Thursday, October 19, 2017

Habitability Question Goes to the Jury in a UD Case

Guttman v. Chiazor, No. JAD17-15, (L.A. Super. App. Div. Sept. 8, 2017)

The appellate division of LA Superior construes Code of Civil Procedure § 1174.2 to provide a right to jury trial on the affirmative defense of breach of the warranty of habitability in an unlawful detainer proceeding. In subsections (a) and (b), the statute makes reference to “the court” as trying issues. But that is rendered ambiguous by (d)’s clear statement that the statute is not intended to deny the tenant a right to a jury trial. Given that the legislative history is super clear that the whole point of enacting (d) was to avoid interpretations that (a) and (b) permitted only a bench trial, the right was provided by the statute. Thus, there’s no need to get into an analysis of whether it was required constitutionally. Moreover, the error was per se-reversible structural error, requiring reversal without regard to whether it was harmless. 


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dispelling the “Binds the Company” PMQ Canard

RSB Vineyards, LLC v. Orsi, No. A143781 (D1d3 Sept. 29, 2017)

In this real estate warranty case, the court affirms a summary judgment in favor of a seller because it didn’t actually know about the defects in the property and thus made no warranty about them. So far as I can tell, all well and good from a real estate perspective. But I’m not here to write about that stuff.

There is, however, a little procedural nugget. Plaintiff’s person-most-qualified witness testified at her deposition that Plaintiff wasn’t aware of any information to suggest that Defendants’ were aware of the defects before the sale. Defendant claims that testimony is a “binding admission” on the fact of the Defendants’ unawareness. But, although there’s not a ton of detail in the analysis, the court here says it’s not.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bankruptcy Stay Does Not Toll Service Time on Non-Bankrupt Defendants

Higgins v. Superior Court, No. D071353 (D4d1 Sept. 28, 2017)

P filed a complaint in May 2012. She named D1 and a bunch of Does, serving D1 soon thereafter. D1 proceeded to go Chapter 7, staying P’s case. Two-and-a-half years later, the bankruptcy case was discharged, lifting the stay. Based on stuff she claims to have learned during the BK case, P subbed in D2 for a Doe and served her in August 2016.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Some Chutzpah from a Corporate Pro Se

Davis Test Only Smog Testing v. Dept of Consumer Affairs, No. C079354 (D3 Sept. 28, 2017)

A corporation can’t appear pro se by having a nonlawyer employee represent it in a litigation. In this case, a corporation did just that in an administrative proceeding about smog tester licensing. It lost. So in its administrative mandamus petition to the superior court challenging the ALJ ruling, the company—now represented by counsel—argued that the ALJ ruling should be vacated on that grounds. But: (1) the no corporate pro ses rule generally doesn’t apply in administrative proceedings; and (2) a company can’t raise its own failure to be represented at an earlier proceeding as a grounds to vacate that proceeding. Indeed, on the second point, if the company wasn’t properly represented, it never appeared at all. I.e., it defaulted.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Oregon's Government Tort Claim Process Applies in California State Court

Oregon State Univ. v. Superior Court, No. D071752 (D4d1 Sept. 28, 2017)

Plaintiff was injured in California through the alleged negligence of Oregon State University. He sued here, in state court. But he never filed a government code claim with OSU within the time allotted under Oregon state law. Question is, does that doom his suit, as it would were the defendant a California state government entity?

The court here holds that it does, as a matter of full faith and credit. California courts have a constitutional obligation to respect the sovereignty of other states and to apply their laws faithfully. There are exceptions to that rule, like when two states have public policies that are at odds. But since the Oregon code claim process is not significantly different from that in California, there was no reason for the trial Court to decline to apply it here. 

Writ granted.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

State Farm/Rico DQ Order Automatically Stayed Pending Appeal

URS Corp. v. Atkinson/Walsh Joint Venture, No. G055271 (D4d3 Sept. 26, 2017)

Plaintiffs attorneys got disqualified under the State Farm/Rico doctrine for improperly using documents that had been provided to them in connection with a mediation. They have appealed that order and seek, by writ of supersedeas, to stay any proceedings in the trial court pending the appeal. Which raises some interesting questions: 

1. Does an appeal of a DQ order give rise to automatic stay under Code of Civil Procedure § 916? 

2. And if so, does it just stay the DQ order, or the whole case?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

No Damages for Taking an Arb-able Case to Court

Sargon Enters., Inc. v. Browne George Ross LLP, No. B271718 (D2d3 Sept. 26, 2017)

This is one of those issues that clients ask about with some frequency, but that hasn’t been the subject of a published opinion. Until now. The question is this: If a contract contains an arbitration clause, but, notwithstanding it, a party sues in court, can the other party recover its costs of the court litigation as damages for breach of the arbitration contract? The answer, apparently, is no.