Justia California Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Seller retained Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Company to list a luxury residence for sale. Buyer, also represented by Coldwell Banker, made an offer to purchase the property, and both parties agreed that Coldwell Banker, acting through its associate licensee, would function as a dual agent in the transaction. After the sale was complete, Buyer filed suit alleging breach of fiduciary duty by Coldwell Banker and by the associate licensee because of a significant discrepancy between the square footage of the residence as represented in the marketing materials for the property and as set out in its building permit. The trial court granted nonsuit on the cause of action against the associate licensee, ruling that the associate licensee had no fiduciary duty to Buyer. A jury subsequently found in favor of Coldwell Banker. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment on the breach of fiduciary duty claim against the associate licensee and Coldwell Banker. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Coldwell Banker owed to Buyer a duty to learn nd disclose information regarding the discrepancy between the square footage of the residence as advertised and as reflected in publicly recorded documents; and (2) the associate licensee owed Buyer an equivalent duty of disclosure under Cal. Civ. Code. 2079.13(b). View "Horiike v. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Co." on Justia Law

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If a patient who receives emergency medical services is an enrollee in a health care service plan, the plan is required to reimburse the emergency service provider for essential emergency medical services and care. Plans are statutorily permitted to delegate this financial responsibility to their contracting medical providers. Here the defendants - health care service plans - delegated their emergency services financial responsibility to their contractor medical providers, three individual practice associations (“IPAs”). The IPAs failed to reimburse the plaintiff noncontracting service providers for the emergency care that they provided to enrollees of the defendant health plans. When the IPAs went out of business, the plaintiff providers brought actions seeking reimbursement from the defendants. The Supreme Court held (1) a health care service plan may be liable to noncontracting emergency service providers for negligently delegating its financial responsibility to an IPA or other contracting medical provider group that it knew or should have known would not be able to pay for emergency service and care provided to the health plan’s enrollees; and (2) a health care service plan has a narrow continuing common law tort duty to protect noncontracting emergency service providers once it makes an initial delegation of its financial responsibility. View "Centinela Freeman Emergency Medical Associates v. Health Net of California" on Justia Law
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Petitioner was charged with robbery. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Petitioner pleaded guilty to grand theft from the person, a felony, and admitted a prior robbery conviction on condition that he receive a six-year prison sentence. The People, in return, dismissed the robbery charge. The electorate later enacted Proposition 47, which reduced the grand theft offense to a misdemeanor. Defendant filed a petition for recall of sentence, asking the trial court to resentence him as a misdemeanant. The trial court denied relief, concluding that reducing the sentence would deprive the People of the benefit of their plea bargain, and thus they should be permitted to rescind the plea and reinstate the original robbery charge. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the People were not entitled to set aside the plea agreement when Defendant sought to have his sentence recalled under Proposition 47. View "Harris v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law
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Petitioner, an inmate, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in his criminal proceedings. One week later, Petitioner asked the court clerk for the name of the judge assigned to his petition. Superior Court Judge John M. Thompson subsequently summarily denied Petitioner’s habeas corpus petition. Petitioner then filed a new petition for writ of habeas corpus, and, in addition, Petitioner alleged that he was denied his statutory right to peremptorily challenge Judge Thompson. The Court of Appeal issued a writ of mandate directing the superior court to reassign the assessment of Maas’s petition for writ of habeas corpus to a judge other than Judge Thompson. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a petitioner who requests the name of the judge assigned to examine his habeas corpus petition is entitled to notice of that assignment and is entitled to peremptorily challenge the assigned judge, so long as all of the procedural requirements of Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 170.6 have been satisfied. View "Maas v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In 2006, the San Mateo Community College District and its Board of Trustees (collectively, District) proposed a district-wide facilities improvement plan that called for demolishing certain buildings and renovating others. The District approved the plan, determining that it would have no potentially significant, unmitigated effect on the environment. In 2011, the District proposed changes to the plan. The District approved the changes, determining that they did not require the preparation of a subsequent or supplemental environmental impact report under Public Resources Code section 21166 and CEQA Guidelines section 15162. The Court of Appeal invalidated the District’s decision, ruling that the District’s proposal was a new project altogether and, therefore, subject to the initial environmental review standards of Public Resources Code section 21151 rather than the subsequent review standards of section 21166 and section 15162. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Court of Appeal erred in its application of the new project test. Remanded for further proceedings. View "Friends of College of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo Cmty. College Dist." on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of three counts of first degree murder and related crimes. After the penalty phase of the trial, the jury returned a verdict of death. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of death, remanded the matter for a new penalty determination and reconsideration of the question of a restitution fine under the currently applicable statute, and affirmed the judgment in all other respects, holding (1) no prejudicial error occurred during the guilt phase of trial; (2) the trial court erred in excusing a prospective juror for cause under Witt based solely on written questionnaire responses regarding his views on capital punishment, and therefore, the penalty judgment must be reversed for error under Wainwright v. Witt and Witherspoon v. Illinois; and (3) the question of Defendant’s restitution fine must be remanded for reconsideration because Defendant’s restitution fine was imposed pursuant to a statute that was subsequently repealed in its entirety and replaced by a statute lessening punishment. View "People v. Covarrubias" on Justia Law

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Eight separate complaints were filed in San Francisco Superior Court by or on behalf of 678 individuals. Eighty-six of those individuals were California residents and the remainder were nonresidents. All of the plaintiffs were allegedly prescribed Plavix, a drug created and marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMS), and allegedly suffered adverse consequences. BMS, which conducts significant business and research activities in California but is neither incorporated nor headquartered in the state, moved to quash service of summons on the ground that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over it to adjudicate the claims of the nonresident plaintiffs. The superior court denied BMS’s motion. BMS petitioned the Court of Appeal for a writ of mandate, naming the nonresident plaintiffs as real parties in interest. The Court of Appeal denied the writ, concluding that BMS was subject to the personal jurisdiction of the California courts on the basis of specific jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in light of BMS’s extensive contacts with California, courts may exercise specific personal jurisdiction over the nonresident plaintiffs’ claims in this action, which arise from the same course of conduct that gave rise to the California plaintiffs’ claims. View "Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of San Francisco County" on Justia Law

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The Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region, a state agency, issued a permit authorizing local agencies (collectively, Operators) to operate storm drain systems. Permit conditions required that the Operators take various steps to maintain the quality of California’s water and to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. Some Operators sought reimbursement for the cost of satisfying the conditions. The Commission on State Mandates concluded that each required condition was mandated by the state, rather than by federal law, and therefore, the Operators were entitled to reimbursement for the associated costs. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the permit conditions were federally mandated and thus not reimbursable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the permit conditions were imposed as a result of the state’s discretionary action, and therefore, the conditions were not federally mandated and were reimbursable. View "Dep’t of Fin. v. Comm’n on State Mandates" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with criminal offenses. Defendant filed a renewed motion to suppress pursuant to Cal. Penal Code 1538.5(i). Judge Vincent Chiarello granted the renewed motion, and the case was dismissed at the People’s request. Thereafter, the People filed a new complaint alleging the same offenses. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, asserting that the proper venue for the motion was before Judge Chiarello pursuant to section 1538.5(p). The matter came before Judge Vanessa Zecher after Judge Jerome Nadler concluded that Judge Chiarello was not available. Judge Zecher denied Defendant’s motion. Defendant filed a renewed motion to suppress, arguing that Judge Chiarello should have heard the relitigated motion to suppress. The trial court concluded that a renewed motion to suppress under section 1538.5(i) was not the proper vehicle for setting aside Judge Zecher’s order. Defendant was found guilty of child pornography. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a trial court’s discretion to make determinations concerning the availability of judges must be exercised in a manner consistent with constraints imposed by section 1538.5(p); and (2) in this case, the trial court abused its discretion by not taking reasonable measures to ensure compliance with section 1538.5(p), and the error was prejudicial. View "People v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law
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Defendant was charged by criminal complaint with unpermitted use of a suction dredge. Suction dredging is a technique used by miners to remove matter from the bottom of waterways, extract minerals, and return the residue to the water. Defendant demurred, arguing (1) state law aimed at environmental conservation effectively banned suction dredging in California, thereby preventing him from using the only commercially practicable method of extracting gold from his mining claim; and (2) because federal law promoted mining on federal land, the state’s contrary legislation should be preempted. The trial court overruled the demurrer. The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for consideration of additional evidence and argument. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Congress did not guarantee miners a right to mine immunized from exercises of the states’ police powers. View "People v. Rinehart" on Justia Law