by
At issue was whether this common law action alleging construction defects resulting in both economic loss and property damage was subject to the prelitigation notice and cure procedures set forth in the Right to Repair Act, Cal. Civ. Code 895-945.5. After noting that the answer depended on the extent to which the Act was intended to alter the common law, the Supreme Court held that the Legislature intended that the Act was to supplant the common law with new rules governing the method of recovery in actions alleging property damage rather than to supplement common law remedies with a statutory claim for purely economic loss. Thus, the court held that the present suit for property damage was subject to the Act’s prelitigation procedures, and the court of appeal properly ordered a stay until those procedures were followed. View "McMillin Albany LLC v. Superior Court of Kern County" on Justia Law

by
During a retrial of a second degree murder charge, after a previous jury failed to reach a verdict on that charge but convicted defendant of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, the trial court erred if it informed the new jury of such specific convictions that resulted from the previous jury's deliberations. However, the trial court does not err if, pursuant to Penal Code sections 1093 and 1127, it instructs the retrial jury along the following lines: "Sometimes cases are tried in segments. The only question in this segment of the proceedings is whether the prosecution has proved the charge of murder. In deciding this question, you must not let the issue of punishment enter into your deliberations. Nor are you to speculate about whether the defendant may have been, or may be, held criminally responsible for his conduct in some other segment of the proceedings." In this case, the defense requested a specific instruction informing the jury of defendant's gross vehicular manslaughter conviction, and the trial court refused such an instruction. However, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment because defendant was not prejudiced by this error where the evidence was overwhelming. View "People v. Hicks" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is required to discharge the People of the burden of establishing that a petitioner is ineligible for resentencing under the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012. The Court of Appeal reasoned that applying a reasonable doubt standard to proof of ineligibility for resentencing preserves the parallel structure between the prospective and retroactive application of the Three Strikes law as contemplated by the Reform Act. Furthermore, placing on the People a burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt to establish ineligibility for resentencing, while permitting the court to exercise its broader discretion to protect public safety, is an approach that comports with the overall structure and language of the Act and its dual intent. View "People v. Frierson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The trial court violated Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial when it found a disputed fact about the conduct underlying Defendant’s assault conviction that had not been established by virtue of the conviction itself. Defendant was convicted of second degree robbery and transportation of a controlled substances, among other offenses. The prosecution sought an increased sentence from the maximum term of imprisonment on the ground that Defendant had previously been convicted of a “serious felony” under Cal. Penal Code 667(a) that was also a strike for purposes of the Three Strikes law. That conviction was for assault with a deadly weapon or with force likely to produce great bodily injury. The trial court determined that Defendant did commit the assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced her to a term of eleven years’ imprisonment. On appeal, Defendant argued that her increased sentence rested upon an exercise in judicial fact-finding that violated her Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. The Supreme Court disapproved of People v. McGee, 38 Cal.4th 682 (Cal. 2006) insofar as it suggested that the trial court’s factfinding was constitutionally permissible and held that Defendant’s increased sentence rested on an exercise in judicial fact-finding that violated her Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. View "People v. Gallardo" on Justia Law

by
In this appeal arising from a demurrer, Plaintiffs could allege a cause of action against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation for warning label liability. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal, which directed the trial court to enter an order sustaining Novartis’s demurrer with leave to amend Plaintiffs’ negligence and negligent misrepresentation causes of action. Plaintiffs claimed, inter alia, that Novartis knew or should have known that its warning label failed to alert pregnant women or their doctors to the risk Brethine posed to fetal brain development. Novartis filed a demurrer, arguing that it had no duty to Plaintiffs. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend. The Court of Appeal reversed and directed that the order sustaining the demurrer be modified to grant Plaintiffs leave to amend their causes of action for negligence and negligent misrepresentation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) brand-name drug manufacturers have a duty to use ordinary care in warning about the safety risks of their drugs, regardless of whether the injured party was dispensed the brand-name or generic version of the drug; and (2) a brand-name manufacturer’s sale of the rights to a drug does not terminate its liability for injuries foreseeably and proximately caused by deficiencies present in the warning label prior to the sale. View "T.H. v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp." on Justia Law

by
The trial court in this case should enter a final judgment from which Plaintiff can appeal. Plaintiff sued Defendant. The trial court dismissed some of Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice. In order to permit Plaintiff to appeal the trial court’s partial order of dismissal, the parties agreed to dismiss the remaining claims against one another without prejudice. The Supreme Court, however, held that the trial court’s judgment was not final and appealable because the parties had effectively preserved their remaining claims for future litigation. Since then, Plaintiff made several efforts to secure a final and appealable trial court judgment. Plaintiff eventually attempted to finalize the judgment by dismissing his own outstanding claims with prejudice. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal because Defendant had not disposed of his outstanding cross-claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, albeit for a different reason, holding that, so long as no final an appealable judgment has been entered in this case, the trial court retains the authority to render one. The court remanded the case to permit the trial court to exercise its authority to vacate its defective 2010 judgment and the parties’ underlying stipulation and enter a final judgment from which Plaintiff can appeal. View "Kurwa v. Kislinger" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

by
Defendant was found incompetent to stand trial and was involuntarily committed for three years. Defendant was never made the subject of a conservatorship. Shortly after his release, the district court obtained a superseding indictment with identical charges under a new case number, as permitted by Cal. Penal Code 1387. When Defendant was rearrested under the new indictment, he argued that because he had already been committed for the three years authorized by Cal. Penal Code 1370(c), the trial court lacked the authority to order his rearrest. The Supreme Court held (1) defendants in Defendant’s position can be rearrested on charges that are refiled under 1387; but (2) if the trial court again determines that a defendant is not competent to stand trial, the defendant may be recommitted only for a period not exceeding the remaining balance, if any, of the three years authorized by section 1370(c). View "Jackson v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant’s automatic motion to modify the jury’s verdict of death and imposing a judgment of death in this case in which Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder under the special circumstances of multiple murder and murder in the course of a robbery. In affirming, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant’s counsel provided constitutionally effective assistance; (2) the trial court did not prejudicially err in denying Defendant’s motion to change venue; (3) no prejudicial error occurred during jury selection; (4) Defendant’s challenges to the admission of certain testimony were unavailing; (5) reliance on evidence in aggravation of two crimes of violence Defendant committed when he was seventeen years old and of his conviction for one of those crimes did not violate Defendant’s rights under the Eighth Amendment; (6) there was no error in excluding evidence of the impact of Defendant’s execution on his family; and (7) none of Defendant’s remaining arguments warranted relief from the judgment. View "People v. Rices" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of two counts of first degree murder and one count of second degree murder and sentencing him to death. The court held (1) Defendant was not deprived of the right to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community; (2) the trial court did not err in ruling that evidence of an uncharged murder would be admissible to impeach Defendant’s witness under certain circumstances; (3) the trial court did not err in ruling that the prosecution could admit evidence that Defendant had attempted to escape from jail; (4) the trial court did not err in admitting the victim’s statement that Defendant was into “heavy stuff” or in admitting victim impact evidence; (4) there was no prejudicial error in the jury instruction; (5) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s requests for a separate penalty phase jury and sequestered voir dire; (6) Defendant was not prejudiced by any improper argument by the prosecutor; (7) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting photographs of the victims or evidence that Defendant will kill a guard to escape; and (8) Defendant’s sentence was constitutional. View "People v. Henriquez" on Justia Law

by
On a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, as on direct appeal, error under People v. Chiu, 325 P.3D 972 (Cal. 2014), requires reversal unless the reviewing court concludes beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury actually relied on a legally valid theory in convicting the defendant of first degree murder. Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder. The jury was instructed on both a direct aiding and abetting theory and a natural and probable consequences theory. After Petitioner was convicted, the Supreme Court held in Chiu that a natural and probable consequences theory of liability cannot serve as a basis for a first degree murder conviction. Petitioner filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus arguing that he was entitled to have his conviction reduced to second degree murder under Chiu. The court of appeal acknowledged that the jury instruction on natural and probable consequences was error under Chiu but affirmed the first degree murder conviction on the ground that it was supported by sufficient evidence. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with directions to grant Petitioner habeas corpus relief, holding that the Chiu error in this case was prejudicial. View "In re Martinez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law