Friday, September 25, 2015

$140 Buys Plaintiff $100k Extra.

AP-Colton LLC v. Ohaeri, No. E059505 (D4d2 Sept. 15, 2015)

Plaintiff filed a limited civil case in a real estate dispute, seeking damages under $25k. Defendants filed a cross-claim seeking $1 million—more than enough to put the case into unlimited civil. But they never paid the $140 reclassification fee. Plaintiff then amended, seeking well over the $25k threshold. It didn’t pay the fee either, asserting that was on Defendants. Plaintiff won a $125k verdict, and Defendants appealed, arguing that the case should have remained limited civil with a $25k max, since nobody ever paid the fee to reclassify the case as unlimited.

The court of appeal says that’s right, mostly. Since nobody paid the reclassification fee, the case should have stayed in limited civil. But it was Defendants who, having purported to turn the case into an unlimited civil with their million-dollar cross-claim, never filed the fee. And indeed, when they took their appeal, Defendants took steps to make sure the case went to the court of appeal and not to the appellate division of the superior court, where limited civil appeals are supposed be heard. Under the circumstances, judicial estoppel precluded Defendants from objecting to an award exceeding $25k on appeal. They took several positions inconsistent with the case remaining limited civil. So equity should hold them to that. Subject, that is, to the Plaintiff ponying up the $140 fee to the clerk on remand.


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