Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Noel purchased an inflatable Kids Stuff Ready Set Pool for $59.99, based on a photograph on the packaging, depicting a group of three adults and two children sitting and playing in the pool. The box also prominently displayed the pool’s actual dimensions: “8FT X 25IN.” Once Noel inflated his pool, it was “materially smaller” than shown on the packaging and was capable of fitting only one adult and four small children. Noel sued on behalf of himself and similarly situated individuals, alleging violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (Civ. Code 1750) (CLRA), Unfair Competition Law (Bus. & Prof. Code 17200) (UCL), and False Advertising Law (Bus. & Prof. Code 17500) (FAL). The court denied class certification on the UCL and FAL claims, finding Noel’s proposed class of more than 20,000 potential members was not ascertainable (Code of Civil Procedure 382) and refused to certify a class on Noel’s CLRA claim because it determined common questions of law or fact did not predominate over individual questions of reliance and causation. The court of appeal affirmed. The certification motion was filed without first conducting sufficient discovery to meet plaintiff’s burden of demonstrating there are means of identifying putative class members so that they might be notified of the litigation, which jeopardizes the due process rights of absent class members. View "Noel v. Thrifty Payless, Inc." on Justia Law

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A third party can not sue a merchant for negligence in breaching duties when the merchant sells a high-end sports car to its customer and the customer pays for most of the car with two checks the third party made out to the merchant. A customer's payment with a check not in the customer's own name, by itself, is not a red flag. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary adjudication dismissing the third party's negligence and related claims against the merchant. View "QDOS, Inc. v. Signature Financial, LLC" on Justia Law

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In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that an appropriate correction offer under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act does not prevent a consumer from pursuing causes of action for fraud and violation of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) based on the same conduct, because the remedies are cumulative. In this case, plaintiff filed suit against Dealer and Lender, alleging several causes of action stemming from her purchase of a used car. The court affirmed an award of damages to plaintiff for fraud and imposing an injunction on dealer's advertising under the UCL. View "Flores v. Southcoast Automotive Liquidators, Inc." on Justia Law

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Artur Hefczyc appealed an order denying his motion for class certification in his lawsuit against Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego (Rady). On behalf of a proposed class, Hefczyc sought declaratory relief to establish that Rady's form contract, signed by patients or guarantors of patients who receive emergency room care, authorized Rady to charge only for the reasonable value of its services, and that Rady therefore was not authorized to bill self-pay patients based on its master list of itemized charge rates, commonly referred to as the "Chargemaster" schedule of rates, which Hefczyc alleged was "artificial" and "grossly inflated." The trial court denied Hefczyc's motion for class certification, concluding that the class was not ascertainable, that common issues did not predominate, and that class action litigation was not a superior means of proceeding. Hefczyc contends that the trial court erred in denying class certification because, as the complaint sought only declaratory relief, the motion for class certification was brought under the equivalent of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, rule 23(b)(1)(A) or (b)(2) (28 U.S.C.), for which he was not required to establish the ascertainability of the class, that common issues predominated and that class action litigation was a superior means of proceeding. Hefczyc also contended that even if the trial court properly imposed those three requirements in this action, the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that those requirements were not met. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that Hefczyc's arguments lacked merit, and accordingly affirmed the order denying class certification. View "Hefczyz v. Rady Children's Hosp." on Justia Law

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In 2013, plaintiff-respondent Gerardo Medina purchased a used car from defendant-appellant South Coast Car Company, Inc. The sales contract was eventually assigned to Veros Credit, LLC, and plaintiff sued on nine causes of action stemming from that contract. The parties settled the suit on the eve of trial. Relevant to this appeal, defendants also agreed that they would not "dispute [Medina's] underlying entitlement to attorneys' fees based upon the claims brought in the [underlying a]ction"; that Medina "shall be deemed the prevailing party on all causes of action for purposes of the motion" for attorney fees; that defendants "reserve the right to dispute the reasonableness of the attorneys' fees, costs, and prejudgment interest claimed to have been incurred" by Medina; and that defendants "maintain all defenses as to the limitations on the amount of attorneys' fees, costs, and prejudgment interest." On appeal (and despite the Settlement), defendants contend the court erred when it awarded Medina attorney fees, costs and prejudgment interest. Specifically, defendants contended that, although Medina was the prevailing party as provided under the settlement, Veros was not liable to pay any portion of his fees and costs because it was merely the "holder" of the sales contract and thus, its liability was limited to the amounts paid by Medina, or about $8,600, and that Medina, in any event, was not entitled to any such award because he previously had rejected SCCC's offer to rescind the sales contract. The Court of Appeal disagreed with defendants’ contentions, finding the record showed defendants recognized in connection with their summary judgment/adjudication motion that their settlement offer went to the " 'determination of the legal basis' " for an award of attorney fees: it would have made little sense for the parties to enter into the Settlement and not resolve what was and the overarching issue in the case, in light of the parties' extensive litigation of this issue up to the time of the settlement. View "Medina v. South Coast Car Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Gap, alleging that she was misled about the quality and authenticity of Gap and Banana Republic factory store clothing. Plaintiff alleged causes of action under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), False Advertising Law (FAL), and Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). The Court of Appeal sustained the Gap's demurrer without leave to amend, holding that the second amended complaint (SAC) failed to state a FAL claim where it alleged no advertising or promotional materials or any other statements disseminated by Gap to consumers that its factory store clothing items were previously for sale in traditional Gap stores or were of a certain quality; the SAC failed to state a claim for violation of the UCL where selling nonidentical brand name clothing in a factory store was not fraudulent, unlawful nor unfair; the SAC failed to state a claim under the CLRA where it alleged no advertising or representation of any kind that Gap made about the characteristics or quality of its factory store merchandise; and the trial court acted within its discretion in denying leave to amend. View "Rubenstein v. The Gap" on Justia Law

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In the mid-1990s Martha (now 79) and Fred (now 86) purchased life insurance policies, with $1,000,000 death benefits for a $14,000 annual premium, naming their children as beneficiaries. The policies were held by a revocable trust. The couple put money in the Trust; it was self-sustaining. In 2013, Fred, at the end of his career as a lawyer, was suffering from cognitive decline; Martha had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The defendants provided life insurance advisory services to the couple; they allegedly carried out a scheme that involved arranging the surrender of one policy and the replacement of the other with a policy providing less coverage. Premiums for the new coverage, spread over its term, totaled $800,000; they also paid $100,000 in commissions. The couple and their trustee sued under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, Welfare and Institutions Code 15600. Defendants responded that the Trust has always owned the policies and that the commissions were paid by the Trust so that the only proper plaintiff is the Trust, which does not have a “because [it] is not 65 years old.” The court of appeal reversed dismissal of the claims. Defendants deprived the couple of property indirectly, using the Trust as an instrument of their scheme. View "Mahan v. Charles W. Chan Ins. Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2005, Nicholas and Mary Conroy refinanced their home with a mortgage loan secured by a deed of trust on the property. Five years later, the Conroys stopped making payments and defaulted on their loan. In an effort to avoid foreclosure, the Conroys filed suit against defendants Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., successor by merger to Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc.; Fidelity National Title Insurance Company aka Default Resolution Network, LLC; and HSBC Bank USA, N.A. as trustee for Merrill Lynch Mortgage Backed Securities Trust, Series 2007-2 (Wells Fargo). The trial court sustained Wells Fargo’s demurrer without leave to amend and entered a judgment of dismissal. On appeal, the Conroys contended the trial court erroneously dismissed their claims. After review, the Court of Appeal found the Conroys’ operative complaint did not state valid causes of action for intentional or negligent misrepresentation because they did not properly plead actual reliance or damages proximately caused by Wells Fargo. The trial court properly determined the Conroys could not assert a tort claim for negligence arising out of a contract with Well Fargo. For lack of detrimental reliance on any of Wells Fargo’s alleged promises, the Conroys did not set forth a viable cause of action for promissory estoppel even under a liberal construction of the operative complaint. Because Wells Fargo considered and rejected a loan modification for the Conroys before that date, section 2923.6 does not apply to them. The plain language of section 2923.7 requires a borrower to expressly request a single point of contact with the loan servicer. The Conroys’ operative complaint did not allege they ever requested a single point of contact, and the Conroys did not state they could amend their cause of action to allege they actually requested one. The trial court properly dismissed the Conroys’ Unfair Competition Law claim because it was merely derivative of other causes of action that were properly dismissed. View "Conroy v. Wells Fargo Bank" on Justia Law

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Hilliard owned a controlling interest in companies that owned radio stations. In 2003, the companies entered into a loan agreement with Wells Fargo, borrowing $18.9 million, secured by assets that exceeded $50 million. The loan was continuously in default after March 31, 2004. Although the agreement was amended several times, Wells Fargo never foreclosed. Hilliard sold his ranch and was attempting to sell radio stations when, without notice to Hilliard, Wells Fargo sold the loan to Atalaya. Atalay filed suit and was awarded judgments that resulted in Atalaya’s purchase of Hilliard’s companies in bankruptcies. Hilliard, now 78 years old, alleged that Wells Fargo took or assisted in taking his property for wrongful use, with intent to defraud, or by undue influence, violating Welfare and Institutions Code section 15610.30(a)(1)(2), a provision of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. The court dismissed, finding that Hilliard lacked standing. The court of appeals affirmed. Hilliard’s circular argument—that the duty breached by Wells Fargo was owed to him personally, and not just as a shareholder, because he is an elder and elder abuse is by definition a personal claim—ignores the fact that his claim does not originate in circumstances independent of his status as a shareholder in the companies. View "Hilliard v. Harbour" on Justia Law

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In consolidated class actions, plaintiffs claimed the brokers who represented them in the sale of their homes and a group of companies that provided services in connection with those sales violated their fiduciary duties by failing to disclose alleged kickbacks paid by the service providers to the brokers in connection with the sales. Defendants filed motions to compel arbitration on the basis of three separate agreements, at least one of which was executed by each plaintiff. The trial court found the arbitration clauses in two of the agreements inapplicable, but compelled the signatories of the third agreement to arbitrate with their brokers. Invoking the doctrine of equitable estoppel, the court also required the signatories of the third agreement to arbitrate their claims against the service providers, who were not parties to the arbitration agreements. The court of appeals reversed with respect to the two arbitration clauses the lower court found inapplicable. Each of the plaintiffs executed one or the other of these two agreements. The court dismissed the cross-appeal of the plaintiffs who were required to arbitrate because an order compelling arbitration is not appealable. View "Laymon v. J. Rockcliff, Inc." on Justia Law