Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

by
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

by
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

by
Fred, age 86, and his 79-year-old wife, Martha, filed suit under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. In the 1990s, before the defendants were involved, the couple purchased life insurance policies, which were held by a revocable living trust for their children. The Trust was self-sustaining, with no need for additional cash for ongoing premium costs. In 2013, Fred was suffering from cognitive decline; Martha had Alzheimer’s disease. Defendants allegedly carried out a scheme that involved arranging the surrender of one policy and the replacement of the other with a policy providing limited coverage, at massively increased cost. The premiums for the new coverage were $800,000, forcing the couple to feed cash into the Trust. Defendants argued that the Children’s Trust owned the policies, that the money was paid voluntarily for the benefit of their children, and that the Trust does not have an Elder Abuse Act claim “because [it] is not 65 years old.” The court of appeals reversed dismissal. Regardless of what specific damages may be available to the couple, as distinguished from the Trust, it can be fairly inferred that the couple suffered some damages unique to themselves. The defendants “knew or should have known” of the “likely” harm their scheme would have on the couple. View "Mahan v. Charles W. Chan Insurance Agency" on Justia Law

by
Overstock, an online retailer, compared the price at which it offered an item to an advertised reference price. Until 2007, it showed a “List Price” for the product, with the number stricken through; it then showed the price at which Overstock was offering the product. Overstock eventually changed the “List Price” label to “Compare.” A commercial from 2013 claimed: “We compare prices so you don’t have to." Overstock’s policies allowed the list price to be set by finding the highest price for which an item was sold in the marketplace. Overstock did not determine whether other Internet retailers had made any substantial sales at the comparison price. After the state began investigating potential claims against Overstock, the parties entered into an agreement tolling the statute of limitations as of March 2010. The trial court found Overstock had engaged in unfair business practices (Bus. & Prof. Code, 17200) and false advertising (section 17500), granted injunctive relief, and imposed $6,828,000 in civil penalties. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court properly applied the four-year limitations period of section 17208 and that there was sufficient evidence that Overstock made false and misleading statements, violating laws against unfair business practices and false advertising. View "People v. Overstock.Com, Inc." on Justia Law