Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Villanueva and the class (Plaintiffs) alleged that Fidelity, an underwritten title company that handled Plaintiffs’ escrow accounts, engaged in unlawful conduct under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) (Bus. & Prof. Code, 17200) in charging overnight mail delivery fees, courier fees, and document preparation or “draw deed” fees that were not listed in its schedule of rates filed with the Department of Insurance in violation of Insurance Code 12401–12410.10, 12414.27. Fidelity argued that the lawsuit was barred by the statutory immunity in section 12414.26 for matters related to rate-making. The trial court rejected Fidelity’s immunity claim and granted Plaintiffs injunctive relief under the UCL, but denied their restitution claims. The court of appeal reversed. Fidelity’s immunity defense is not subject to the forfeiture doctrine because it implicates the court’s subject matter jurisdiction; this claim is subject to the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Insurance Commissioner because it challenges Fidelity’s activity related to rate-making. The court directed the trial court to enter a new order awarding costs to Fidelity. View "Villanueva v. Fidelity National Title Co." on Justia Law

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The IHSS program (Welf. & Inst. Code 12300) provides in-home services to elderly or disabled persons so that they may avoid institutionalization. For purposes of the state unemployment insurance system, IHSS service recipients are considered employers of their service providers if the providers are directly paid by the program or the recipient receives IHSS funds to pay their providers (Unemp. Ins. Code 683.) Generally, an employee of a close family member (child, parent or spouse) is excluded from unemployment insurance coverage. The California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board ruled that, because a close-family-member IHSS service provider under the Direct Payment Mode is employed by the recipient, the provider is subject to the exclusion of Unemployment Insurance Code 631 (Caldera). Skidgel, an IHSS provider for her daughter, challenged the validity of Caldera, arguing government entities were joint employers with the recipient, thereby qualifying providers for unemployment insurance coverage despite the close-family-member exclusion. The court of appeal rejected the challenge, concluding that the Legislature, in enacting Unemployment Insurance Code section 683, intended to designate the recipient as the IHSS provider’s sole employer for purposes of unemployment insurance coverage. View "Skidgel v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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The term "invasion of the right of private occupancy" is ambiguous and may include non-physical invasions of rights in real property. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the umbrella insurer in an action alleging claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In this case, the personal injury provision of plaintiff's umbrella policy potentially covered the allegations in the underlying action and the umbrella insurer breached its duty to defend by not providing plaintiff with a defense. Accordingly, the court vacated the trial court's order and directed the trial court to enter a new order granting the motion. View "Albert v. Truck Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law

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An insured plaintiff who has chosen to be treated with doctors and medical facility providers outside his insurance plan shall be considered uninsured, as opposed to insured, for the purpose of determining economic damages. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly allowed the plaintiff in this case, as a plaintiff who is treating outside his insurance plan, to introduce evidence of his medical bills. The trial court also permitted defendants to present expert testimony that the reasonable and customary value of the services provided by the various medical facilities was substantially less than the amounts actually billed. The jury rejected the expert evidence and awarded plaintiff the billed amounts. The court held that defendants have not demonstrated error except with respect to two charges regarding the amounts billed by Ventura County Medical Center and American Medical Response. Accordingly, the court reduced the damage award and affirmed the judgment as modified. View "Pebley v. Santa Clara Organics" on Justia Law

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Nielsen Contracting, Inc. and T&M Framing, Inc. (collectively Nielsen) sued several entities (defendants) alleging these entities fraudulently provided workers' compensation policies to Nielsen that were illegal and contained unconscionable terms. Defendants moved to compel arbitration and stay the litigation under an arbitration provision in one defendant's contract, titled Reinsurance Participation Agreement (RPA). Nielsen opposed the motion, asserting the arbitration provision and the provision's delegation clause were unlawful and void. After briefing and a hearing, the trial court agreed and denied defendants' motion. Defendants appealed, arguing: (1) the arbitrator, and not the court, should decide the validity of the RPA's arbitration agreement under the agreement's delegation clause; and (2) if the court properly determined it was the appropriate entity to decide the validity of the delegation and arbitration provisions, the court erred in concluding these provisions are not enforceable. The Court of Appeal rejected these contentions and affirmed. View "Nielsen Contracting, Inc. v. Applied Underwriters, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's entry of judgment for Gursey in an action alleging that plaintiffs had been damaged because they could not collect the additional money they would have been entitled to had Gursey purchased an insurance policy with the limits they had requested. The court held that plaintiffs did not incur actual damages until they became entitled to the benefits of the underinsured motorist policy. Consequently, plaintiffs' causes of action against Gursey accrued less than two years before they filed this action, and the trial court erred in holding that plaintiffs' claims were time-barred. View "Lederer v. Schneider" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Dr. Jacobs hired All Green to perform electrical work for Jacobs’s MRI and X-ray facility, including a room in which a mammography unit was to be installed. Hologic installed that unit but discovered it was not operating correctly due to a magnetic field in the room. All Green ran power to another room but the magnetic field persisted; the unit continued to malfunction. The magnetic field continued to interfere with the unit's operation after installation of steel shielding. Jacobs then hired an electromagnetic field expert who determined that the problem was caused by a loose bolt in an electrical cabinet installed by All Green. When the bolt was tightened, the magnetic field instantly disappeared. Jacobs filed suit. All Green tendered defense of the lawsuit to its insurer, SNIC, under policies covering bodily injury and property damage liability. All Green denied the allegations of negligence, stating that all bolts had been properly tightened and that its work had passed two inspections. SNIC denied the claim citing the “impaired property” exclusion. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment, holding that SNIC had no duty to defend. If Jacobs’s allegations were found true, SNIC would not have to indemnify, nor would SNIC have to indemnify if, as All Green contended, it was not responsible for the loose bolt. View "All Green Electric, Inc. v. Security National Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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A wine dealer sold millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit wine to an unsuspecting wine collector. When the collector discovered the fraud, he filed an insurance claim based on his “Valuable Possessions” property insurance policy. The insurance company denied the claim. The collector sued for breach of contract. The trial court ruled in favor of the insurance company, sustaining its demurrer. The Court of Appeal concurred with the trial court: the collector suffered a financial loss, but there was no loss to property that was covered by the property insurance policy. View "Doyle v. Fireman's Fund Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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A wine dealer sold millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit wine to an unsuspecting wine collector. When the collector discovered the fraud, he filed an insurance claim based on his “Valuable Possessions” property insurance policy. The insurance company denied the claim. The collector sued for breach of contract. The trial court ruled in favor of the insurance company, sustaining its demurrer. The Court of Appeal concurred with the trial court: the collector suffered a financial loss, but there was no loss to property that was covered by the property insurance policy. View "Doyle v. Fireman's Fund Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the confirmation of an appraisal award under homeowners insurance policies issued by Liberty Mutual. Plaintiffs claimed that the appraisers exceeded their authority regarding the award and that it was the product of fraud. In the published portion of this opinion, the court held that the trial court erred under Evidence Code section 703.5 in admitting part of an appraiser's declaration that plaintiffs offered in opposing confirmation of the award. View "Khorsand v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law