbitration, concluding that the Federal Arbitration Act preempts the Broughton-Cruz rule. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the arbitration provision was invalid and unenforceable because it waived Plaintiff’s right to seek public injunctive relief in any forum. Remanded. View "McGill v. Citibank, N.A." on Justia Law

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If a patient who receives emergency medical services is an enrollee in a health care service plan, the plan is required to reimburse the emergency service provider for essential emergency medical services and care. Plans are statutorily permitted to delegate this financial responsibility to their contracting medical providers. Here the defendants - health care service plans - delegated their emergency services financial responsibility to their contractor medical providers, three individual practice associations (“IPAs”). The IPAs failed to reimburse the plaintiff noncontracting service providers for the emergency care that they provided to enrollees of the defendant health plans. When the IPAs went out of business, the plaintiff providers brought actions seeking reimbursement from the defendants. The Supreme Court held (1) a health care service plan may be liable to noncontracting emergency service providers for negligently delegating its financial responsibility to an IPA or other contracting medical provider group that it knew or should have known would not be able to pay for emergency service and care provided to the health plan’s enrollees; and (2) a health care service plan has a narrow continuing common law tort duty to protect noncontracting emergency service providers once it makes an initial delegation of its financial responsibility. View "Centinela Freeman Emergency Medical Associates v. Health Net of California" on Justia Law

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The City of Montebello filed a complaint against three of its former council members and a former city administrator for conflict of interest, seeking a declaration that Defendants violated Cal. Gov't Code 1090 by voting on a waste hauling contract in which Defendants held a financial interest. After the contract was voided in a separate action, Defendants moved to strike the City’s complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute. The trial court denied the motion to strike. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the statutory anti-SLAPP exemption for public enforcement actions did not apply in this case; but (2) the votes cast in favor of the contract were protected activity under section 425.16, and because the court of appeal did not reach the issue of whether the City could establish a likelihood of the lawsuit succeeding, the case must be remanded. View "City of Montebello v. Vasquez" on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff was injured, he sought benefits from Defendant-insurer under an indemnity benefit policy. Plaintiff subsequently filed suit alleging that Defendant breached the insurance contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The jury awarded Plaintiff $31,500 in unpaid policy benefits, $35,000 in damages for emotional distress, and $19 million in punitive damages. The parties stipulated that the amount of attorney fees to which Plaintiff was entitled under Brandt v. Superior Court was $12,500, and the court awarded that amount. Defendant moved for a new trial seeking a reduction in the punitive damages award on the grounds that it was unconstitutionally excessive. The trial court granted the motion and reduced the jury’s award to a 10-to-1 ratio of punitive to compensatory damages. In so doing, the court considered only the $35,000 damages award but did not include the $12,500 in Brandt fees. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, in determining whether a punitive damages award is unconstitutionally excessive, Brandt fees may be included in the calculation of the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages, regardless of whether the fees are awarded by the trier of fact as part of its verdict or are determined after the verdict has been rendered. Remanded. View "Nickerson v. Stonebridge Life Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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As a condition of her employment with Defendants, Plaintiff signed an agreement to resolve any employment-related disputes through arbitration. After Plaintiff resigned, she filed a complaint against Defendants, alleging that she suffered harassment, discrimination, and retaliation during the course of her employment. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiff opposed the motion, asserting that it was unconscionable. The trial court agreed with Plaintiff and denied the motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeal reversed. The primary issue before the Supreme Court was whether the arbitration agreement was unconscionable because of a clause in the agreement providing that, in the event a claim proceeds to arbitration, the parties are authorized to seek preliminary injunctive relief in the superior court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitration agreement was not unconscionable because the clause did no more that restate existing law. View "Baltazar v. Forever 21, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose from Plaintiff’s sale of property to Defendants. In November 2006, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants alleging negligence, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and failure to follow home equity sales contract requirements. In May 2012, Fidelity National Title Insurance Company moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to bring the action to trial within the five-year time frame required by Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 583.310. The trial court dismissed the case in its entirety. In so doing, the trial court concluded that the time during which the court had vacated the trial date and ordered a 120-day stay of proceedings to permit the parties to engage in mediation did not support tolling. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court’s order did not effect a complete stay of the prosecute of the action, nor did it create a circumstance of impracticability, and therefore, the period of the “mediation stay” did not toll the five-year period. View "Gaines v. Fidelity Nat’l Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law