Supreme Court actions of note at its conference yesterday included:

  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress. The court agreed to hear Downey v. City of Riverside to address an issue that’s a perennial favorite of law school moot courts and writing classes — the limits on a bystander’s right to recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress. A partially divided Fourth District, Division One, Court of Appeal, published opinion reversed the dismissal on demurrer of a mother’s action for the distress she suffered when speaking on the phone with her daughter as the daughter was involved in a car crash allegedly caused by the defendants’ negligence. Extrapolating from Supreme Court precedent, the majority held that the phone call alone doesn’t support a cause of action because the mother “could not know at the time of the collision of the connection between defendants’ alleged negligent conduct and the collision or her daughter’s injuries,” but that she can go forward if she amends her complaint to allege “her familiarity with and knowledge and awareness of” the negligence — “the intersection and the dangerous conditions created by [the defendants].” The dissenting justice said an amendment isn’t necessary because “the Supreme Court has made clear emotional distress is compensable where a plaintiff closely related to the victim contemporaneously perceives the ‘injury-producing event’ and understands that it is causing injury to their loved one” and there is no requirement that a plaintiff “be aware of each and every separate act of negligence that may have contributed to the accident.”
  • Vehicle sales arbitration. The court granted review in Ford Motor Warranty Cases, limiting the issue to: “Do manufacturers’ express or implied warranties that accompany a vehicle at the time of sale [by a dealer] constitute obligations arising from the sale contract [between the dealer and a buyer], permitting manufacturers to enforce an arbitration agreement in the contract pursuant to equitable estoppel?” The Second District, Division Eight, answered “no” in a published opinion. Disagreeing with the Third District’s decision in Felisilda v. FCA US LLC (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 486, Division Eight concluded equitable estoppel didn’t apply because “manufacturer vehicle warranties that accompany the sale of motor vehicles without regard to the terms of the sale contract between the purchaser and the dealer are independent of the sale contract.” Review and depublication were denied in Felisilda. The court yesterday also granted review in Lanier v. Ford Motor Company and made that case a grant-and-hold for the Ford Motor Warranty Cases. In Lanier, the Second District, Division Six, unpublished opinion also declined to compel arbitration based on equitable estoppel principles.
  • Failure-to-protect murder liability. The court also granted review in People v. Collins and limited the issue to: “Does sufficient evidence support defendant’s conviction for second degree murder based on a failure to protect?” The Second District, Division Five, said “yes” in an unpublished opinion. According to Division Five, the defendant “fail[ed] to protect her [two-month-old] son from his father . . . , a methamphetamine addict who inflicted the fatal injuries on the infant.”
  • Presidential primary voting. The court denied review in Boydston v. Weber. The Fourth District, Division One, summarized its belatedly published opinion this way: “we reject the plaintiffs’ assertion of a novel and peculiar constitutional right to vote in California’s presidential primary for the candidate of a political party they have chosen not to join—without having their votes count for anything other than their expressive value.” Plaintiffs wanted to vote “for a party’s presidential candidate without registering with that party, and having ‘their preferences tallied and reported by the State’ but not used to determine the outcome. In other words, they want their votes to be counted, but they do not want their votes to count.”
  • Criminal case grant-and-holds. There were three criminal case grant-and-holds:  one waiting for the finality of last month’s opinion in People v. Reyes, one more on hold for People v. Lynch (see here), and one more waiting for an opinion in People v. Mitchell (see here).
  • Grant-and-hold disposals. The court dismissed review in X.M. v. Superior Court, which was waiting (see here) for the June opinion in Los Angeles Unified School District v. Superior Court (2023) 14 Cal.5th 758. It also dismissed review in one case that was on hold for People v. Tacardon (2022) 14 Cal.5th 235, which was decided last December.