December 13, 2013

Summary of December 11, 2013 conference report for civil cases

The following is our summary of the Supreme Court’s actions on petitions for review in civil cases from the Court’s conference on Wednesday, December 11, 2013.  The summary includes those civil cases in which (1) review has been granted, (2) review has been denied but one or more justices has voted for review, or (3) the Court has ordered depublished an opinion of the Court of Appeal.

Review Granted

Nickerson v. Stonebridge Life Insurance Company, S213873—Review Granted—December 11, 2013

One question presented is whether, when calculating the ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, an award of attorney fees under Brandt v. Superior Court (1985) 37 Cal.3d 813, is properly included in the compensatory damages calculation where the fees are part of a jury award, but excluded from the compensatory damages calculation when the fees are awarded by the trial court after the verdict.

The Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Three, held in a published opinion, Nickerson v. Stonebridge Life Insurance Company (2013) 219 Cal.App.4th 188, that Brandt fees should not be included as part of the compensatory damages total when calculating the ratio between compensatory and punitive damages if the fees are awarded by the trial court after the jury renders its verdict.

Rodriguez v. RWA Trucking Company, S214150—Review Granted & Held—December 11, 2013

The questions presented are: (1) whether a claim under the Unfair Competition Law (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.) (UCL) based on a trucking company’s alleged violation of state labor laws is preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (49 U.S.C. § 14501) (FAAAA); and (2) whether a claim under the UCL based on a trucking company’s alleged violation of state insurance laws is preempted by federal Truth-in-Leasing regulations (49 C.F.R. § 376.12(j)).

The Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Four, held in a published opinion, Rodriguez v. RWA Trucking Company (2013) 219 Cal.App.4th 692, that the FAAAA did not preempt the UCL claim for state labor violations.  However, federal Truth-in-Leasing regulations preempted the plaintiffs’ UCL claim based on state insurance laws. The court ordered briefing deferred pending decision on the FAAAA preemption issue in People ex rel. Harris v. Pac Anchor Transportation, Inc., S194388.

Review Denied (with dissenting justices)

Alexander v. Farmers Insurance Company, S214390—Review Denied [Werdegar, J., voting for review]—December 11, 2013

The question presented was whether it was proper for the trial court to defer an insurance appraisal sought by the insurer pending a judicial declaration as to the interpretation of Insurance Code section 2071.

The Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Eight, held in a published opinion, Alexander v. Farmers Insurance Company (2013) 219 Cal.App.4th 1183, that the trial court had the discretion to delay the appraisal in appropriate circumstances, and that deferral pending a judicial declaration as to statutory interpretation was proper.

Depublished

Bain v. Tax Reducers, Inc., S213850—Depublished Court of Appeal Opinion—December 11, 2013

The issues in this case were: (1) whether plaintiff’s statutory wage claims are barred by the statute of limitations; (2) whether it was error for the trial court to apply the presumption that every person who provides services for an employer is an employee; (3) whether it was error for the trial court to impose statutory penalties under Labor Code sections 203 and 1194.2; and (4) whether defendant corporation’s president and majority shareholder could be held personally liable for plaintiff’s claims.

The Court of Appeal, Sixth District, held in Bain v. Tax Reducers, Inc. (2013) 219 Cal.App.4th 110, that: (1) plaintiff’s statutory claims under Labor Code sections 202, 203, and 1194 were not barred since the limitations period was tolled pending plaintiff’s pursuit of administrative remedies, but plaintiff’s claim under Labor Code section 1194.2 was barred as plaintiff failed to file suit prior to the running of the statute following the conclusion of the administrative process; (2) substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that plaintiff was an employee, so no prejudice was suffered by use of the employee presumption; (3) statutory penalties under Labor Code section 203 were proper, however, penalties under 1194.2 were not, given the running of the limitations period for plaintiff’s claim; and (4) the president and majority shareholder could not be held personally liable for plaintiff’s claims.

Leave a Reply