June 12, 2011
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, June 8, 2011. The summary includes those civil cases in which (1) review has been granted (not including grant-and-transfers), (2) review has been denied but one or more justices has voted for review, (3) the Court has ordered depublished an opinion of the Court of Appeal, or (4) the Court has denied a Court of Appeal’s publication request. This week we note that the Court has employed the little-used procedure of depublishing a Court of Appeal decision, a topic we discussed in detail here.
Cabrera v. E. Rojas Properties, S191826—Review Granted and Held—June 8, 2011.
The question presented is whether a plaintiff in a personal injury action can recover all damages billed by a medical provider or only the lesser amount the plaintiff’s medical insurer actually paid. The Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Eight, held in a published decision, Cabrera v. E. Rojas Properties, Inc. (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 1319, that the trial court did not err by reducing the award of past medical expenses to the amount actually paid for the care. The Supreme Court granted review and ordered briefing deferred pending its decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats, S179115, which presents the same issue.
Doe v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Stockton, S192658—Review Granted and Held—June 8, 2011.
The question presented in this clergy sex abuse case is whether the plaintiffs are entitled to rely on the delayed discovery provisions of the statute of limitations (Code Civ. Proc., section 340.1) when asserting otherwise time-barred claims of childhood sexual abuse against specified non-perpetrators who knew of the abuse and had the ability to prevent it but failed to do so. The Court of Appeal, Third District, held in an unpublished opinion that the trial court properly sustained the defendants’ demurrer without leave to amend. The Court of Appeal applied the rule “that childhood sexual molestation claims against nonabuser entity defendants that were time-barred before January 1, 2003, remain time-barred unless the victims filed suit during the one-year revival window, even if they did not recover their memory of the abuse until after the window period closed.” The Supreme Court granted review and ordered briefing deferred pending its decision in the lead case, Quarry v. Doe, S171382.
Leung v. Verdugo Hills Hospital, S192768—Review Granted—June 8, 2011.
This case presents the following issue: “Should the common law rule that a release for consideration of one joint tortfeasor operates as a release of the joint and several liability of all joint tortfeasors be abandoned in light of statutory and case law modifications of the joint and several liability rule?”
This is a medical malpractice action against a doctor, his professional corporation and a hospital arising from brain damage sustained by an infant. The plaintiffs settled with the doctor and his corporation before trial for $1 million, but the trial court held the settlement was not in good faith. At trial, the jury found the hospital 40 percent negligent, the doctor 55 percent negligent and the plaintiff’s parents five percent negligent. The trial court later approved a minor’s compromise regarding the settlement with the doctor, and incorporated the verdict into a periodic payments judgment under Code of Civil Procedure section 667.7, which declared the Hospital jointly and severally liable for 95 percent of all economic damages found by the jury and severally liable for its 40 percent share of noneconomic damages. The hospital appealed.
In a published opinion, Leung v. Verdugo Hills Hosp. (2011) 193 Cal.App.4th 971, the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Four, applied the common law release rule, which provides that “a release for consideration of one joint tortfeasor operates as a release of the joint and several liability of the other joint tortfeasors.” The court thus reversed the portion of the judgment imposing joint and several liability on the hospital for the plaintiff’s economic damages, explaining that the plaintiff’s release of the doctor “in consideration of his $1 million settlement payment released the Hospital from its joint and several liability for [the plaintiff’s] economic damages, though not for its proportionate share of [the plaintiff’s] noneconomic damages (such liability being ‘several only and … not … joint’).” However, the Court of Appeal made a point of stating that its decision was compelled by the principle of stare decisis; the court urged “the California Supreme Court to grant review, conclusively abandon the release rule, and fashion a new common law rule concerning the effect of a non-good faith settlement on a non-settling tortfeasor’s liability.”
Review Denied (with dissenting justices)
Conservatorship of McQueen, S192507—Depublished Court of Appeal Opinion—June 8, 2011.
This was a conservator’s action on behalf of an elder beneficiary of a testamentary trust, alleging financial elder abuse, fraud and concealment, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence. The trial court entered judgment on the jury’s special verdict in favor of the conservator. In a published opinion, In re McQueen (2011) 193 Cal.App.4th 495, the Court of Appeal, First District, Division Four, held that the collateral source rule precluded the jury from deducting the trust beneficiary’s Social Security Supplemental Income (SSI) payments when awarding damages. The court explained, “appellants were seeking to shift the benefit of public funds paid under federal statutes from the disabled person for whom they were intended to benefit, to themselves in order to mitigate damage they caused to that disabled person. Appellants’ argument would lead to the anomalous result where appellants, who are ineligible to receive public welfare, would become the indirect beneficiaries of that public assistance, to the extent they offset damages appellants caused to [the disabled person].”
Court of Appeal Publication Request Denied