Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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A jury awarded plaintiff-appellant Shirlean Warren $17,455.57 in damages pursuant to California's “lemon law.” In this appeal, Warren challenges her attorney fee award and her costs and expenses award. Warren claims the court abused its discretion in applying a 33% negative multiplier to her requested lodestar attorney fees. Warren argues that, by applying the negative multiplier, the court erroneously limited her attorney fee award to a proportion of her $17,455.57 damages award, and thus used a prohibited means of determining reasonable attorney fees. She also claimed she was entitled to recover prejudgment interest on her damages award and that the court erroneously struck the $5,882 expense for trial transcripts from her cost bill. The Court of Appeal concluded Warren did not show she was entitled to prejudgment interest on her jury award as a matter of right. Nor did Warren show the court abused its discretion in refusing to award any prejudgment interest. The Court agreed, however, that Warren was entitled to recover the $5,882 expense that her attorneys incurred for trial transcripts. View "Warren v. Kia Motors America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hart suffers from mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos. In 1976-1977, Hart worked on a McKinleyville sewer project, for Christeve, cutting asbestos-cement pipe, manufactured by Johns-Manville. Hart had no access to information regarding the pipe supplier. Glamuzina a foreman on the project, testified that he observed Hart cut and bevel asbestos-cement pipe without any respiratory protection; knew Johns-Manville manufactured the pipe based on a stamp on the pipe; and believed Keenan supplied the pipe, based on seeing invoices that contained “their K.” Christeve’s then-bookkeeper testified that she did not know whether Keenan supplied asbestos-cement pipe to McKinleyville. Keenan’s corporate representative testified he had “no information” that Keenan sold anything that was used in the McKinleyville project.. A jury found that Hart was exposed to asbestos-cement pipe supplied by Keenan; awarded economic damages, non-economic damages, and damages for loss of consortium; and allocated fault among 10 entities, finding Keenan 17% at fault. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that Glamuzina’s testimony about the invoices was inadmissible hearsay and there was no other evidence Keenan supplied the pipes. The wording on these invoices constitued out-of-court statements offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted: that Keenan supplied the pipes. Glamuzina lacked personal knowledge of who the supplier was. View "Hart v. Keenan Properties, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellants, adult children of Decedent, who died in 2010 of mesothelioma allegedly caused by exposure to asbestos in brakes he purchased from Pep Boys, an automotive parts retailer, brought claims for wrongful death, strict liability, and negligence. The trial court rejected appellants’ wrongful death claims as untimely and a claim for punitive damages. The court awarded $213,052 as economic damages but found that amount was entirely offset by settlements with other parties. The court of appeal reversed in part, agreeing that the trial court erred in failing to award damages for the costs of providing home health services to Decedent and his wife and erred in awarding Pep Boys expert fees under section 998. The court rejected claims that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing Pep Boys to amend its answer to correct a previously-asserted statute of limitations defense; erred in granting Pep Boys’ motion for judgment under section 631.8; and erred in applying offsets to the award of economic damages based on prior settlements without allocating between estate claims and wrongful death claims. Damages recoverable in a survival action brought by a decedent’s personal representative or successor in interest are limited to damages that the decedent incurred before death and do not include “ ‘lost years’ damages” that would have been incurred had the decedent survived. View "Williams v. The Pep Boys Manny Moe & Jack of California" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a negligence and product liability action against defendants, in which plaintiff alleged that she developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos contained in talcum powder products. At issue was the trial court's order granting plaintiff's motion to tax costs. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court abused its discretion in denying all costs requested by Colgate. In this case, Colgate was entitled to its allowable costs under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032 and 1033.5 and plaintiff conceded that certain items were allowable. In regard to the remaining items, the trial court did not consider plaintiff's challenges to specific costs or assess which costs were reasonable and reasonably necessary. The court also held that the trial court erred in failing to determine whether Colgate made its section 998 offer in good faith. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Alfaro v. Colgate-Palmolive Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Apple, Inc. (Apple) is the defendant in a putative class action filed by plaintiffs and real parties in interest Anthony Shamrell and Daryl Rysdyk. In their operative complaint, plaintiffs alleged that Apple's iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 smartphones were sold with a defective power button that began to work intermittently or fail entirely during the life of the phones. Plaintiffs alleged Apple knew of the power button defects based on prerelease testing and postrelease field failure analyses, yet Apple began selling the phones and continued to sell the phones notwithstanding the defect. The trial court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification but expressly refused to apply Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. University of Southern California, 55 Cal.4th 747 (2012) to the declarations submitted by plaintiffs' experts. The trial court believed it was not required to assess the soundness of the experts' materials and methodologies at this stage of the litigation. The Court of Appeals determined that belief was in error, and a prejudicial error. “Sargon applies to expert opinion evidence submitted in connection with a motion for class certification. A trial court may consider only admissible expert opinion evidence on class certification, and there is only one standard for admissibility of expert opinion evidence in California. Sargon describes that standard.” The Court of Appeal directed the trial court to vacate its order granting plaintiffs' motion for class certification and reconsider the motion under the governing legal standards, including Sargon. View "Apple Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Apple, Inc. (Apple) is the defendant in a putative class action filed by plaintiffs and real parties in interest Anthony Shamrell and Daryl Rysdyk. In their operative complaint, plaintiffs alleged that Apple's iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 smartphones were sold with a defective power button that began to work intermittently or fail entirely during the life of the phones. Plaintiffs alleged Apple knew of the power button defects based on prerelease testing and postrelease field failure analyses, yet Apple began selling the phones and continued to sell the phones notwithstanding the defect. The trial court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification but expressly refused to apply Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. University of Southern California, 55 Cal.4th 747 (2012) to the declarations submitted by plaintiffs' experts. The trial court believed it was not required to assess the soundness of the experts' materials and methodologies at this stage of the litigation. The Court of Appeals determined that belief was in error, and a prejudicial error. “Sargon applies to expert opinion evidence submitted in connection with a motion for class certification. A trial court may consider only admissible expert opinion evidence on class certification, and there is only one standard for admissibility of expert opinion evidence in California. Sargon describes that standard.” The Court of Appeal directed the trial court to vacate its order granting plaintiffs' motion for class certification and reconsider the motion under the governing legal standards, including Sargon. View "Apple Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Turley sued multiple defendants, alleging that he has an asbestos-related disease caused by exposure to asbestos-containing products, including valve gaskets, during his 36-year employment at PG&E. Interrogatory responses stated that Turley was exposed to asbestos-containing pipe products supplied by Familian, including “asbestos cement transite pipe, pipe collars, gaskets, elbows, pipe-repair products and other asbestos products.” Familian moved for summary judgment. arguing that plaintiffs could not show exposure to asbestos in a Familian-related product. Turley submitted a declaration from a third-party witness, Scott, who had not been deposed. The court allowed Scott to be deposed. Familian used portions of the deposition in its reply. The court concluded that the deposition testimony “conclusively negates” Scott’s declaration testimony as to exposure, refused to consider it, and granted summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed, stating that ambiguity in the evidence should be resolved at trial. Scott’s testimony established that Familian-supplied asbestos-containing gaskets were frequently used at Turley’s worksite and that Turley used them. That Familian was not the only supplier did not warrant the conclusion that Turley did not establish exposure. There was no direct contradiction between Scott’s declaration and his deposition testimony with respect to several areas, so his testimony should not have been disregarded. View "Turley v. Familian Corp." on Justia Law

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In June 2012, plaintiff-appellant Allen Krizhner leased a Mercedes-Benz from defendant Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC for personal use. The complaint alleged the car came with an express written warranty covering repairs for any defects. During the warranty period, the car allegedly exhibited a variety of defects which caused the navigation system and key fob to malfunction, the steering column adjustment mechanism and power seats to be inoperative, the coolant level warning light to illuminate, and smoke to emanate from the cigarette lighter. After bringing the issues to defendant’s attention, and frustrated with defendant’s supposed failure to abide by its warranty obligations, plaintiff filed suit under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Plaintiff accepted an offer of compromise pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 998, including a restitution provision identical to Civil Code section 1793.2 (d)(2)(B). The court awarded plaintiff over $47,000 in accordance with the 998 offer. Plaintiff appealed, arguing the trial court erred because it denied him recovery of approximately $680 in vehicle registration renewal and certificate of nonoperation fees which he incurred in the years after he first leased the car. The Court of Appeal concluded the court properly determined section 1793.2(b)(2)(B) did not require payment of vehicle registration renewal fees and related costs incurred after the initial purchase or lease. View "Kirzhner v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2015, State Farm filed suit against Watts, alleging subrogated product liability claims against Watts arising from a loss that occurred in November 2012. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of Watt's motion to compel arbitration, finding no basis for any vested right to arbitration under the circumstances of this case, where the parties have agreed to be bound by contractual terms and rules determined by a third party. In this case, the parties signed the AF arbitration agreement some years before 2012. In 2015, the AF arbitration agreement excluded product liability claims from the kinds of claims subject to compulsory arbitration under the agreement. View "State Farm General Insurance Co. v. Watts Regulator Co." on Justia Law

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The State of California prevailed in a representative public nuisance action against ConAgra, NL, and Sherwin-Williams. The trial court ordered the defendants to pay $1.15 billion into a fund to be used to abate the public nuisance created by interior residential lead paint in the ten counties represented by the state. The court of appeal affirmed in part, noting that the absence of a regulation or statute declaring interior residential lead paint to be unlawful does not bar a court from declaring it to be a public nuisance. The court reversed in part, holding that substantial evidence did not support causation as to residences built after 1950, and remanded to the trial court with directions to recalculate the amount of the abatement fund to limit it to the amount necessary to cover the cost of remediating pre-1951 homes, and hold an evidentiary hearing regarding the appointment of a suitable receiver. View "People v. ConAgra Grocery Products Co." on Justia Law