Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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The underlying action was initiated by homeowners from two residential developments in Rocklin against appellants Centex Homes and Centex Real Estate Corporation (Centex) for alleged defects to their homes. Centex and cross-defendant and respondent St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company (St. Paul) have a history of insurance coverage disputes. St. Paul was an insurer for subcontractor Ad Land Venture (Ad Land), and agreed to defend Centex as an additional insured subject to a reservation of rights. Centex filed a cross-complaint against its subcontractors and St. Paul that sought, as the seventh cause of action, a declaration that Centex was entitled to independent counsel under Civil Code section 28601 because St. Paul’s reservation of rights created significant conflicts of interest. Centex appealed after the trial court granted St. Paul’s motion for summary adjudication of Centex’s seventh cause of action. Centex argued any possible or potential conflict was legally sufficient to require St. Paul to provide independent counsel. The Court of Appeal disagreed. Alternatively, Centex contended independent counsel was required because counsel appointed by St. Paul could influence the outcome of the coverage dispute and St. Paul controlled both sides of the litigation. The Court of Appeal concluded that because Centex failed to establish a triable issue of material fact regarding these assertions, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "Centex Homes v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The underlying action was initiated by homeowners from two residential developments in Rocklin against appellants Centex Homes and Centex Real Estate Corporation (Centex) for alleged defects to their homes. Centex and cross-defendant and respondent St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company (St. Paul) have a history of insurance coverage disputes. St. Paul was an insurer for subcontractor Ad Land Venture (Ad Land), and agreed to defend Centex as an additional insured subject to a reservation of rights. Centex filed a cross-complaint against its subcontractors and St. Paul that sought, as the seventh cause of action, a declaration that Centex was entitled to independent counsel under Civil Code section 28601 because St. Paul’s reservation of rights created significant conflicts of interest. Centex appealed after the trial court granted St. Paul’s motion for summary adjudication of Centex’s seventh cause of action. Centex argued any possible or potential conflict was legally sufficient to require St. Paul to provide independent counsel. The Court of Appeal disagreed. Alternatively, Centex contended independent counsel was required because counsel appointed by St. Paul could influence the outcome of the coverage dispute and St. Paul controlled both sides of the litigation. The Court of Appeal concluded that because Centex failed to establish a triable issue of material fact regarding these assertions, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "Centex Homes v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order granting Allied's applications for prejudgment attachment stemming from an insurance dispute because Allied had established the probable validity of its claims. The court held that Allied established the probable validity of its unjust enrichment claim where Allied had a right of reimbursement because the intentional noncompliance policy exclusion applied in this case. The court also held that Allied also established the probable validity of its rescission claim because substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding that SCWW and GCES misrepresented and concealed a material fact (that they did not accept, process, transport or discharge hazardous waste). The trial court did not err in granting the applications for prejudgment attachment based on implied contract theories even if an express contract covers the same subject. Finally, the trial court properly calculated prejudgment interest from the date Allied paid $2.5 million. View "Santa Clara Waste Water Co. v. Allied World National Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Mahmoud Alzayat, on behalf of the People of the State of California, filed a qui tam action against his employer, Sunline Transit Agency, and his supervisor, Gerald Hebb, alleging a violation of the Insurance Frauds Prevention Act (IFPA or the Act). (Ins. Code, sec. 1871 et seq.) Alzayat alleged Hebb made false statements in an incident report submitted in response to Alzayat’s claim for workers’ compensation, and Hebb repeated those false statements in a deposition taken during the investigation into Alzayat’s claim for compensation. Hebb’s false statements resulted in Alzayat’s claim being initially denied. Defendants filed motions for judgment on the pleadings contending: (1) this lawsuit was based on allegedly false and fraudulent statements Hebb made in connection with a workers’ compensation proceeding and was, therefore, barred by the litigation privilege under Civil Code section 47(b); and (2) Alzayat’s claim was barred by the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule. The superior court concluded the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule was inapplicable, but ruled the litigation privilege barred Alzayat’s claim. Alzayat appealed, contending the litigation privilege only applied to tort claims and not to statutory claims such as an action under the IFPA, and the IFPA was a specific statute that prevailed over the general litigation privilege. The Court of Appeal agreed with Alzayat that his lawsuit was not barred by the litigation privilege. Furthermore, the Court concluded this lawsuit was not barred by the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule. The trial court erred by granting judgment on the pleadings for defendants, so we reverse the judgment. View "California ex rel. Alzayat v. Hebb" on Justia Law

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Respondent Denise Duncan sued Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Wal-Mart) for personal injuries she sustained at one of Wal-Mart’s stores while acting within the course and scope of her employment with Acosta, Inc. (Acosta). The trial court entered judgment finding Wal-Mart liable for Duncan’s injuries. Under Labor Code sections 3852 and 3856, appellant Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company (Hartford) applied for a lien on Duncan’s judgment to obtain reimbursement for the workers’ compensation benefits it paid Duncan, including medical expenses and temporary disability payments for lost wages. Although the judgment included compensation for Duncan’s medical expenses, it did not include compensation for Duncan’s lost wages because she did not seek those damages at trial. The court granted Hartford a lien on Duncan’s judgment, but reduced the lien amount to exclude the indemnity payments for lost wages. Hartford appealed the trial court’s postjudgment order, arguing the court exceeded its authority by reducing the lien amount for any item other than reasonable attorney fees and costs. The Court of Appeal agreed because section 3856’s plain language and the case law applying it granted Hartford a first lien on the judgment in the amount it paid Duncan for worker’s compensation benefits. Duncan’s choice not to seek lost wages at trial did not diminish Hartford’s lien rights under the workers’ compensation statutory scheme. View "Duncan v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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The insurance policy in question in this case was issued by petitioner Admiral Insurance Company (Admiral) to the real party in interest, A Perfect Match, Incorporated (Perfect Match), a company that "match[es] surrogates and egg donors with infertile families." On the first page of the policy Admiral promised to provide coverage for potential claims that Perfect Match knew or reasonably should have known about, but failed to disclose. In this case, prior to purchasing the Admiral policy, there was no question Perfect Match knew about a potential claim former clients Monica Ghersi and Carlos Arango intended to file arising from the birth of their daughter with a rare form of eye cancer. A lawyer representing Ghersi and Arango sent a letter to Perfect Match in June 2012 giving notice of their intent to file a complaint alleging professional negligence. After consulting with its insurance broker, Perfect Match made the decision not to disclose the potential Ghersi/Arango claim to its current insurer out of concern it would result in a higher premium. When it applied for the Admiral policy in October 2012, Perfect Match likewise did not mention the potential Ghersi/Arango claim. But once the Ghersi/Arango complaint was filed and ultimately served in March 2013, Perfect Match claimed potential coverage under the Admiral policy based on a "professional incident" and asserted its right to a defense. Admiral denied coverage and refused to defend, citing the policy language that excluded coverage for claims the insured reasonably should have foreseen prior to inception of the policy. Perfect Match then sued alleging breach of contract and bad faith. The Court of Appeal found no material factual disputes in this case: Admiral was entitled to insist that Perfect Match disclose all potential claims of which it was, or should have been, aware; it could and did exclude from coverage any such claim that was not disclosed. The superior court erred in failing to grant summary judgment in favor of Admiral. Accordingly, the Court issued a writ of mandate directing the superior court to vacate its order denying Admiral's motion for summary judgment and instead enter an order granting the motion. View "Admiral Ins. Co. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Husband Patrick Steiner was an active duty military service member and had a group life insurance policy issued under the Servicemen's Group Life Insurance Act of 1965 (the SGLIA). As part of a status-only dissolution judgment, Husband and Alicja Soczewko Steiner (Wife), stipulated to an order requiring Husband to maintain Wife as the beneficiary of all of Husband's current active duty survivor and/or death benefits pending further court order. Notwithstanding the stipulated order, Husband changed the beneficiary of his life insurance policy to Husband's sister, Mary Furman, who received the policy proceeds upon Husband's death. The court subsequently found applicable federal law preempted the stipulated order and Furman was entitled to the policy proceeds. Wife appealed, contending federal law did not preempt the stipulated order or, alternatively, the fraud exception to federal preemption applies. The Court of Appeal concluded to the contrary on both points and affirmed the order. View "Marriage of Steiner" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying defendants' petition to compel arbitration of a dispute with plaintiffs. The court held that the threshold issue of whether the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1-16, applies or is preempted by the McCarran-Ferguson Act, 15 U.S.C. 1001-1015, and section 25- 2602.01(f) of the Nebraska Uniform Arbitration Act (NUAA) was for the court, and not the arbitrator, to decide; the trial court did not err by concluding that section 25-2602.01(f) of the NUAA is a statute that regulates the business of insurance within the meaning of the McCarran-Ferguson Act; application of the FAA would operate to invalidate or impair section 25-2602.01(f) of the NUAA; the trial court did not err by concluding that the McCarran-Ferguson Act applies and reverse preempts the FAA; section 25-2602.01(f) of the NUAA applies to the Reinsurance Participation Agreement (RPA) and renders the arbitration provision contained in the RPA unenforceable; and thus the trial court did not err by denying the petition to compel arbitration. View "Citizens of Humanity v. Applied Underwriters" on Justia Law

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Robert Klem sued Access Insurance Company and Access General Insurance Adjusters, LLC (collectively, "Access") after he was in a car accident and Access administered his claim. Klem alleged Access falsely notified the California Department of Motor Vehicles that his care was a total loss salvage, thereby reducing its value and resulting in a loss of use. Access filed a special motion pursuant to the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute. The trial court found Access' notice to the DMV was a protected communication, but that Klem met his initial burden of establishing a probability of prevailing on the merits. The trial court denied Access' motion, and Access appealed. Finding the trial court erred with respect to certain evidentiary rulings and by denying the anti-SLAPP motion, the Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for the trial court to enter a new order granting Access' motion. View "Klem v. Access Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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McMillin Management Services, L.P. and Imperial Valley Residential Valley Residential Builders, L.P. (collectively "McMillin") filed suit against numerous insurance companies, including respondents Lexington Insurance Company (Lexington) and Financial Pacific Insurance Company (Financial Pacific). McMillin alleged that it had acted as a developer and general contractor of a residential development project in Brawley and hired various subcontractors to help construct the Project. As relevant here, McMillin alleged that Lexington and Financial Pacific breached their respective duties to defend McMillin in a construction defect action (underlying action) brought by homeowners within the Project. McMillin alleged that Lexington and Financial Pacific each owed a duty to defend McMillin in the underlying action pursuant to various comprehensive general liability (CGL) insurance policies issued to the subcontractors that named McMillin as an additional insured. The trial court granted Lexington's motion for summary judgment, reasoning, that there was no possibility for coverage for McMillin as an additional insured under the policies "[b]ecause there were no homeowners in existence until after the subcontractors' work was complete[ ] . . . ." On appeal, McMillin contended that the fact that the homeowners did not own homes in the Project at the time the subcontractors completed their work did not establish that its liability did not arise out of the subcontractors' ongoing operations. The trial court granted Financial Pacific's motion for summary judgment, finding McMillin did not establish homeowners in the underlying action had sought potentially covered damages arising out of the subcontractors' drywall installation. The Court of Appeal reversed as to Lexington, and affirmed as to Financial Pacific. View "McMillin Management Services v. Financial Pacific Ins. Co." on Justia Law