California Case Law Update

Author: Mina Miserlis

MEDIATION/LEGAL MALPRACTICE

Amis v. Greenberg 2015 WL 1245902 (Cal.App.2 Dist.)

Facts:
Plaintiff filed suit against his former attorneys, alleging they committed malpractice by causing him to enter a settlement converting the corporate obligations of his company into personal obligations. The former attorneys moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff admitted all of the advice received was provided during mediation , and that the attorneys could not produce evidence to defend themselves under the mediation confidentiality statutes. The trial court granted summary judgment.

Holding:
The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding “a malpractice plaintiff cannot circumvent mediation confidentiality by advancing inferences about his former attorney’s supposed acts or omissions during an underlying mediation.”

APPEALS

Baker v. Castaldi 2015 WL 1208026 (Cal.App.5 Dist.)

Facts:
Plaintiff/Respondent sued Appellant for allegedly stealing antiques, and sought punitive damages. The trial proceeded in two phases, with the first phase addressing liability and compensatory damages, and the second phase addressing the calculation of punitive damages. Following the first phase, but before the second phase commenced, a document entitled “judgment” was filed indicating judgment was against both defendants for $610,500 in compensatory damages, and stating the court “finds by a preponderance of the evidence that both defendants . . . have acted with malice and with oppression toward plaintiff . . . warranting an award of punitive damages to be assessed at a separate trial.” Thereafter, several notices of appeal were filed identifying this document only as the subject of appeal.

Holding:
The Court of Appeal held the “judgment” was in fact “not a final, appealable judgment.” Instead, the court found that the document was interlocutory because the amount of punitive damages was still an open issue. The Court of Appeal therefore dismissed the appeal.

LAW AND MOTION

Rodriguez v. Brill (2105) 234 Cal.App.4th 715

Facts:
Plaintiff wife’s suit against Defendant husband was dismissed with prejudice as a terminating sanction for failure to respond to discovery. Plaintiff moved for relief under the mandatory provisions of Code of Civil Procedure section 473(b) for inexcusable failure of her attorney to act. The trial court denied the motion.

Holding:
The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the mandatory relief provided for under section 473(b) applies to dismissals entered as sanctions for abuse of discovery.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mina Miserlis is senior counsel at Tyson & Mendes LLP. She specializes in personal injury and high net worth insurance issues. Contact Mina at 858.263.4108 or mmiserlis@tysonmendes.com.

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